It's a bit hard to analyze this game rationally. The fan in me wants to come out and say "We trashed Michigan in the Big House, we left them there laying in a bloody pulp, nobody can stop our offense, we are Pac-10, maybe even national championship contenders." But then I stop. Two things cause me to pause. One is the simple fact that Michigan just isn't very good. The second is that we've seen starts like this before. Three times in recent memory ('02, '03, '06) the Ducks have started off strong, only to crash hard in the end. I need to see a little more before I go off proclaiming our Ducks championship contenders of any sort.
That being said, this team has the chance to be very, very special. On offense, there is as much pure talent as an Oregon team as ever had. Two elite running backs, a great offensive line and wide receiver corps, and a superb senior quarterback. Just with his legs, Dennis Dixon is a threat, but we saw yesterday that he can throw the long ball as well. This is a veteran team. They have been through last season, and I can't imagine that they want to allow that to happen again. With that in mind, even in a game where we beat a team into oblivion, several things were evident that our team still needs to work on.
The first is defensively. We know that this is going to be a contain defense. The secondary looks as if they are going to make a lot of big plays. And there was a much better pass rush this game then what we saw against Houston. But the defense still gave up way too many yards on the ground, mainly in the first half. If you remember, Michigan was having no trouble moving the ball in the first half. To Oregon's credit, they forced turnovers and held a couple of times, but every first half Michigan possession ended in Oregon territory.
Now, Oregon's defense was much more effective in the second half but this was because Michigan, being down by twenty gazillion points, was forced to throw the ball more (and maybe because a freshman quarterback was in). With Oregon's offense, their best defense will be to score early and get other teams in situations where they have to throw more. But we absolutely cannot allow opposing running backs to average five yards a carry and expect to get through the season with ten wins. The tackling was better than the Houston game, but still needs to improve.
There is also this whole kicker situation that bears watching. Matt Evensen has looked good at times--but when we need a field goal late to hold a lead or win a game, are we going to be able to count on him? The two missed field goals is concerning.
Finally, I am going to give a couple of gripes about the offense. The offense was spectacular, but they had two goal line situations in which they failed to score. I hate the Dennis Dixon QB sneak on inches situations. Give Dixon space, and watch him run all day. But what Dennis is not is a big guy. On a goal line situation, he is not going to be able to get a push on the line--he's just too small. I'd much rather see Jonathan Stewart get the ball. It's very difficult for him not to get those precious inches. It seems to me to be the smart play in that situation. Also, I am a bit concerned about Jaison Williams. He has dropped an awful lot of passes in the first two games. We need J-Will to be what he was last year.
However, we also need to talk about what went right. Offensively, the most important discovery has to be the affirmation that the deep ball is still a major part of this offense. Three deep balls to three different receivers. Two were right on the money, and the Jones pass was just a little off, but not enough to make Jones miss it. Big plays kill the spirit of the other team. We saw that over and over again with long bombs to Samie Parker a few years back. We saw it on Saturday, as Michigan was for all intents and purposes done after Paysinger's touchdown. You won't see three of them in one game again (we won't see too many defenses as bad as Michigan again), but, especially with the speed of Jones and Paysinger, it will be a dangerous weapon.
I also want to talk about the running game. There were some people wondering what happened to Jonathan Stewart in the Houston game, but he looked like the tough, bruising back that we know against Michigan. He and Jeremiah are such a perfect compliment for each other. And the offensive line did such a great job--there have been a lot of holes for these guys to run through. You don't have over 600 rushing yards in two games without great O-Line play.
And, of course, Dixon has been tremendous. I can't help but feel that we are seeing an Aaron Brooks like transformation between junior and senior year. His decision making has been impeccable, and his leadership great. Oregon is plus six on turnovers through two games, and Dixon's decision making is a big reason why.
It was a great win, and we should all be proud. However, now our guys need to focus on Fresno State. We all remember what happened the week after we beat Michigan last time, and we can't have that again. We know what we'll get out of Fresno--they always give us everything we want and then some. This team can't get too cocky after this game--there is still a lot of work to do. But if this team stays focused, the possibilities are endless.