Oregon took care of business in the desert on Saturday night. For the second week in a row, they put to bed a “curse” that had befallen them from Stanford and now Arizona. Oregon’s offense was explosive and the defense held a high-powered Wildcats’ passing attack in check by putting a lot of pressure on Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura. It was a solid victory from start to finish as the Ducks did what they should as the superior team.
But, if you are anything like me, you are already long past basking in the glory of the victory in the desert and are already patiently yet impatiently focused on a game that is two weeks away against the UCLA Bruins. Wishing the game could be played tomorrow.
UCLA’s Chip Kelly experiment appears to finally be coming to fruition as the Bruins have jumped out to a 6-0 record. Granted, UCLA’s non-conference was super soft, but to no fault of the Bruins as Michigan had canceled a home-and-home series with the Bruins for 2022 and 2023, leaving UCLA scrambling to find a replacement. But, nonetheless, this Bruins team is finally starting to remind folks of the high-powered teams Kelly had at Oregon a decade ago. In his fifth season, Chip finally has all of his own hand-picked players to run his system.
In 2018, Chip was smart to choose UCLA over a Florida program that was willing to pay him a lot more money. Had Chip taken the pressure cooker that is Florida and the SEC and had similar results to what he had in Westwood, he would have been fired a couple of years ago. We are a little more patient out west. But, that type of patience is also what contributed to Chip’s slow start in LA as he held onto his long-time coaching friend and Defensive Coordinator Jerry Azzinaro for far too long.
Azzinaro should not have lasted past his second season in 2019, as it was evident by that point that he was not cut out for the job. In his four seasons, his defenses ranked No. 104, No. 116, No. 73, and No. 79 in points allowed. That just does not cut it, as Chip was slowly acquiring players to fit his up-tempo offensive system as opposed to his predecessor Jim Mora’s pro-style system. Chip simply did not have the players in place as he did when he took over Oregon in 2009.
The point being, Chip needed a good defense in his first few years to compensate for a work-in-progress offense, and Azzinaro simply was not delivering.
Now, Chip finally has his offensive in place and a defensive coordinator in Bill McGovern who has implemented a more attacking style of play and is reportedly letting players “be themselves” to do what they do best as opposed to forcing a system on them that does not get the most out of them. Azziano’s defenses consistently gave up over 30 points a game during his tenure, while McGovern had gotten that down to 26.8 in 2021 and 25.8 so far in 2022
In early 2019, after Chip’s first season at UCLA, I wrote an article attacking Chip and his distaste for recruiting. Mora always delivered top-20 recruiting classes during his time at UCLA, while Chip, in his four full recruiting cycles, is averaging a No. 44 ranking (per Rivals). I may have been impatiently premature in my assault on Chip, but I am not ready to retract that attack yet as I need to see consistent and continued success. With his offensive firmly in place, I will give him a pass on recruiting guys that fit his system over guys that are more highly ranked in the recruiting circles. But, going after the best recruits on defense should not be an option, it has to be a top priority in fertile Southern California recruiting grounds.
Los Angeles is the home of the “mellow cool” lifestyle. In year five, it appears that patience is beginning to pay off for UCLA. Of course, Chip could have made things easier on himself if he had not been so patient with his original defensive coordinator. I guess sometimes in life it takes patience to realize that sometimes it pays to be impatient.
We will all be patiently yet impatiently chomping at the bit for the game on October 22. Best I stop overanalyzing this patience versus impatience conundrum before it drives me crazy, puts me in a straight jacket, and reduces me to simply being a patient.
Top photo credit: Joe Jackson Jr.
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in SLC, Utah.
Darren Perkins is a sales professional and 1997 Oregon graduate. After finishing school, he escaped the rain and moved to sunny Southern California where he studied screenwriting for two years at UCLA. Darren grew up in Eugene and in 1980, at the tender age of five, he attended his first Oregon football game. His lasting memory from that experience was an enthusiastic Don Essig announcing to the crowd: “Reggie Ogburn, completes a pass to… Reggie Ogburn.” Captivated by such a thrilling play, Darren’s been hooked on Oregon football ever since. Currently living in Spokane, Darren enjoys flaunting his yellow and green superiority complex over friends and family in Cougar country.
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