Honestly Ducks fans, I was planning on writing a much different article today. Don’t worry, there will always be time for spitballing nicknames for Oregon’s offensive line (Mario’s Manhandlers?)
Right now, it’s gut-check time.
Following the Ducks’ (3-1) heartbreaking 41-38 loss to the Oregon State Beavers (2-2) on Friday night at Reser Stadium, I came to a realization: The Beavers wanted it more. Period. Oregon’s defense looked uninspired, unmotivated and lackluster.
There were holes in the running game you could drive a truck through — more than enough room for stud running back Jermar Jefferson to run roughshod all over the Ducks. Jefferson finished with a rivalry record: 29 carries for 226 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including an 82-yard touchdown run on the Beavers’ opening drive and his first carry of the game. Sure, Oregon made some good defensive stops but it wasn’t consistent enough to stop Jefferson and a hungry Beavers team. Where was Oregon’s defensive front?
If Jefferson wasn’t going to be enough, the Beavers needed to have a successful passing attack to beat the Ducks. And Oregon obliged. Tristan Gebbia picked apart the Ducks’ secondary like turkey meat off a drumstick. And Gebbia only improved throughout the game, completing 23 of 37 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown (Gebbia also ran for a touchdown and 2-point conversion). Five-star Oregon true freshman Noah Sewell made some savage tackles, but they were few and far between. Again, where was the Ducks’ top-rated defense?
As for the offense, Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough looked discombobulated, often throwing behind the receivers into tight windows and heavy traffic. Shough finished the game with two interceptions and more questionable throws than I care to remember.
And CJ Verdell was a ghost after the first half, virtually eliminating the Ducks’ power running game and a chance to cash-in on play-action (Don’t get me wrong — Travis Dye is a superstar, but playing without Verdell is like fighting with one hand tied behind your back).
I have watched this entire Oregon/Oregon State game. Let me tell you… Oregon should not SNIFF the College Football Playoff 🆀
— Sam Block (@theblockspot) November 28, 2020
Just for kicks, let’s stretch this fighting metaphor a little longer. Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal’s brand is hard-nosed football, which is founded on the basic principles of toughness. Cristobal’s team is built like a heavyweight prizefighter. In theory, no matter how many punches the fighter absorbs, he will always weather the storm to victory. But the only team landing punches (when it mattered the most) was the Beavers. Truly, my hat’s off to them. They were the better, tougher team.
So where do we go from here, Ducks fans? Something doesn’t look right, but I can’t put my finger on it. I noticed it in the first couple of games and it finally boiled over in a disappointing loss.
We have the best coaches in the country. We have a roster loaded with four-star and five-star recruits. There are no more excuses. We have two games remaining — California Golden Bears and Washington Huskies. If Oregon wants to salvage its season and win the North, it needs to relocate the identity it lost in Corvallis.
San Diego, California
Top photo credit: Sean Meagher, The Oregonian/OregonLive
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