As I still linger in my shock over yesterday's game, I finally feel ready to comment on the disaster. Just answer me this question: how do you allow arguably the worst program in the conference for a decade running to come into " the most intimidating stadium in the country and blow out the home team on senior day? I am completely bewildered by this. Reader Tdawg asks if its time to question the team's heart. After a performance like that, how can you not?
Where does it start? How about Dennis Dixon. Now, I've been a big Dixon supporter all year, but this is the straw that broke the camel's back. 14-22 for a measley 88 yards and three interceptions? Are you freaking kidding me? This is Arizona at home, not Cal or USC on the road? How can Dixon go from so good last season and the beginning of this season to so bad the last six weeks? He doesn't have a passing touchdown since the Portland State game. Meanwhile, he has thrown six picks in that time. On the season, he has 11 scores and 13 interceptions this season. At some point, the stats don't lie. How can Bellotti not start Brady Leaf in the Civil War. It might be the Ducks' only shot. Brady may not be able to do with his feet what Dixon can, but if he can actually get the ball to his own receivers, that would be an improvement. (Of course, the rumors that Leaf will transfer to Montana after the season don't help, although Brady vehemently denies those rumors).
Of course, quarterback is just one mess. Run defense is another. Surprise, surprise, another century mark performance against the Ducks. Chris Henry ran up 191 yards. Its awfully hard to win giving up as many yards on the ground as the Ducks do. Sure, there have been injuries. But there reaches a point where you have to stop making excuses and tackle somebody. Compared to most of the season, the Ducks were relatively healthy on defense this game. Brent Haberly was back. Jeremy Gibbs was playing. Only Cole Linehan was still out. So what the hell happened? After all, coming into the game, Henry had barely over 300 yards on the season!
Punt returns continued to be a disaster. The big fumble by Andiel Brown ended any chance of a Duck comeback, and Oregon had four returns for a grand total of seven yards. Turn the ball over, start with bad field positon, and let the other team run the ball however they want will equal loss every time. Pounded by Arizona at home. What a great taste to leave in the fans' mouths.
The bigger question is where does this leave the Ducks for the season? They are 7-4, and, pending some kind of big turn around, look to lose in Corvallis again this season (who wouldv'e thunk that to be possible six weeks ago?) They are probably headed to Las Vegas or San Fransisco, where they will play some crappy opponent (hey, does that mean they actually have a chance to win their bowl game this year?) How could a team that was thinking of Roses not too long ago end up like this? How could they go from arguably a top ten team to the crap that they are now? There is no plausible answer. But someone opened the trap door and the bottom fell out of the season.
Is there hope. There is certainly hope. The year before Ohio State won the national title in '02, they were 7-5. The Ducks before the 10-2 season last year? 5-6. Michigan last year? 7-5. Hell, Matt Moore, who made throwing tons of picks every game fashionable way before Dennis Dixon did, now leads the nation with 117 straight passes without a pick. If that is possible, then there is hope that Dixon will still be a great quarterback next year. So don't worry about next season. But be very disappointed by the way this season is turning out. It didn't have to be this way. Nothing can make it better, but if the Ducks can find some way to put it together on Friday, then it will sting a lot less.