Anything you can do I can do better
I can score plenty more points than you*
*May not be actual lyrics
Anyone who watches sports on a regular basis knows things rarely go as anticipated. There's a matchup between the best two defenses in the NBA? How about a 120-115 final score. The two aces square off in an elimination game? Then a 9-8 final makes sense. For whatever reason, the sports world usually refuses to make sense. However, last Friday's Oregon-Cal game was not one of those cases.
In a game that featured two of the top offenses in the country, Oregon was able to outgun the Golden Bears by the final score of 59-41. Instead of breaking down a few plays from this game, we're going to switch gears for a week and look at three themes throughout Friday's game.
1. Charles Nelson Has a Little "DAT" in Him
Man, I don't know if it's the #6 jersey, the silky smooth moves, the role on the team he plays, but Charles Nelson has a little DAT-iness too him. Specifically freshman year DAT, before he became a crucial part of the Oregon offense, and was just this crazy/fast/wildcard Chip Kelly could pull out whenever the Ducks needed a boost.
Against Cal, Nelson has his first three carries of the season which he used to pile up 35 yards. All three runs were pretty similar. Nelson gets the edge as quickly as he can (which is pretty damn quick), then turns it upfield and makes a couple defenders miss. Oh and that punt return.
With the talent and depth in the Ducks backfield this season, no one would have guessed that Nelson would ever play any sort of role offensively, at least not this season. But with Tyner out and Marshall quickly becoming more of a receiver first, runner second, Nelson could potentially see an increase in his number of snaps as the season goes on.
2. Oregon Is Really, Really Bad at Tackling
If you have been watching Oregon all season, the above statement should not surprise you. All season long, with a possible exception of the Michigan State second half, the Ducks have been a miserable tackling team. During the loss to Arizona I may or may not have had a teeny tiny mental breakdown.
So has Oregon improved since then?
I think we need to talk about the third clip in that video. Does Troy Hill know what a tackle is? Has anyone ever actually told him?
Because dude, this ain't it.
In fairness to Hill, he was far from the only one to miss a tackle Friday. You can find a highlight ("highlight" is relative here) of just about any Duck throwing an arm at a ball carrier, only to have him run right through it. This extended many drives and allowed Cal to punch a few more drives into the end zone than they probably deserved.
Oregon has been bad across the board defensively, but the tackling has topped everything else. So far it has only burned the Ducks once, but with a few tough games left (*cough* Stanford *cough*) it is something to keep an eye on. Any team Oregon would potentially meet in the College Football Playoff would abuse this defense as it stands currently. The scary thing is, it might not matter what the defense does or doesn't do, because of the third takeaway below.
3. The Heisman is Mariota's to Lose at This Point in the Season
Going in to week 9 of the season, the Heisman conversation included many names. Cases could be made for Amari Cooper, Melvin Gordon, Jameis Winston and possibly a few others. The consensus top two however were Marcus Mariota and Dak Prescott. Prescott had a somewhat down game while fighting off a pesky Kentucky team, while Mariota did mean things to Cal.
That run on 3rd and 5 shouldn't happen. That should have been a sack, or atleast a throw away, ending the drive for the Ducks. They should have had to settle for a field goal attempt. They should have had to give the ball back to Cal, down 7-3 or 7-0. But Oregon has superman at quarterback.
It's plays like this (and the throw away against Washington State for example) that really define Marcus Mariota - unbelievably athletic plays that he just makes look so damn easy. Oh, and the 24/1 TD-to-INT and 5 rushing touchdowns through the first eight games. That too.
There's still a third of the season left, so a lot can change. But as of right now, the Heisman is Mariota's to lose.