I said earlier in the week that this game would tell us a lot about the Oregon defense. And, I think we saw exactly how good this defense can be. After letting the UCLA grind out a 9 first downs and 148 yards in the first half, the Oregon defense brought down the hammer in the second, scoring a touchdown, forcing 3 turnovers, and holding UCLA to 5 first downs and 73 on 2.35 yards per play. Besides one long drive in the first half, the Oregon defense did what it should have done: dominate the Bruins offense.
Though there were some issues, including the erratic play of Anthony Gildon, but the talent and depth on the team was apparent, with true freshman Cliff Harris stepping in and performing well in coverage. Other stand outs were Kenny Rowe, who has been incredible this year. His versatility is unmatched, and the coaching staff has used his skill perfectly. Casey Matthews was also excellent, picking up 6 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a pass breakup
Offensively, we saw what the future has in store for us. LaMichael James had 152 yards on 20 carries, with the highlight being the absolutely ridiculous run out of the Duck's end zone, where he spun in the end zone, somehow squirted through the line, and was 50 yards down the field in the blink of an eye. He was ably backed up by Kenjon Barner, who had two highlight worthy plays. His 100 yard kickoff return to start the second half changed the game instantly, and his stiff arm to Sheldon Price will be remembered for a long time.
The passing game was not outstanding, though Nate Costa was not asked to make many plays after the 21 point burst at the beginning of the second half. And while there will be no quarterback controversy, it is very good to know that we have a very capable backup. The only problem with the offense is that they were hit or miss. While there were many exciting plays, they struggled to sustain drives and put points on the board, with only 15 first downs on over 300 yards.
This wasn't the prettiest game we've seen, but it was a game we needed to see. Our defense stepped up when the offense was struggling. They scored points on their own, and put the offense in position to score. What I think we've learned is that this defense is good. It's good enough to win football games on it's own against mediocre competition. This has not been the case in recent years. If the offense can move the ball consistently, and I don't doubt Chip Kelly one bit, this will be a very dangerous football team.