And it’s over.
The game that most Duck fans approached with trepidation has mercifully come to an end.
And while yes, Oregon did show a spark in the second half, the 30-3 first half hole they dug themselves was too much for this M.A.S.H. unit of a football team to overcome.
By my final count, Oregon was effectively without 35 players in the Alamo Bowl of the 88 scholarship players that it opened the 2021 season with, plus 3 defenders who got hurt tonight. A couple did dress tonight but didn't play. Participation chart lists 48 scholarship players.— James Crepea (@JamesCrepea) December 30, 2021
Gobsmacking. That Oregon was even able to keep the game within shouting distance is a testament to their grit and fortitude. Sadly that wasn’t enough.
This week: Oregon vs. Oklahoma
Costly mistakes sealed Oregon’s fate offensively Wednesday night, from quarterback Anthony Brown’s interception on the Ducks’ opening drive to the false start penalty at Oklahoma’s 4 yard line which torpedoed their second drive, Oregon consistently shot themselves in the foot in the first half as they watched the Sooners march down the field, seemingly scoring at will. And by the time the Ducks found their bearings in the second half, Oklahoma’s lead was insurmountable.
Oregon put up some good numbers against Oklahoma’s much maligned defense; Anthony Brown finished his college career on something of a high note personally, going 27 of 40 for 306 yards, 3 touchdowns and the aforementioned pick. But just as in almost every game this season, he alternated pinpoint vertical passes with offline checkdowns at the line of scrimmage. He also appeared to be a step slow running the ball— no doubt the culmination of a seasonful of abuse at the hands of opposing defenses— only picking up 21 yards on 9 carries for an anemic 2.3 yards per.
Do-everything back Travis Dye had a superb game, rushing for 153 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown, while catching 5 passes for an additional 28 yards. One shudders to think where this team would have been without TD after losing C.J. Verdell to his season-ending injury in the Stanford game in week five. Oregon’s young receiving corps showed that the future may be bright, with Kris Hutson, Dont’e Thornton, and Troy Franklin all hauling in long touchdown passes in to keep what little hope the Ducks had alive in the second half.
Oregon’s offensive line continued its inconsistent play, with drive-killing penalties and poor pass protection, resulting in 3 sacks of Anthony Brown and a further 5 quarterback hurries. In their defense, they too were not immune from the injury bug, with stalwart Ryan Walk out and Jackson Powers-Johnson being moved to the defensive side of the ball due to their dwindling numbers.
Conclusion: On paper, Oregon’s offense had a tremendous game against the #16-ranked Sooners; 497 yards of total offense, including 306 yards passing and 191 yards rushing, 26 first downs, and 32 points. Was also nice to see Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead actually run some tempo offense, though it’s a shame he didn’t stick with it. But in a game against a highly potent offense such as Oklahoma’s, it wasn’t enough. The first half was an unmitigated disaster— Oregon’s six drives in the half went Interception/Field Goal/Punt/Punt/Downs/End of Half. By the time they got things figured out in the third quarter, it was too late.
Final Grade: C+
I hope Kayvon Thibodeaux and Mykael Wright enjoyed watching the game, because their teammates sure could have used them. It’s hard to get too upset with Oregon’s defensive performance, because it’s the same story we’ve watched all season; a young, raw injury-wracked unit that has trouble pressuring quarterbacks, tackling ball carriers and covering receivers. Those weaknesses were magnified tenfold in the Alamo Bowl due to Oregon’s injury woes, transfers, and NFL opt-outs. Oklahoma totaled 564 yards against the Ducks, including 322 yards on the ground— the most an Oregon defense had given up since 2016. After going three-and-out on their opening drive, the Sooners scored on their next eight straight possessions. Let me say that again— Oklahoma scored every time they had the ball eight consecutive times. And they made Oregon look bad in the process, as the Ducks gave up an average of 8.1 yards per play.
But it’s hard to fault a team that was being forced to start an offensive lineman— and I tip my hat to you, Jackson Powers-Johnson— on the D-line because they were so short handed. Just take a glance at the stat sheet, you’ll see names you’d only seen prior in blowout wins against the likes of Stoney Brook or Arizona, and they were being forced to make meaningful contributions against one of the top offenses in the country. Talk about a recipe for disaster.
Safety Jordan Happle, clubhand and all, put forth a yeoman’s effort for the Ducks, with 9 combined tackles, while linebacker Noah Sewell provided his usual fire with 8 combined tackles and a quarterback hit before being knocked out of the game due to his own injury just before halftime.
Conclusion: It was the absolute Perfect Storm: an untested and undermanned defense against a top-ten offense. There were moments— the opening drive three-and-out comes to mind— but more often than not Oregon’s defense showed it was not ready for prime time. It might be just as well that Defensive Coordinator Tim DeRuyter won’t be back next season, as I think that experiment has failed.
Final Grade: D+
Apparently Oregon doesn’t practice the onside kick very often. Placekicker Cam Lewis’ feeble attempt midway through the fourth quarter overshadowed an otherwise solid game for the unit as a whole, with Lewis nailing all 3 of his PATs along with his lone field goal attempt, a 24 yarder that put the Ducks on the scoreboard early in the first quarter. Punter Tom Snee had another good game, averaging 48.0 yards a punt on his three boots, including a 65 yarder from his own end zone on what turned out to be Oregon’s final possession of the game. Kris Hutson got to practice his kickoff returns— he managed to return SEVEN Oklahoma kickoffs for 151 yards, good for 22 yards per return.
Conclusion: The onside kick derp didn’t cost Oregon the game, but it was symptomatic of a unit that, like both the other units on the team, oftentimes made some maddeningly poor plays during the course of the season. Much like DeRuyter, it’s probably good that Special Teams Coordinator Bobby Williams won’t be around any longer.
Final Grade: C+
You’ve got to feel for Interim Head Coach Bryan McClendon— being named interim head coach of the Oregon football program at this point would be akin to being named interim captain of the Titanic— after it struck the iceberg. Though the outcome of the game left much to be desired, give credit to McClendon for keeping the team from giving up; down 30 - 3 at halftime, the Ducks could have easily mailed in the second half, but instead made a nice run and at least made the final score respectable. I don’t know much about the man, but he would appear to have a bright future ahead of him in the coaching ranks. Hard to bag on either DeRuyter or Moorhead any further considering what they were left to work with.
Conclusion: While many of us cavalierly predicted a Duck victory, I’m sure most deep down assumed Oregon would lose this game, the only question was by how much. Again, the Ducks could have easily quit after being down by 27 at the break, so credit to what was left of the coaching staff for keeping within shouting distance of the Sooners.
Final Grade: C
Oregon’s uniforms: Meh. Just a hodge-podge of previous looks, nothing memorable, B-
Atmosphere: I know there were Duck fans in attendance, I saw their yellow and green in the stands, but I sure didn’t hear them. Hard though for the faithful to get fired up watching the Sooners march up and down the field... hats off to those of you that did attend, you’re braver souls than I, B
The Gameday Broadcast: As usual when the network sends less than their A-team, I turned the sound down and listened to Jerry and Jorgy. And for those poking fun at Jerry Allen in the gamethread last night, the man is an effing Duck Legend, and considering the man is now in his seventies, who knows how many games he has left. Anyway, at least the camera work and picture quality were good, A-