In the immortal words of Byron (or was it Shelley?), What the F*** Was That?
This week: Oregon at Washington
It was rainy. It was windy. It was cold. And at times the Oregon offense was pathetic. The first quarter in particular was a house of horrors, topped off by Anthony Brown’s inexcusable interception right into the hands of Washington linebacker Carson Bruener, but followed close behind by the end zone tackle of Travis Dye for an Oregon safety to make the score 9-3. Yet that same offense managed to pull itself together long enough to register 427 total yards, including a season-high 329 on the ground. Dye was the hero last night, rushing for 211 yards on 28 carries for a healthy 7.5 yards per tote, and almost single handedly crushed almost any hope Washington had of coming back in the second half with numerous big runs, none more so than his 19 yard gallop for a touchdown in the fourth to make the score 24-9. While the O-line deserves praise for opening holes for Dye & Co. and for keeping Brown upright all game, they continued their trend of committing multiple drive-impaling penalties, the most egregious being a questionable personal foul during Oregon’s final drive on center Alex Forsyth, which could have led to disaster had Oregon’s opponent not been completely incompetent.
The weather kept the passing game mostly grounded, with Brown going 10 of 20 for 98 yards, the aforementioned pick, and a 31-yard touchdown pass to favorite target Devon Williams in the second quarter. And while the inclement conditions could excuse some of the passing game woes, Brown seemed to regress tonight, making several poor decisions with the ball, both running and passing, and at times seemed timid and indecisive. Hopefully he can regain his mojo with the ever-unpredictable Washington State coming to Eugene next week.
Conclusion: I can’t judge too harshly because of the weather conditions Oregon was forced to play in; they set a season high in rushing yards, went 9-for-16 on third down conversions, committed only the one turnover, and held the ball for 36:33. Dye was The Man, and freshman Byron Cardwell held his own. Hopefully Brown’s miscues in the passing game can be chalked up to the elements.
Final Grade: C+
Travis Dye had 211 yards rushing; the Husky offense managed 166 yards. TOTAL. Oregon’s defense dominated tonight, and apart from the touchdown drive midway through the fourth which cut Oregon’s lead to eight, were in total control the entire game. The Ducks controlled the line of scrimmage, keeping Washington from establishing any kind of offensive rhythm. Oregon forced seven punts, held the Huskies to 3-for-12 on third down conversions, and allowed only 3.3 yards per play. The Ducks held Washington running back Sean McGrew, who ran for 114 yards against Stanford a week ago, to only 49 yards on 15 carries; Husky quarterback Dylan Morris went 15 for 27 for 111 yards with no touchdowns and one interception and was largely ineffective.
Once again Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell was everywhere, tallying 10 combined tackles, batting down 2 passes, and generally making Washington’s life miserable. Converted safety Jeffrey Bassa continues to be a revelation at linebacker, with 6 tackles, a sack, a pass break up, and one of the defensive highlights of the night, a monster tackle behind the line of scrimmage of Husky running back Sean McGrew on fourth down in the second quarter. Kayvon Thibodeaux was routinely double and triple-teamed and had a relatively quiet night, with three tackles and a tackle for loss. Safety Jordan Happle had perhaps the defensive play of the game, making one of the unlikeliest of interceptions, picking off a Morris pass in the second quarter despite wearing a club on his right hand to protect an injury.
Conclusion: Again, the weather played a role in how the defense played; Washington was never able to establish any kind of vertical passing game, and with their toothless running game, their offense was rendered mostly inert— the Huskies’ longest play of the game was 19 yards. They managed only 7 first downs. Oregon had a 13 minute time-of-possession advantage. Had the Ducks not spent much of the first half shooting themselves in the foot, this game would have been a blowout in Oregon’s favor.
Final Grade: B
Other than another exceptional outing from kicker ‘Mr. Reliable’ Cam Lewis, they were nothing special, again primarily due to the weather. Lewis hit all three of his PATs and nailed a 46 yard field goal to put the Ducks on the board early in the first quarter, though several of his kickoffs were short, allowing for solid returns by Washington. Punter Tom Snee dropped 3 of his 6 punts inside the 20 yard line, but overall struggled a bit due to the conditions, averaging only 37.8 per boot. Oregon’s return coverage was shaky at best, allowing Husky return specialist Giles Jackson a punt return of 21 yards and a 43 yard kickoff return, giving Washington tremendous field position. Fortunately for Oregon, the Huskies’ inept offense was unable to cash in on either placement. Mycah Pittman provided the special teams highlight for the evening, gaining 33 yards on a scintilating punt return late in the third which led directly to Oregon’s third and final touchdown of the game.
Conclusion: A mixed bag; though, again, concessions must be made due to the weather conditions. Lewis was clutch (still feels bizarre typing that), and Pittman had Oregon’s longest return— punt OR kickoff— of the season. But the Ducks’ kick coverage left much to be desired, and at this rate, it’s just a matter of time before an opponent houses a kick or two unless these deficiencies are cleaned up.
Final Grade: C+
Well, at least Head Coach Mario Cristobal didn’t whack any of his players on the sideline...
A horribly slow start out of the gate; questionable play calling, curious timeout strategies, lapses in situational decision making. These have become hallmarks of the Cristobal Era, and all were on display last night. Yet, despite the absolute worst possible start of the game, the team managed to right itself, outscoring Washington 23-7 after the first quarter. Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead seemed to have trouble finding his footing as well, with some extremely dubious play calls, particularly in the first quarter. But kudos to he and his staff for finally realizing in the second half that running the ball down Washington’s throats was the best strategy, leading to the aforementioned 329 rushing yard outburst. Defensive Coordinator Tim DeRuyter had his charges ready to go, dominating the line of scrimmage and keeping Washington’s offense from putting together any sustained drives. A hat tip also to the entire coaching staff for keeping the teams’ emotions in check, and avoiding for the most part any silly, emotionally-charged penalties that regularly spoil games involving heated rivals.
Conclusion: Mario C. and his staff generally outclassed their more academically prowessed (yeah, I’m going to run that phrase into the ground, deal with it) foe. Washington’s defense had no answer to Oregon’s run game, and the Husky offense found itself ill-equipped to deal with the weather conditions. The Ducks kept their emotions in check, and despite all the talk of the playoffs, kept their focus on the game at hand, the first quarter not withstanding. There were still a couple of head-scratching calls— the back-to-back decisions to call timeout with 2:30 to go and then run true freshman Byron Cardwell instead of Travis Dye on 3rd and 33 come to mind— but considering the weather, the nature of the rivalry, and the stakes of the game, walking away with a win Saturday is a fine feather in the coaching staff’s cap.
Final Grade: B-
Oregon’s uniforms: Road uniforms are hard because they’re usually all white and white is terribly boring... Saturday’s kit was okay, though the helmets didn’t match the tops, a terrible faux pas, B
Atmosphere: Welcome to football in the Pacific Northwest in November. Horrible weather, yet Oregon’s fans stood tall— and LOUD— while their opposite numbers were heading for the exits at halftime... Side Note: can the PAC-12 please invest in some decent referees? My god, I’m starting to wonder if they don’t get paid for every flag they throw (this comment is under further review), A-
The Game Day Broadcast: For whatever reason I decided to give ABC’s team of Mark Jones and Robert Griffin, lll a try, and I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve always been fond of Jones, and I found RGlll to be quite entertaining. He’s a bit raw, but I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him as an analyst. ABC/ESPN needs to get some Rain-X for their camera lenses, and figure out how to block the sound of raindrops hitting their microphones though, B