Well, I've had almost 24 hours to digest what has happened in the world of Duck football, and, it's still as beautiful as ever. And while the game wasn't perfect, we saw our Ducks grow up over the last two games. Oregon pretty much blew through their first 5 Pac-10, winning by margins of 39, 46, 14, 24, and 27. Everything looked easy, the Ducks got some great breaks and took advantage of them to turn games into blowouts.
However, the contests against Arizona and Oregon State were not so easy. In both games, the Ducks faced adversity. But when the game was on the line, this Duck team made the plays it needed to. The offenses showed poise and confidence, and seemed to have an ingrained belief that they would come through. There was a confidence in this team that we haven't seen in some time.
To me, the play of the game was the 4th and 6 conversion to Jeff Maehl. This was a conversion the Ducks simply had to have. OSU had all the momentum at that point, up by 9 points after scoring touchdowns on their previous two drives. But Jeremiah Masoli threw a strike, that has handled by Maehl right as he was hit, and the Ducks kept the drive alive.
Without that conversion, winning that game becomes very difficult. But that's what this Duck team has done. They have converted the biggest plays of the game over and over again. They executed to the highest level and have shown the desire and confidence of a championship team.
It was this attitude that propelled the Ducks to become the first team to be Pac-10 champions by two whole games since the 1991 Washington Huskies.
Let's also give props to the defense. They had no easy task, going against an incredibly accurate passer in Sean Canfield, and the best wide receiver in the conference in James Rodgers. Yet, the Duck defense put the game on their shoulders. OSU was never able to develop a run game, and seemed to almost totally abandon it in the second half. The Ducks held the Beavers to 83 yards on 25 carries. And that lack of a rushing game forced OSU into many long 3rd down conversions. The Ducks held the Beavers to 5/14 on 3rd down. Previously, the Beavers had converted just over 48% of their third downs.
While the Ducks had defensive issues on two OSU drives (to end the first half and start the second half). However, outside of those two drives, that Oregon defense gave up only 214 yards on 50 plays, for a mere 4.3 yards per play. It's easy to point to the 33 points and the two drives where OSU looked very good, but outside of that, the Ducks bottled up the OSU offense, took them off their normal offense, and forced them away from their typically balanced attack. By the end of the game, the Oregon defense looked fresh and energetic, and the OSU offense was struggling. When the Ducks were able to get pressure on Canfield, he stood no chance.
The one blight on the game were Duck mistakes. If Oregon had not gifted OSU 10 points in the first half, this game is much different. Similarly, Oregon had a stretch in the second quarter where the offense sputtered, and they squandered multiple opportunities to put the game away early, though OSU should get some credit for stepping up. But when the Ducks offense got rolling, OSU could simply not stop it. The final 4 drives for the Ducks: Touchdown, Touchdown, Field Goal, run out the clock.
But again, the whole game came down to the play in the final quarter, and Oregon dominated on both sides of the ball. They had two drives into OSU territory while OSU struggled to move the ball and scored no points.
Oregon was better prepared to play for four quarters. They were the better team, more explosive on offense, faster and more consistent on defense. They were also the hardest working team in the Pac-10, showing incredible focus throughout the entire season.
And that hard work has paid off. The Oregon Ducks are the best team in the Pac-10, by a good margin, and are going to be playing in the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2010. It couldn't get much better.