Oregon sputters against tough defense
America, are you seeing it now?
With the lone exception being the second half against Stanford, and that was at home … OREGON’S OFFENSE ONLY WORKS AGAINST REALLY, REALLY BAD DEFENSES.
The Ducks have faced three defenses so far this year with a pulse: Stanford, Arizona State, and now Cal. The Stanford game was at home, and the Duck attack struggled until late. The Arizona State game in Tempe was a fight with the ground game only gaining 125 yards and two scores with LaMichael James only running for 94 yards and a score. And now there’s this.
Yeah, the gimmicky, sped-up attack works great against most of the squishy-soft Pac 10 defenses, but as this close call proves, there’s no way, no how the Ducks could get through the ACC (yes, they do play D in the ACC), Big 12, Big Ten, or SEC without a loss, and I’ll take it a step further and say this team had better be praying that Auburn and its miserable defense makes it to Glendale, because with a month to prepare, Boise State or TCU would give this attack major issues.
Could Darron Thomas make the passing game rock, if needed, against the better defenses? Maybe, but Oregon is Oregon because of the way it gets James and the ground game going to eat up defenses, but that only works if the opposing defenses stink. Could this Quack Attack work against Nebraska? How about the LSU defensive front? Auburn proved that its offense works against a run D like LSU’s, and it’s a shame we won’t get to see Oregon get a real test.
Could the Ducks defense that stuffed Cal for just 193 yards and 69 through the air come through against the better teams in the BCS rankings? Absolutely, but Stanford is the only team on the Ducks' slate that has any semblance of a power game; Wisconsin and Ohio State would give the Duck defensive front fits.
10-0 is 10-0 is 10-0 is 10-0 is 10-0. But this was a tough win over a Cal team that got obliterated by Oregon State two weeks ago (yeah, the same one that just lost to Washington State). Ooooooh. The schedule, when all is said and done, isn’t going to be that tough, and if the Ducks face Auburn for the national title, they’ll skate through the season with this being their biggest defensive challenge.
– Pete Fiutak
A two-point nail-biter never looked so good.
Understanding that it’s a minority opinion, I view Oregon’s 15-13 escape of Cal as one of its most impressive and important wins this season. Yeah, yeah, no records were broken nor bulbs burned out on the scoreboard, but that’s exactly the point. The Ducks answered one of their final remaining questions in their quest for a spot in the title game — how would they react when pushed outside of their element?
Saturday night’s game was like nothing Oregon had endured all season. The points were scarce, the running game sputtered, and the fourth quarter was meaningful, yet it survived and kept the perfect season intact. That is a huge accomplishment that should not be understated. Instead, it should be underlined and celebrated. The Ducks have now shown that they can win close games and rely on the defense if it becomes necessary. It may not have to again over the next three games, but it’s comforting to know that the unit can carry the load when asked.
Most people are going to rip Oregon for needing to escape Cal in Week 11. That’s ridiculous. Everyone plays a tight game at least once or twice in a season, and the Ducks showed they can win theirs on the road and against a conference rival. Much more than the blowouts of Washington and UCLA in recent weeks, the program looked like national championship timber and a team that can survive during difficult circumstances.
– Richard Cirminiello
Remember how certain programs have certain kinds of problems? Clemson, Northwestern, Florida State (usually, though not always, as Dustin Hopkins proved on this day), Oklahoma, Auburn, South Carolina, Boston College, and a few other programs have been plagued by placekicking adventures over the years. Cal is another one of those programs. Go through the past decade and you’ll find a lot more heartbreak than happiness in Strawberry Canyon when it comes to pressure field goals in main-event moments. Earlier this year, Golden Bears kicker Giorgio Tavecchio – a snake-bitten young man who might as well be the Stefan Demos of the West Coast, given his small physical stature and lefty kicking identity – biffed a medium-range boot that would have given Cal a road win at Arizona. Saturday night, when he lined up to try a 24-yard kick to give his team a one-point lead over mighty Oregon at Memorial Stadium, Tavecchio knew of his past. He was all too aware of how many times he had fallen short in the clutch.
As a result, he flinched… literally.
It’s one thing to miss a 29-yard field goal, but it’s quite another to wipe out your 24-yard make because you – the kicker, not a lineman – move too early and sow the seeds of your own downfall. Yes, Cal played hard and tough. Yes, the Golden Bears outplayed Oregon at the line of scrimmage and played the Ducks on even terms despite being limited by a backup quarterback and a roster of shaky wide receivers. Yet, if they had a competent kicker who could avoid committing penalties, the Bears just might have pulled out this game and confirmed the home-field momentum they had established in September and October. This is a crazy and unpredictable sport, and on Nov. 13 in Berkeley, the Pac-10 portion of this campaign witnessed its most bizarre plot twist in quite some time.
– Matt Zemek