When a team loses, it's natural for fans around the country to point fingers. Whether the result is a lost chance at national glory or the end of a long and painful campaign, the blame game rears its ugly head.
For Oregon fans, there are scapegoats aplenty for Saturday's loss to the Stanford Cardinal. Many will point at the two 40-plus yard field goals missed by Alejandro Maldonado (who handled post game interviews better than a lot of NFL kickers would have), or the questionable overturning of the Cardinal's game-tying score. Really though, there's only one man to blame.
This one's on you, Chip Kelly.
The man who gets the majority of the credit for the Ducks' rise to national prominence also deserves the brunt of the criticism for what happened last night. The unconventional, gutsy calls that fans are used to disappeared and the usually unflappable man with the visor lost his way.
Adam Jude reported last night that Kelly was distracted by leaks to the media during the week, and who knows how much of a role that played on Saturday. What aren't disputable are statistics, and ESPN's Stats and Info said that Oregon gained only 29 yards on 15 carries outside the tackles. Yet in key situations, Kelly continued to try and work outside and with 50 seconds to go and a second and one at midfield, it cost Oregon dearly.
Keep in mind that Stanford has one of the best defenses in the country and proved it time and again up against the high-flying Ducks. Linebackers Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov will have every opportunity to make a name for themselves in the NFL, yet time and again Kelly tested them and they passed with flying colors.
With less than a minute to go and only one yard between his team and a first down at midfield, Oregon eschewed the few areas that worked for them on offense in favor of trying to go outside one more time. the ensuing lost yardage forced Oregon to call timeout and stymied the momentum gained from moving the ball to that point.
One can also look at Kelly's decision to kick a field goal on fourth down from the 25 when a touchdown would have put Oregon up by two touchdowns in a game where only four were scored. Obviously, Kelly knows more about his kicker's range and makeup than anyone else, but considering that 42 yards is the back end of Maldonado's range on a good day and the lack of opportunities the Ducks had to score in the entire game, it's certainly up for debate.
Any Oregon fan calling for Kelly's head or presenting the argument that he simply can't win a big game – retired in January, by the way – need remember that Oregon is 10-1 going into the Civil War and not out of contention for a Pac-12 or National Championship. The program has grown exponentially since the day he set foot on campus.
Just know that Stanford did everything they could to give themselves a chance on Saturday night, and Kelly allowed them to close the deal.