September 8, 2012; Eugene, OR, USA; This is a lot of speed for one picture. Credit: Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE
The outcome of the game was never in doubt.
That's an important aspect to remember, as the bulk of the chatter afterward was about the lackluster performance in the second half. However, for the second week in a row, the Ducks put a game away early, leading 35-6 at the half in a game where the differential would never get closer than 16. It was a very different first half than the Arkansas State game. Instead of airing it out, the Ducks went to the ground, in a performance that was vintage of last year. Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas both topped 100 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Marcus Mariota wasn't asked to do a lot, and the defense gave up some yards but managed to hold the Bulldogs to six points. It wasn't a half that wowed you like last game, but it was 35-6. Its what you should do to a lesser team, even when you're not at your very best.
The second half was a different story. Fresno won the half, 19-7, and put together four scoring drives. Marcus Mariota looked very mortal, fumbling the ball twice deep in Oregon's own territory. The offense got bogged down repeatedly. However, the defense did a good job of holding Fresno to field goals, and Kenjon Barner topped 200 yards for the game, scoring a late touchdown to end any small bit of doubt.
My first thought after the game was that it was meh. A lot of other fans thought that as well. Its not really a fair expectation to feel that way. Not a fair expectation that a 42-25 win can seem somewhat boring. Not a fair expectation that a freshman quarterback in Marcus Mariota was just going to waltz through the season without struggling at some point. Not a fair expectation that the team is going to destroy opponents early and put the game away in the first half, yet still manage to keep that intensity throughout the whole game. Its ridiculous, actually. Yet, its become the expectation of a fanbase whose goal is to compete for a national championship and understands that you need your very best game to beat the opponents necessary to achieve that goal. However, that fanbase is also insecure enough that mass panic ensues when they don't see that, regardless of the margin of victory.
I wonder if fans would feel differently had Oregon had to come from behind in the second half. Or had the timing of Oregon's touchdowns been different, with three or four scoring drives in the second half after a close first half. Would fans complain about a meh first half in the same way? Or do we do that because the second half is the most recent mental image we have of the game? I'm not sure, though I'm convinced it would have been a victory we'd be ecstatic with about six or seven years ago. Regardless of that question, or whether our expectation of complete domination in all phases of the game is realistic, there were still glaring errors that need to be addressed. A really banged up offensive line didn't get a good push in the second half. Mariota's fumbles were mistakes that didn't need to be made. Tackling was sloppy. I'm not sure what the appropriate level of panic is regarding these issues. However, considering that neither game has been close, and Tennessee Tech is coming to town next week, I'm guessing there's no need to have a whole lot of panic about them for the time being.
However, what you should be panicked about at this point is injuries. Rumors are flying that John Boyett is out for the season. Jared Ebert is likely out for the year with a serious knee injury. Carson York injured the same knee that he injured in the Rose Bowl last year, and didn't look good on the sideline afterward. Josh Huff exited with a knee injury, though he thinks he'll be okay. Kyle Long, Tyler Johnstone, Jake Fisher, and Ryan Clanton all are nursing injuries of some sort on the offensive line. In the game thread, somebody said in response to all the upsets, that they thought this year would be a lot like 2007, without a dominant team. Its certainly shaping up like 2007 on Oregon's injury front. I think I'll panic a lot more about that than I will about games that are over at halftime.