The SOP here at ATQ is that I will have a general recap up sometime Saturday night, and will get into a more detailed analysis on Sunday.
The first game of the season is always a time of excitement. Every team comes in with dreams of a great season. But Appalachian State beating Michigan showed that you never know what is going to happen. And, indeed, I think many Duck fans had this notion that Houston was the kind of team that comes into Autzen and gets blown out. And if you didn't see the game and only looked at the final score, you might believe that to be true. But shortly after halftime, this game was tied up at 20, and I found myself just praying that we would survive. After all, nothing is worse then having your dreams dashed on the first Saturday in September (remember Indiana '04?). But if you can live on to fight another day, you never know what might happen.
There actually were a number of reasons to be excited about the Ducks' performance, and they start on offense. Oregon marched right down the field on their first drive and scored a touchdown in less than two minutes. Although he struggled with the pass early, Dennis Dixon answered a lot of his critics. He would end up 9/15 for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the air, and a very impressive 141 yards on 15 carries on the ground, including a terrific 80 yard TD run that pretty much put the game away. Although he had two throws that could have been picks (including one that would have been a touchdown to a wide open Jeremiah Johnson had Dixon not lobbed the throw), we saw a lot of good Dennis today, especially in the second half. He made good decisions with the football and was a real threat with his legs. If we get this Dennis all season, this offense is going to be very difficult to stop.
The running game in general was very good. Chip Kelly was not shy about going to it, and the Ducks had 336 yards on 49 carries. Jeremiah was great, averaging 6.2 ypc and two scores on his 11 carries. Stewart did not have a great game, but still averaged 4.6 ypc with some very tough runs. You have to be happy with the way the running game performed. We only saw limited action in the passing game, and the receivers dropped a couple of passes, but Dixon made great decisions, and there were two touchdowns through the air. I think we'll see a bit more passing in the games to come, but Chip Kelly obviously wanted to establish the running game, and it paid off by opening up the passing game in the second half.
Also encouraging was the special teams. While they were awful last year, they looked really good today. Apparently, Matt Evenson won the field goal job, and responded by making both his tries, from 44 and 45 yards. Josh Syria looks like he could be the best Oregon punter in years, getting 43.8 yards per punt. Stewart and Crenshaw netted 31.3 yards per on their four kick returns, and Andiel Brown got almost 20 yards a return on his two punt returns. Then there was the punt block by Patrick Chung. Solid job. The kick coverage units gave up too many yards to Houston returners, but you have to be happy with the performance of special teams. 100% better than last year.
Unfortunately, you have to be really concerned about this team defensively. I know that Anthony Alridge is a great back, but I have no confidence that this defense will hold any back to under 100 yards this year. There were just too many holes, and even when the defense did track down the running backs, their tackling was downright frightful. I'm glad that we put up 48, because the way the defense played, they'll need to score that many to beat anybody. And, honestly, if Houston hadn't shot itself in the foot with four turnovers, 48 may not have been enough. To make matters worse, even when Oregon made adjustments late in the game, and got Houston in some 3rd and long situations, it happened on at least three occasions where the quarterback was able to escape the clutches of rushers and scramble down a barren field to get 15 yards for a first down. I am so tired of this. When the other team is in third and long, it's a 50/50 proposition that we will make them punt. This has largely been the case since 2002, and I absolutely can't handle it anymore.
Its only the first game, and there is room for hope. Dixon looked great, the offense rolled in the second half, and the special teams were much improved. Lets be honest, its been a long time since we actually won a football game, and we beat a pretty good team. Lets be happy about that. But things have to improve, because a very pissed off Michigan team is looking to take out a lot of anger on us next weekend.
Analysis up sometime tomorrow.