Well, the end was certainly exciting.
This week, Oregon vs. Cal
(Sorry this is late, my wife and I are waist-deep in the planning for our annual Halloween party, and I’ve got too many irons in the fire)
It’s funny how statistics can tell a completely different story than what plays out on the field.
Friday night, Oregon’s offense wracked up 454 yards of total offense (244 yards passing, 210 rushing), their second highest total of the season; they averaged 8.7 yards per pass and 6.0 yards per rushing attempt. Yet they only managed 24 points in eking out the victory against a scrappy Cal team. Anthony Brown threw for a season-high 244 yards on 20 for 28 passing, good for 71%, yet continued to make head-scratching decisions at times. To his credit, he did attempt to stretch the field from time to time, including a pair of nice passes to Devon Williams that led to Oregon’s first touchdown in the second quarter, and the laser to Johnny Johnson, lll to tie the score at 17 in the fourth.
For those concerned about the running game following the injury to C.J. Verdell two weeks ago, Travis Dye answered with a spectacular game, rushing for 145 yards on 19 totes for a healthy 7.6 yards per carry average. Brown helped the cause with 44 yards on the ground on 13 carries, and what would be the decisive touchdown with 4:50 to go in the fourth quarter.
The offensive line played a much better game, opening nice holes in the run game and keeping the pocket clean for Brown, but penalties again were a problem, none as big as the holding call on Oregon’s first drive as the Ducks were decisively marching down the field.
Conclusion: A mixed bag; Brown threw five completions that went for 20+ yards, and the Ducks gained a lot of yards. But the offense only scored 24 points, fumbled the ball twice, and never seemed to quite find their groove. Could this be residual from Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead’s absence? Possibly. Dye played sensationally, but can we expect him to carry the load every game? Byron Cardwell had a couple of nice runs to spell Dye on Oregon’s final touchdown drive— I think we need to see more of him and/or Trey Benson and Seven McGee going forward.
Final Grade: C
Again, a mixed bag. The Ducks’ defense held Cal to 17 points, and ultimately sealed the victory for Oregon with a valiant goal line stand to deny the Bears as time expired.
But again Oregon employed a version of the ‘bend, don’t break offense’, allowing Cal three 11-plus play drives, which includes the monumental 18-play drive to end the game. At times the Duck defense played lights out, coercing four Cal punts and twice forcing the Bears to turn the ball over on downs. Much like the offense, the defense failed to maintain it’s intensity for the full game, allowing Bear quarterback Chase Garbers to keep the game close. And for the second straight game, the Oregon defense failed to force either a fumble or an interception— the Ducks are now -3 in takeaways during that span— a troubling statistic for a team that relies on turnovers to stymie opponents’ drives.
Linebacker Noah Sewell once again led the team in tackles with 12, while also tallying a sack and a pass breakup. Kavyon Thibodeaux, he of the first half suspension due to his “targeting” ejection in the Stanford game, came out like a house on fire in the second, playing arguably his best ball of the season. The secondary played Charmin soft once again, though they did tighten up on the final drive to help seal the win.
For the game, the Ducks allowed Cal 402 yards of total offense (247 passing, 155 rushing), 23 first downs, but ultimately only 17 points. Other than the aforementioned three long drives, the Bears didn’t do much with the ball, and much of the credit for that goes to Oregon’s defense.
Conclusion: A solid if unspectacular effort; Oregon again allowed too many third-and-long conversions, but fortunately the Ducks were able to clamp down when necessary, allowing the Bears only three scoring drives. The young linebacking corps continues to struggle, but hopefully more practice and game reps will help alleviate some of their weaknesses. Thibodeaux at times looked like a man among boys. The secondary could really use Bennett Williams right now. UCLA next week should be a true test of where this defense stands.
Final Grade: C+
I’ll be the first to admit— when Head Coach Mario Cristobal re-elevated placekicker Cam Lewis to the starting lineup at the beginning of the season, I thought he was crazy. But Lewis has proved the doubters wrong, not missing either a field goal (7-7) or PAT (26-26) yet this season, including nailing a career-long 49-yarder Friday night.
Punter Tom Snee continued his solid body of work, punting twice for an average of 51.5 yards per boot.
Oregon had no punt return yards, while Kris Hutson set the Ducks up for their game-tying touchdown early in the fourth with a scintillating 33 yard kick return. Oregon’s kick and punt coverage teams have yet to allow a return for a score this season.
Conclusion: Again, I cannot say enough about the maturation of Cam Lewis; over the past two seasons he’s gone from a liability to an asset, and I tip my cap to him. Special Teams continue to be the steadiest group in the program.
Final Grade: A-
Was good to see Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead back in the booth. I will take to my grave the opinion that Oregon would have beat Stanford had he been at the game.
In previous iterations of this report I’ve chided the coaching staff for not getting the players up for middling opponents; but I’ve come to the realization that that’s just the identity of this team. Whether it’s youth or immaturity, at the end of the day, the coaches can only prepare the players so much— as I noted during the post game commiserating, trying to figure what mercurial 18-to-22 year olds are going to do from week-to-week is a hopeless task. Kris Hutson and Anthony Brown had careless fumbles, the O-line was called for a dumb holding penalty on the opening drive that sucked all the momentum out of the offense, the defense had mental lapses that allowed Cal to sustain drives, but ultimately Oregon won the game. The Bears were a FAR better team than their 1-4 record coming into the contest would indicate.
Conclusion: It’s becoming more and more obvious that the Ohio State game was the exception rather than the norm. This is a team that will continue to play to the level of its competition, like it or not. Because they are so young this team will try our patience and cause more whiskey to be imbibed than is healthy. Again, the upcoming game at UCLA should really tell us what this team is made of.
Final Grade: B-
Oregon’s uniforms: Holy shit, it’s a good thing the Ducks won, because they were amazing. Can’t wait to see that kit again, A+
Atmosphere: I get the booing, to a point— the fans are frustrated by a seemingly stagnant offense. News flash, folks: Chip Kelly ain’t running (waddling?) through that tunnel any time soon, time to realize that this is a different Oregon offense than you’re used to. Thanks are in order however, for getting loud on the final drive when Oregon’s defense needed you most, B-
The Game Day Broadcast: Kudos for ESPN for employing Beth Mowins as a play-by-play analyst; she’s incredibly knowledgeable, and it’s obvious she’s not just a gimmick hire. That being said, I still listened to Jerry and Jorgy, they’re as familiary as your favorite pair of jeans, and I don’t know what I’d do without them. But JFC, can we get some better camera angles and maybe an HD camera or two, B+