When you looked at Oregon's schedule before the season, and you saw Houston, Michigan, and Fresno State, you had to think "man, that's a tough non-conference schedule". Houston won ten games last year and was the defending conference USA champion. Michigan was a Rose Bowl team last year and ranked #5 in the country to begin the season. And Fresno State is the BCS hunter that always plays us tough. I think most Duck fans would have been really happy to go 2-1 in that stretch. So, 3-0 against that non-conference schedule feels really good. Especially seeing as we didn't just beat those teams--we flat out kicked their asses. Combined score of the three Oregon wins--139-55. And our closest margin of victory was 21 points.
The Fresno game was a bit different than the other games Oregon played. Against Houston, the team was still working out the wrinkles. The defense looked fairly poor (although many of us, myself included, vastly underrated Houston's running attack), and the offense took awhile to get going. But when the offense got going in the second half, the Ducks just blew them away. Against Michigan, Oregon decided to put on a show and sling long passes and trick plays at will. Fresno was a different kind of football--we're going to run all over you, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. And even a tough, physical team like FSU wan no match for Oregon running game.
There's not really even much to analyze about the run game. The Ducks had 307 yards on 47 carries, for an average of 6.5 per. They went inside and outside, and there were big holes everywhere. With the notable exception of the last two plays of the first possession, the offensive line did a great job and there were just huge holes everywhere. And I mean holes you could drive a truck through. Usually, you don't notice offensive line play unless its really bad. Well, I noticed this for being really good. They dominated FSU's defense. And, of course, if you give our RBs holes, they're going to exploit. Stewart was awesome, going off for 165 yards on 17 carries, including an Autzen record 88 yard TD run, which was the first time at Oregon that he really just turned on the afterburners and blew away the defense. Through three games, Oregon has had over 300 yards in every game, and is third in the nation in rushing. Not too shabby.
The running game was so good, that Dixon didn't have to venture into the air too often. But when he did he maintained his cool efficiency: 14/20, 139 yards, and two touchdowns. He was still off on a few passes (he missed a deep ball to Williams, and threw behind Dickson over the middle causing Dixon to go down as he caught it), but his decision making has been so good that the few off throws have hardly mattered.
At this point, we know about the offense. But the real shocker in this game has to be the play of the defense. On 36 carries, the Bulldogs had a paltry 60 yards on the ground. That's a 1.7 average. Fresno was stuffed for loss time and time again. This was probably aided by the Bulldogs having both starting guards out, but for the second game in a row, the Duck defense was able to get deep penetration into the Bulldog backfield, and Fresno running backs had nowhere to go. I can't remember the last time Oregon had a game where they didn't allow a 100 yard rusher, but they broke that streak emphatically in this game.
The secondary gave up a few more big plays than we are used to seeing, but still came up big forcing two turnovers. Walter Thurmond picked up a fumble for a score, then returned an interception to the 8. As if our offense isn't good enough, the defense has been responsible for putting them in a lot of good situations this year. Also, one of the biggest improvements from the Houston game to this game has been containing the QB. Whereas against Houston when all the receivers were covered the QB scrambled for first downs, those are now coverage sacks.
That's really about it. Everyone did their job. We kicked their ass.
Only one injury note. Jeremiah Johnson tweaked his hamstring. He should be okay for next week, but if there's any doubts, I would hold him out of the Stanford game. I like our chances against the Cardinal even without JJ, so there is no reason to rush him.
So now its onto league play. Stanford could be a bit of a trap game. But, then again, we said the same thing about Fresno. If Oregon continues what they have been doing--getting better every game, running the ball, and not turn the ball over, they should beat the Cardinal by three touchdowns. The margin for error gets smaller. Let the run for the Roses begin!
P.S. I'm not usually much of a gloater, but did I not warn everyone about UCLA?
P.P.S. I want to give Josh Syria a mention. Oregon punting has been really bad every since Josh Bidwell graduated. Syria's been doing a phenomenal job. He's averaging over 44 yards a punt, and had a nice 48 yarder out of bounds. Don't underestimate the value of a good punter in close games. And, rest assured, we will be in one at some point.