Monday, January 12, 2015

Oregon Football Doesn't Lose Often, But When They Do...

Over the past 5-6 seasons, the University of Oregon football team has not lost many games...very few. But, in those few games they have dropped there are some common things that either went wrong or became evident about the team. It's actually pretty eerie.

Indeed, what killed the Ducks in the recent national title game are the same fatal combination of things that contributed to those very few defeats over the past few seasons. Three things: 1) untimely and unfortunate mistakes on offense (think  dropped passes and barely, barely missing a first down here and there, 2) a overwhelming propensity for multiple and untimely penalties (also usually accompanied by a lack of penalties on the other team), and 3) the most important...they could not stop the opposing team's big and athletic (and that's the magic combination) linemen on either side of the ball. Could. Not. Stop.

These three elements were all present in the losses Oregon suffered to Arizona this year, Arizona last year, Stanford the previous two years, LSU a few years ago and in the 2010 Rose Bowl against...Ohio State.

When it comes to dropped passes and penalties, well, that's on Oregon. They could and should not have those problems. But they did. And they matter. For example, what if Oregon's wide receiver catches that long bomb early in the game. It might be 14-0 Oregon early. What about a drop by a wide open Duck on a critical early third down? Terminal. These same thing happened against Stanford in 2013. And penalties. Wow. So many against the Ducks and so few against their opposition.

But, the king killer in Oregon's few defeats is their shortcomings against teams that have big, fast, athletic players across the board, particularly on the a huge QB with the propensity to run and throw the long ball well. Cam Newtwon of Auburn, Tyrell Pryor and Cardele Jones of Ohio State are the prime examples. I that situation, they simply cannot stop the opposition. No way. Cannot stop. What did the OSU running back have? 250 rushing yards? Please. That's ridiculously good. Oregon's D was mostly getting pushed off the line and then their LBs were outsized by what was coming at them.

And guess what? I think Oregon forced Ohio State to punt maybe three times all night long, and two of those were late-half situation where it really didn't matter. When they get worked like that, it's going to be a long night.

Ironically, credit the Oregon D for causing and getting four - four! - turnovers. That's really the only way they could stop OSU's offense. But then, tragically for the Ducks, that just offered up the other way UO could not stop OSU...the Oregon O line was overwhelmed by the OSU defensive line. Not every play, but mostly. This limited Oregon's scoring - particularly in the fourth quarter. Then throw in the timely errors and penalties and, well, they ain't gonna win.

Oregon fans have seen this toxic combination before and, personally, I realized it was going to lead to defeat after the Ducks got to within one point (21-20) in the third and then immediately conceded a long drive to the Buckeyes in which they scored again.

For virtually any team Oregon plays during the regular season, or even in most bowls, this is not the case. Nope. Oregon is just fine...and wins. But there is probably a top 1 percent or less of teams (OSU, LSU, Alabama come to mind this season) that just will always have those big, fast and strong linemen. And against those teams their record is not good.

And hey, in the end, losing to a superior team is a bit liberating for the fan. You can clearly, clearly see which team is better and losing to them is not as painful as dropping one to a squad - like say Arizona for Oregon or Virginia Tech for OSU - that you know you're better than.

So for all that I say, contgrats to OSU. You are clearly the best team in college football this season.

As for my Ducks. Well, they won the Pac-12 title, they beat their rivals (badly), won the Rose Bowl against the defending nation champion and finished #2 in the nation. So, to too bad a season overall!

Now, for me, it's on to rooting for the Seahawks and a second Super Bowl win!!!

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