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Two Areas of Concern

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So, the Ducks beat Portland State 55-12.  Despite the margin of victory, the game was anything but impressive.  On the plus side, the Ducks did not turn the ball over for the first time all season.  However, numerous defeciencies were present during the game.  The main one was Mu'Ammar Ali's 139 yards rushing.  Now, I realize how beat up the defense has been.  However, with the exception of lowly Stanford, every Oregon opponent has had a 100 yard rusher this year.  How did Oregon State beat USC?  Oregon State took away the running game.  Oregon simply cannot do that to anybody.  The other thing that disturbed me were continual mishaps on kick return coverage.  Again, you can get away with that against a 1-AA team, even a good 1-AA team like PSU.  But you can't tell me that Sammie Straughter isn't going to break one in the Civil War.

Its hard to tell a lot from a game such as this.  However, the fact that these two problems persist this far into the season against even 1-AA schools is quite concerning.  While teams like WSU and OSU have improved every game of the season, Oregon seems to me to have actually regressed.  I am still convinced that we will be a national title contender next year, but I don't want to lose sight of this year.  I don't see any way we lose to Washington or Arizona.  However, if we cannot improve in the two aforementioned areas, USC and OSU are going to be tough games.  OSU laid out the blueprint for stopping USC--stop the running game.  Oregon cannot do that.  And the Beavs have a great runner in their own right in Yvenson Bernard.  As for kick returns, both teams can break those as well.

Look, I'm not trying to say that the sky is falling or anything like that.  I still expect a 10-2 season out of this team.  However, we once thought that our offense would overwhelm USC, and that Civil War would be a blowout.  Events of the last two weeks have blown those theories out of the water, and the Ducks need to get their game in gear if they want the end of the season to be as successful as the beginning.  Here's betting that they get it done.  After all, nothing like a game against the Fuskies to get the house in order.