“It’s like a nightmare, isn’t it? It just keeps getting worse and worse.”
— Grady Seasons in The Color of Money
Holy bear crap. In last week’s post, I expressed concern coming into this game because I’m always nervous when we’re in the top 10. But I never imagined something like this could, much less would happen. That was a savage, methodical, thorough beatdown the likes of which we haven’t seen since our visit to Knoxville to open the 2006 season. And at least in that game, we got some cheap points at the end to make the final score respectable. This was one of those games where I wonder why we even got on the plane. A forfeit would’ve been less embarrassing than this. We did not win a single aspect of this game…they beat us in every possible way. I hang much of the blame on the coaching staff. Minnesota laid the blueprint of how to beat us in the second half of last week’s game and a much more talented team executed that blueprint to perfection. It’s like the Cal coaching staff doesn’t even read my posts.
This week’s assessment…
- The offensive play calling was horrible. We cannot beat a good team by depending on 50 yard plays, even if we do have the best RB in the country. Minnesota put the screws to us in the second half last week by stacking the box and plugging Jahvid’s holes. We survived by getting a few long passes against a mediocre secondary and some short TD runs by Jahvid. It appears that the coaching staff figured it would work against Oregon, too. So when Oregon’s defense plugged Jahvid’s holes (his longest runs were 11, 10, and 9 yards) and forced Riley to pass, did we try a controlled, short-to-medium passing game? Nope. We went for the long bombs, which work like 5% of the time against a decent secondary. Jahvid, bomb. Jahvid, bomb. What did we have to show for that brilliant strategy? Between Jahvid’s short runs into a wall of Ducks, all the incomplete bombs, and the 5 sacks we suffered because our long pass plays took forever to develop, 10 of our 15 3rd down situations were for 7+ yards to go. Guess how many of those we converted? Zero. Overall, were 3-for-15 on 3rd down conversions, including just 1 of our first 12. Couldn’t move the chains, which kept Oregon’s offense on its roll. 14 offensive possessions netted 207 total yards, with only 2 drives gaining more than 31 yards. After scoring 18 TDs in our first 12 quarters of the season, we mustered a measly FG — and only after being handed the ball at Oregon’s 22 and losing 8 yards on 3 plays. Try again, coaching staff.
- Oregon’s offense, on the other hand, did exactly what it wanted to do (and what we should’ve done) in a very balanced attack. 236 yards rushing, 288 yards passing. When you keep a defense off-balance by effectively mixing running plays and controlled passing, good things happen and keep happening. And keep happening. Our defense actually did a good job when we figured out what they were doing, notching quite a few tackles for losses on Oregon’s options. Unfortunately, such stands were few and far between. They eviscerated us. On a positive note, we did force a fair number of turnovers…but we immediately gave back two of them (one giveback was on the first subsequent offensive play and on the other, we didn’t even wait that long; a word of advice to defensive players: you are not experienced at protecting the ball; if you get it, just go down).
- A big, physical receiver once again beat the crap out of our secondary…this time, TE Ed Dickson (6-5 and 243). 11 catches for 148 yards and 3 TDs. Only one other Duck caught as many as 6 passes. How do you not lock down on a guy like that? Oh yeah, they had a good running game, too. At least Dickson didn’t throw for a TD on us.
- Dare I say that our much-maligned kick-off unit was our lone bright spot? A bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. We forced a fumble on the opening kick-off and the second kickoff actually reached the goal line! Too bad we couldn’t keep feeding this kick-off unit monster by actually scoring more points.
- What did the pollsters have to say about our annihilation? We fell to #19 in the USA Today poll and #24 in the AP poll. I think they were rather kind (at least the coaches, anyway).
- I am happy to report that watching such a savage beating is much easier with a little cutie in your arms staring up at you.
What a great tune-up for our homecoming game against #7 USC! We’re underdogs for the first time this season, though by only 5.5 points. They rebounded from their UW loss, but still look somewhat vulnerable after beating a terrible Wazzu team by just 21 points at home. Let’s hope this game lights a fire under the team’s collective ass like that loss in Knoxville 3 years ago, rather than pushing them over the edge like the loss to Oregon State in 2007.