Quack attack: Oregon's a Top 2 team
Yeah, the offense put up 52 points, and yeah, LaMichael James is special, and yeah, the Duck doing pushups (or at least moving up and down in a pushup position) is getting a ton of play, but Oregon is doing this with defense every bit as much as it is with offense.
Stanford played a strong game, Andrew Luck battled his tail off and kept pushing the ball down the field with drive after drive going deep into Duck territory, and Oregon allowed a grand total of zero second-half points.
Oregon got down 21-3 in the first quarter and allowed just ten points the rest of the way while the offense found its groove. Allowing 517 yards isn’t going to look great on the stat sheet, but forcing three turnovers, keeping Luck and the high-octane Cardinal offense off the board in the second half, and making the adjustments time and again was what the D needed to do. Of course, it helps when the offense puts up 626 yards and hits home run after home run.
Stanford tried everything to keep the Duck offense off the field, and to slow down the speed, but it didn’t matter. The Ducks are so fast on both sides of the ball, and they execute so well, that it’s going to take someone playing a full sixty minutes of perfect ball to slow them down. Stanford got the turnovers, and it got the big early lead, but it didn’t matter.
The key, now, is for the voters to remember that the 2010 Rose Bowl didn’t matter. Oregon is playing better than Ohio State and Boise State. This is a top two team right now, playing well enough to potentially challenge Alabama way, way, way down the road. But first the Ducks have to get through the rest of a tough Pac-10 slate.
It would be nice to not get into a hole like it did against the Cardinal, and it would be nice if there wasn’t a shootout with some scary moments like there was at Arizona State, but with the way everything is humming in the second half, and with the defense clamping down with desperate offenses pushing too hard, but right now, the Ducks will take the 5-0 record and the phenomenal stats that are coming with it.
Pack your surfboard if you have any hope of beating Oregon this season because when the wave comes, you can either ride it out or get completely swallowed up.
When the Ducks score, it often comes like a tsunami, fast and without much warning. In Week 2, they trailed in Knoxville before reeling off the game’s final six touchdowns. Last Saturday in Tempe, they trailed Arizona State before scoring 28 unanswered to put the game away. And tonight in Eugene, they used another four-touchdown outburst in the second half to erase a lead that Stanford held for much of the first two quarters. It’s a team that thrives on momentum, often riding it out until the opposition is left in shambles and trailing by too many points to mount a comeback.
With so much speed and so many weapons, it’s becoming increasingly impossible to shut this attack down for 60 minutes. A quarter? Maybe. Two? If you’re lucky. A full game? Forget it. Eventually, RB LaMichael James is going to slip through a sliver of daylight and change the tenor of the game. Making life significantly harder for the rest of the Pac-10 is the emergence of QB Darron Thomas, who played his best game of the year against a pretty good Cardinal D, rushing for more than 100 yards, throwing the ball very well, and accounting for four scores. If he continues to evolve, turn out the lights on the Pac-10 race because no one is going to catch Oregon in 2010.
Last year, the big primetime showcase game in the Pac-10 also featured the Oregon Ducks taking the field at Autzen Stadium against an opponent that employed an old-fashioned, pro-style, power-and-vertical-passing-game attack. Yes, in 2009, Oregon welcomed USC to Eugene in a put-up-or-shut-up throwdown laden with high stakes and suffocating pressure. Just how did that game play out again?
The first one and a half quarters were a track meet, and Oregon’s defense appeared overmatched at times, but in the second half, Oregon outscored USC 23-3 with physical and relentless performances in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Oregon finished with a flourish en route to an emphatic 47-20 win that set a tone for the rest of the Pac-10 season.
A year later, how much has changed? You really don’t have to alter many words in the West Coast script.
The following stat tells you all you need to know about Oregon: The same team that outscored USC 23-3 in the second half of last year’s big game has outscored its five 2010 opponents by a combined score of 107-7 count after halftime. That’s right: When you combine the 2009 conquest of USC and all five of Oregon’s games this year, the Ducks – in those six games – have outscored the opposition 130-10 in the second half. This team is athletically imposing, but it’s also resilient – witness the comeback from a 21-3 deficit against Stanford. Moreover, Oregon is a fit team which does not wilt in the fourth quarter. The Ducks gain strength as they go along instead of losing steam, which is exactly what happened to a Stanford squad that really missed the power of Toby Gerhart this time around.
I thought Oregon would suffer as a result of Jeremiah Masoli’s departure. Plainly put, I was loud wrong on that score … as loud as Autzen Stadium was on yet another perfect night for the West Coast’s best program, hands down.