I have a few more analytical thoughts that I want to share regarding the Houston game. After this, we will focus on Michigan.
As I stated yesterday, I was pretty happy with the offense, especially in the second half. I've said over and over again that I want Oregon to run the ball, and they did so to the tune of 336 yards. When you get almost seven yards a carry, its hard to complain. I know that the lines for the RBs don't look sexy, but JJ and JStew combined for over 130 yards on 26 carries. Even Stewart, who looked pretty bad out there, averaged 4.6 ypc. He's just so hard to bring down that even when there aren't a lot of holes out there, he still drags guys with him for a couple of yards. I don't think that it was a great game for the backs by any means, but it was solid enough to get the job done.
Ironically, as I took a quick look in the O-Live forum this morning, one of the things that people were complaining about was Dennis Dixon. Color me confused, but what was there to complain about? I know he had a rough start passing, but he finished completing 60% for 2 scores and no interceptions. He was phenomenal with his legs. And he made great decisions with the football--he reads were pretty good, and he knew when to pitch and when to keep. He only made one bad read, which would have been a pick had it not been dropped, but this Dennis Dixon was 100% better than what we saw last year. I hear complaints that we didn't throw the ball downfield. That's really more of a playcalling issue than a Dennis Dixon issue, and, as it didn't prevent us from dropping 48 points. On top of that, you can't help but think that Chip Kelly was holding something back in anticipation of Michigan next week.
Speaking of which, why were the fans at Autzen cheering the Appalachian State/Michigan score? I know we all love upsets, but this was bad for the Ducks. Before, we had nothing to lose and everything to gain in that game. Now, we don't really have a whole lot to gain, and if we lose, it starts to look pretty bad. And, rest assured, we will have Michigan's full attention. And they're going to be pissed. The crowd in general wasn't very good. Lots of sitting down. Not a lot of noise. And I don't want to hear that "it would have been different for a top 25 opponent", etc. Think that the folks in Auburn use that excuse? Step it up, crowd. I'll be there for the Fresno State game. Maybe that'll help.
The real disappointment of the game has to be the defense, especially against the run. I'm not one that calls for people's heads, but you really have to wonder about Nick Aliotti. Its not has if the defense is a new problem, and I have a hard time believing that there is any difficulty in recruiting defensive players here. Which means either a) the gameplan sucks, or b) player development sucks. I have to think it's the latter. You look at that game, and time and time again the players were in position, but couldn't tackle anything. You look at those long plays by Alridge, and all of them had three, four, five missed tackles. If you can't tackle, you have no business in Division 1 football.
And I know that people say "well, as bad as it looked, they only gave up 27 points." That may be true, but look at the drive charts for Houston:
START QTR POSS. YRDL PLAYS YARDS RESULT
13:34 1 02:10 HOU 33 05 50 Fumble
11:24 1 03:34 HOU 20 09 55 Interception
06:15 1 00:07 HOU 20 00 00 Fumble
02:42 1 02:32 HOU 22 09 78 Rushing Touchdown
15:00 2 02:13 HOU 15 03 02 Punt
09:36 2 01:56 HOU 31 04 69 Rushing Touchdown
07:40 2 04:29 HOU 20 11 54 Field Goal Good
00:10 2 00:07 HOU 27 02 10 End of Half
15:00 3 04:52 HOU 35 12 49 Field Goal Good
10:08 3 00:57 HOU 34 12 56 Interception
03:30 3 00:52 HOU 20 03 04 Punt
02:36 3 00:46 HOU 24 01 76 Passing Touchdown
01:38 3 01:18 HOU 44 03 -4 Punt
10:19 4 05:46 HOU 07 15 76 Turnover on Downs
Houston would have had a few more scores had they not shot themselves in the foot with red zone turnovers. Rest assured, USC and Cal won't make those mistakes.
You also have to wonder, given the defensive liabilities, if this is the best offense for this team. The offense is quick, but they are often done with their drive in a couple of minutes, and then the defense is right back on the field. On the other hand, it also means that we can shoot it out with the best of `em. It looks like that's what we're going to have to do this year--hang 40-50 on people and hope its enough.
Lets hope that things improve from here. After all, its only the first game. And the defense played a lot better in the second half. They're going to have to be better, or Mike Hart will put up 200 on them.