To give you an idea of how this evening is going, I’m writing this article with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter. Luckily you people can turn this derpfest off and tune in to reruns of Cops or whatever one does on Saturday night, but I HAVE to keep watching.
I’ll be honest, despite my rather cavalier prediction Friday (45-21 Oregon, for those of you who may have missed it), I had reservations about this game for some time, and deep down feared that Oregon would not only lose, but lose badly.
Guess that prediction did come true.
This week, Oregon (allegedly) vs. Utah
You knew things were going to go bad when Oregon was called for a false start on their second play from scrimmage. And it just went downhill from there.
Oregon couldn’t run the ball, they couldn’t pass the ball, they just couldn’t do anything. The Ducks came out flat from the opening kickoff, and they never did find their groove. Despite going against one of the more porous run defenses in the conference, Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead refused to commit to the run, therefore forcing quarterback Anthony Brown to throw early and often, and unfortunately AB was not up to the challenge Saturday night, going 17 of 35 for 231 yards (66 of those in the fourth, when the game was out of reach) and a touchdown. Brown was off-target all night, and his receivers were visibly frustrated accordingly. The loss of playmakers Johnny Johnson, lll and Jaylon Redd to injury definitely hurt the passing game. And while I have no proof, I would be willing to bet that the mid-week loss of wide receiver Mycah Pittman to the transfer portal was more than just a minor distraction.
The Ducks amazingly rushed for only 63 yards total for the game. I had to read that statistic twice, because I thought it was a typo. Why Oregon failed to run the ball, especially in the first half before the game got out of hand, will go down with Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance and the moai of Easter Island among the great mysteries of the world. Travis Dye, only 92 yards short of 1,000 yards for the season, was held to a season low 29 yards on 6 carries, and Byron Cardwell, coming off his big 98-yard game against the Cougars, managed only 35 yards on 7 carries. The offensive line, on the heels of blocking consecutive 300-yard rushing games, got manhandled by a highly motivated Utah defense, allowing 3 sacks and 6 tackles for loss on the night. Brown rarely had a clean pocket to throw from, and was noticeably battered from the hits he absorbed. Devon Williams and Kris Hutson each had a couple of nice catches, but both also dropped passes that could’ve extended drives, or in Williams’ case, put points on the board.
Conclusion: For the game, the Ducks managed to gain 294 yards. TOTAL. AND only 7 points, their worst output since beating Michigan State 7-6 in the Red Box Bowl back in 2018. They were 6 of 14 on third down conversions, and 0 for 3 in the red zone. This was a monumental failure across the board, from the players to the coaching staff. Head coach Mario Cristobal again made some head-scratching decisions throughout the game, and his clock management at the end of the first half was abysmal. Why Moorhead decided to place the burden of winning the game on Anthony Brown’s shoulders is a mystery.
Final Grade: F
Oregon’s Bend-Don’t-Break defense broke, bigly. Utah’s offense gouged the Duck defense all night, with their running game leading the way with 208 yards on 50 carries. Cincinnati transfer Tavion Thomas did the most damage, carrying the ball 21 times for 94 yards and 3 touchdowns. But the main story for the defense was their utter inability to get off the field on third down— Oregon allowed Utah to convert on 11 of their 14 third down attempts, which helped sustain long drives, keeping an undermanned Duck defense on the field for long stretches. Utah’s defense did a tremendous job neutralizing Kayvon Thibodeux, who despite 7 combined tackles was a non-factor for most of the game. Sadly KT’s linemates failed to step up, with the Oregon defense combining for only 1 sack and 1 tackle for loss. The lack of pressure gave Utah quarterback Cameron Rising time to survey the field, and while he was only 10 of 18 passing, those ten completions led to 178 yards, a healthy 17.8 yard per completion average.
Linebacker Noah Sewell had another solid game with 10 combined tackles, a sack, and a tackle for loss, but the rest of the defense looked disinterested and a step slow all night, giving up a season high 38 points to a highly motivated Utah team. Oregon had better regain their mojo real quick, as they have another motivated team in the Oregon State Beavers coming to town next week.
Conclusion: For whatever reason, Oregon could never find an answer for Utah’s run game; the Ducks made one of the PAC 12’s most vanilla offenses look positively dynamic. The Utes managed to negate Thibodeaux’s impact, and no one filled the void. Oregon has some serious soul-searching to do before next Saturday.
Final Grade: F
Jeebus, even the steadiest unit on the team soiled their trousers Saturday night. Would you believe that Utah’s special teams had been ranked 118th out of 125 FBS teams coming into the game? When kicker Cam Lewis, who up until tonight had been a perfect 10 for 10 on field goals, had his 36-yard attempt BLOCKED in the first quarter, I knew Oregon was in trouble. And then Lewis missed a 41-yarder in the second. And THEN Oregon’s punt coverage team allowed 14th-year senior Britain Covey to tiptoe down the sideline for a 78-yard punt return as the halftime gun sounded. Oy. I guess the only positive takeaway is that Seven McGee, filling in for the duly-departed Pittman, managed to cleanly fair-catch both of his punt returns. Yay.
Conclusion: It was poetic justice that Cam Lewis would have his worst game of the season last night, because that’s the kind of game it was. Guess it’s back to holding our collective breath when he lines up to kick.
Final Grade: F
The Oregon Ducks, ranked #3 in the College Football Playoff standings and facing their stiffest conference opponent, completely embarrassed themselves. Utah thoroughly outclassed Oregon in all phases of the game, offense, defense, special teams... even uniforms (arguably). Getting the team ready to play is up to the coaching staff, and to that end Cristobal, Moorhead, Tim DeRuyter, etal absolutely failed. Literally every aspect of the game for Oregon was an abject failure. They’ve got six days to make amends— there’s only the PAC 12 North Division crown on the line, along with a berth in the conference championship game, no big deal.
Conclusion: I still believe in this staff and hope that Saturday was an aberration. As I noted before, I am of the opinion that Mycah Pittman’s departure was a bigger distraction than anyone let on, and it carried over to game day. Losing your two seniors in the wide receiver room in Johnson and Redd didn’t help matters. But this team has been recruiting at such a high level that their absence shouldn’t hurt as much as in years past. Many are questioning Cristobal’s unwavering loyalty to Anthony Brown, especially in light of another disappointing effort, but while Brown didn’t play up to his past performances, he wasn’t the one allowing Utah to score 38 points. I think if Thompson was ready, he’d be seeing the field more. Regardless, while Oregon’s path to the playoffs is now dead, they still have a lovely consolation prize in a Rose Bowl berth if they can get past Oregon State and Utah again in two weeks. In the meantime, hopefully the staff can figure out what went wrong Saturday.
Final Grade: F
Oregon’s uniforms: They looked good, but honestly, considering the Ducks’ performance Saturday, who will remember them? B
Atmosphere: There appeared to be quite a contingent of Duck fans present in Rice-Eccles Stadium, but after the first quarter they had little to cheer for. C
The Game Day Broadcast: Well, at least we got to see the Ducks crap the bed in Hi-Def... I listened to Jerry & Jorgy on the radio, so I have no idea how ABC’s team of Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge fared. B