Now that I've had a day to sit back and digest the game, I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out. One thing that the 2007 Ducks had not been until last Saturday was tested. And while Stanford Stadium was an unlikely spot for that test to occur, the Ducks passed with flying colors. Make no mistake, this is a game that last years' Ducks lose, and if we needed confirmation that things are different this year, we may have just found it.
I've watched about half of the game on replay. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind what happened. The Ducks got off to the big 21-3 lead, thought the game was over, and started thinking about Cal. They lost focus, things started to snowball, and they needed that halftime break to regroup and refocus. Once that happened, things returned to normal. Namely, Oregon beat Stanford's ass the way they should have in the first half. Hopefully, this team has learned their lesson about maintaining focus, and its better to have that lesson learned against a team you can come back on like Stanford rather than a team like ASU, which may not be as forgiving.
In the first quarter, there was no doubt in anybody's mind who the better team was. And when Cameron Colvin scored on a 71-yard touchdown catch on the first play from scrimmage, I thought the game was over right there. A 21-3 lead at the end of one only seemed to confirm my thoughts. Unfortunately, it did so for the players as well.
A team that had only turned the ball over twice all year had three fumbles in one quarter? Loss of focus. A back that in 20 career starts hadn't had a 100 yard game in his career had 100 yards in a single quarter? Lack of focus. And our jaws dropped in amazement as the Cardinal put up four touchdowns in a single quarter. And while I'm sure that most of us still thought that Oregon would win the game, you couldn't help but have a little doubt a that point.
However, as much as the second quarter belonged to Stanford, Oregon completely reestablished dominance with three unanswered touchdowns. Dennis Dixon, who is showing an Aaron Brooks like improvement this year, was flawless in the quarter, 12-12 with two touchdowns. Dennis Dixon was not going to let this team lose this game. And while this was his worst game on the ground, it was the best game of his career through the air, with 367 yards and four touchdowns. And if he puts up big number in a win against Cal next weekend, he has to emerge from the shadows to become a legitimate Heisman contender. Yes, he still has a few accuracy issues, and that was evident by the fact that he was unable to connect with Jaison Williams twice late in the second quarter, but he is inarguably one of the top five quarterbacks in college football right now.
Speaking of Jaison Williams, he finally came out of his shell. Seven catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns is more like the Jaison Williams that we came to know last year. Cameron Colvin came out of nowhere to have eight catches for 136. The loss of Brian Paysinger will always hurt, but if these two can play at the level they did in this game, it will hurt a lot less. Also, props to Ed Dickson, who is keeping Oregon's tight end tradition alive. And you have to like that Chip Kelly is actually using the tight end, instead of letting him rot like Gary Crowton did to Dante Rosario last year.
And while the running game didn't top 300 yards for the first time all season, Jonathan Stewart still found huge holes to run for 160 yards, and a recovering JJ had 60. The only reason that the running game didn't get their 300 yards is that Dixon was content to sling the ball instead of run it. There are no concerns there.
Even the defense, which had as miserable a second quarter as I have ever seen, righted the ship to pitch a shutout in the second half. It helps when you can actually get off the field for a bit and the offense isn't turning the ball over. But those large holes that Kimble was running through disappeared, and the pass rush on Ostrander reappeared. And the big plays came back, as the defense forced two turnovers in the second half. Like the offense, their ship was righted.
If any concerns linger, it has to be on special teams. I don't know why Andiel Brown refuses to call a fair catch, but not doing so twice with men all over him almost led to two disastrous turnovers, and he had a fumble on another return to boot. Bellotti chewed him out on the sideline, and I'm sure that coach Osborne will be talking to him a lot in practice. There is absolutely no excuse for that. And, quite frankly, it was quite surprising as Andiel had been doing a solid job all year up to that point. And the kick return coverage was beyond bad. Stanford had almost 300 yards on kick returns, and the holes were gaping. Special teams practice will be a lot of fun this week. On the plus side, Josh Syria was again nothing short of phenomenal. On five punts, he averaged almost forty yards, only one was returnable, and two were out of bounds inside the 20. You can't ask for anything more from your punter.
4-0 through four games and our most important game of the young season is coming up. We will know after Saturday if we are the Pac-10 championship contenders we think we might be. And if we play like we did in the second half, we should come out of that game with another W.