Don’t underestimate Mario Cristobal or his Oregon Ducks.
For the past week, everyone from Ducks fans to mainstream talking heads did not know what to make of No. 12 Oregon Ducks‘ season opener against the Fresno State Bulldogs. While the defense was impressive, Oregon’s offense seemed kind of stale and uninspired in a game that was way too close for comfort. And very few acknowledged the Bulldogs just might be one heckuva football team.
Overall, many agreed the Ducks had a slim chance of beating No. 3 Ohio State on the road. Admittedly, I was cautiously optimistic but held some doubts.
Regardless of the chatter from all the naysayers, haters, fat heads, loudmouths and bandwagoners, Cristobal and the Ducks (2-0) proved everybody wrong, stunning the Buckeyes 35-28 for a historic win on Saturday at the Horseshoe.
My friends, stuff your worries in a sack. This is the Oregon team fans were hoping for — and it’s only going to get better.
There was no doubt that Oregon was the better football team throughout the game, despite playing without star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and linebacker Justin Flowe. Heading into the game, it felt like the Ducks were entering a heavyweight prizefight blindfolded with both hands tied behind their back and stuffed into an onion sack. In reality, all the doubts were part of an epic mind game of rope-a-dope and we all got suckered in. Cristobal’s team was ready to PLAY.
ESPN’s College Gameday analysts spent the majority of the pre-game show boasting about the Buckeyes. And why not? The 14-point spread suggested the game was all but decided. Plus, Oregon had never beaten Ohio State — EVER. Despite the announcers’ annoying bootlicking before and during the game (when the Ducks led 14-7 at halftime, each announcer offered the Buckeyes a 30-second pep talk!), no one, not even the Buckeyes, had an answer for Oregon’s game plan.
Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead‘s squad looked more dynamic. While quarterback Anthony Brown still struggled somewhat in the passing game, completing just 48% of his pass attempts, the veteran signal-caller looked poised, calm and collected in the pocket. Brown’s experience showed in tight spots and he didn’t rattle behind Oregon’s talented offensive line, which provided him with plenty of time to explore his passing progressions.
Brown, a sixth-year senior, looked like he’d been playing at Oregon for years.
CJ Verdell, who ran for less than 80 yards and a touchdown last week, played a much more prominent role in Oregon’s offense, carving up the Buckeyes’ defensive front like a holiday goose to finish with 161 rushing yards, 34 receiving yards and three touchdowns (two rushing and one receiving). And Travis Dye contributed 43 yards rushing and a touchdown, a speedy and reliable addition to the Ducks’ run game.
DOWN GO THE BUCKEYES‼️
No. 12 Oregon hands No. 3 Ohio State its first regular season loss since October 2018. pic.twitter.com/1zmP15MKbi
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) September 11, 2021
This Oregon team marks all the boxes. Leakproof offensive line? Check. Power running game? Check. Smart quarterback with the ability to run and make wise decisions with the ball? Check. A defensive front that bottled up talented and powerful running back Myan Williams? Check. No turnovers? Check.
All of that and Buckeyes’ quarterback CJ Stroud still had quite an afternoon, completing 35 of 54 pass attempts for 484 yards and three touchdowns. But Stroud’s youth let fly some wonky throws, including a late-game interception that likely helped seal the win for the Ducks. And how about Oregon’s Bradyn Swinson and DJ Johnson notching two sacks on the freshman playmaker? Tasty, my friends. Real tasty.
So what’s the lesson? Don’t underestimate this team. Cristobal is for real. The Ducks are legit. And right now, they are on a gravy train with biscuit wheels that’s full steam ahead to the College Football Playoff. All aboard!
San Diego, California
Top Photo by Tom Corno
Jordan is a lifelong Duck fan currently living in San Diego. Jordan graduated from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, after serving a prestigious fellowship with the Washington State House of Representatives. Upon graduation, he worked as an English language teaching assistant for the Spanish Ministry of Education’s Ambassadorial Program in Monforte de Lemos, Spain. Jordan has worked as a journalist, writer, and editor in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and California, covering a wide range of topics, including sports, local politics, and crime. He is VERY excited to be writing about his beloved Oregon Ducks.
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