A roller-coaster ride in the land of amusement parks Saturday.
This week, Oregon vs. UCLA
Probably the offense’s best overall performance since Ohio State. Give Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead credit— knowing that UCLA’s strength was in stopping the run, Moorhead devised an aggressive passing attack that exposed the Bruins’ weak secondary, turning Anthony Brown loose for a season-high 296 yards through the air on 29 for 39 passing, good for a 74% completion rate. Brown managed to find eleven Oregon receivers, with Devon Williams (5 catches, 80 yards), and Mycah Pittman (5, 46) his primary targets. And though the Ducks were successful passing the ball, they certainly didn’t abandon the run completely, with Brown leading the way with 85 yards rushing including the game-winning, 43 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and Travis ‘Mr. Touchdown’ Dye, who set an FBS record with 4 touchdowns on 4 consecutive rushes Saturday. For the game, Oregon managed 417 total yards (296 passing, 121 rushing), 22 first downs, and went 7 for 9 on third down conversions.
For all the good, however, the Ducks nearly handed UCLA the game with three costly turnovers in the second half, courtesy of a fumble after a nice catch-and-run by Kris Hutson late in the third quarter, and two interceptions thrown by Brown in the fourth. Fortunately the opportunistic Oregon defense came through in the end, and the Ducks prevailed.
Conclusion: Despite the turnovers, a solid game from Brown. While he didn’t have any touchdown passes, his passing set up short fields for Travis Dye and the rushing offense to operate. The vertical passing game became more prevalent, and he ran the ball decisively. Williams and Pittman are becoming reliable weapons, and Dye is indispensable. And despite a constantly juggling lineup because of injuries, the offensive line played a solid game, limiting their mistakes and keeping the pocket clean.
Final Grade: B
I said last week that this game would tell us where the Oregon defense truly stands. I’d say after Saturday’s results, all things considered, the defense is in pretty good shape.
UCLA came into the game second in the PAC-12 in rushing, averaging over 215 yards a game and featuring the second leading rusher in the conference in Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet, the number five rusher in Duke transfer Brittain Brown, and the ever-illusive quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. All Oregon did was hold the Bruins to 110 yards rushing on 45 carries for an average of 2.4 yards per. Charbonnet, who had run for 131 in UCLA’s win the week before against Washington, was stymied all game long by the Duck defense, managing only 35 yards on the ground on 15 carries.
Forced into becoming a drop-back passer, Thompson-Robinson was harassed all game long by the relentless Duck front seven, and was eventually knocked out of the game for his efforts. Oregon’s defense was led by Kayvon Thibodeaux, who played his best game of the season with nine total tackles, two sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. Thibodeaux, his linemates Brandon Dorlus and Braydn Swinson, and linebacker Noah Sewell made a living in UCLA’s backfield, as the Ducks’ defense tallied 14 total tackles for loss for the game, a season high.
Oregon’s passing defense was again a bit shaky, giving up 242 yards passing and several crucial third-and-fourth down conversions late in the game. There were still several blown coverages and at least a couple inexcusable penalties. But the defensive backfield did make some big plays, none bigger of course than Cornerback D.J. James’ second of two interceptions off a pass from backup Bruin quarterback Ethan Garbers to seal the victory.
Conclusion: After a horrific start which found Oregon down 14 - zip before the Rose Bowl seats were warm, the defense clamped down and stifled UCLA’s dangerous offense for the next two-plus quarters. They were then put in an untenable situation via Anthony Brown’s two late interceptions, but ultimately were able to stave off the Bruins’ rally and get the win. The defense shut down one of the most formidable rushing attacks in the conference, kept the Bruins from breaking any big plays (their longest play of the game went for 20 yards), and held UCLA under their season average in points and total yards. Overall a solid effort all around.
Final Grade: B+
It figures. We’d been singing the praises of the Special Teams all season, so I guess they were due for a bit of a let down.
Cam Lewis, who hadn’t missed a kick— field goal or PAT— yet this season, doinked an extra point midway through the third quarter which almost came back to haunt Oregon, and punter Tom Snee, who hadn’t had a punt blocked this season, had his only boot of the game blocked and recovered by the Bruins, who converted the mistake into a touchdown and a 14-0 UCLA lead. Conversely, Lewis had all but one of his six kickoffs go through the end zone for a touchback, and the Ducks did not allow a single Bruin return yard.
Conclusion: Let’s hope that the rare miss for Lewis, who did not attempt a field goal Saturday, is a fluke and not a trend.
Final Grade: B
After getting kicked in the crutch in the first quarter, the Ducks paused, regrouped, and proceeded to tear off a 34 to 3 run. Oregon could have folded after Brown’s two INTs in the fourth quarter, but they knuckled down and finished off the Bruins on the road. Credit goes to Head Coach Mario Cristobal and his staff for keeping the team focused and resilient. Kudos again to Offensive Coordinator Moorhead on a solid game plan, and Defensive Coordinator Tim DeRuyter for keeping his bruised and battered troops battling.
Conclusion: Going up against Chip Kelly is never easy, but Oregon escaped Pasadena Saturday with their third straight victory over Kelly and the Bruins. While the offense still had it’s share of WTF moments, they seemed to be in a much better groove than they had the past two games... and though the defense gave up 31 points, they held a potent UCLA team to 352 yards and kept their vaunted ground game in check. Had it not been for the two late Oregon turnovers, this game could have been a laugher. But a win, on the road, against an upper-echelon conference opponent, is still nothing to sneeze at.
Final Grade: B
Oregon’s uniforms: By the second quarter all I could think of was Cruella De Vil and “GET THOSE PUPPIES!”... loved the numerals, loved the domes, but hope this kit gets put in the back of the closet, C
Atmosphere: Dear UCLA fans— YOU SUCK. The most historic venue in all of college football, your team is playing pretty solid ball with the #10 team in town, and the place is half empty. Pathetic, C-
The Game Day Broadcast: Chris and Herbie, it doesn’t get any better than that, I even turned Jerry and Jorgy down most of the game. Thibs with the F-bomb! And Hi-Def cameras! B+