When Oregon welcomed UCLA into Autzen Stadium on Thursday night they were well aware they were playing under the watchful eyes of a national television audience. In this day in age college football has become just as much a show as it is about just playing the game. In the BCS era its paramount that people take into account, who you play, where you play, and how much you win or lose by. So while the Ducks are essentially part owners of the #1 rank in the nation, being #1 in AP and Coaches polls and #2 in the BCS, when they receive an opportunity to face a team like UCLA at home on ESPN they could not just win and be satisfied. The Ducks had to demolish the Bruins to impress all of those in the south who think that no Pac-10 team could ever stand a chance in the SEC. Well I have a message for all of those SEC lovers who doubt the quack attack: The Oregon Ducks are for real, and they can’t wait to see you in January. In a game that was more about making a statement than walking away with a win, the Ducks did both by pounding UCLA 60-13.
On an offense that was without one of its many stars, running back Kenjon Barner who suffered a concussion at Washington State, Oregon didn’t appear to miss a beat as they drove the ball at will against an outmatched UCLA defense. Quarterback Darron Thomas bounced back from suffering a minor injury in Pullman to play as in control and electric as he has all season. Thomas passed the ball efficiently and accurately all night, making sound decisions that did not result in any turnovers. The Ducks clearly identified the UCLA defense as susceptible to the play action pass, which is a good thing considering the Ducks don’t really have any other kind of pass play. Thomas set career highs in completions (22), yards (308), and total yards (356) and also threw touchdown passes to Jeff Maehl, David Paulson, and Josh Huff. Maehl had 107 yards receiving and this marked his 28th consecutive game with a reception for Oregon. But it just wouldn’t be the Oregon offense without the running game. LaMichael “LaHeisman” James didn’t do anything to vault himself to the top of the Heisman race, but didn’t hurt his case either with 123 yards and 2 touchdowns in just under 3 quarters of play. With his 14th consecutive game with over 100 yards rushing James tied Jonathan Stewart for the most consecutive games in Ducks history. The real story in the running game came from Remene Alston Jr., a senior running back that has remained in the shadows behind the likes of Johnathan Stewart, LeGarrette Blount, and now James and Barner. But Alston has worked hard during his time in Eugene and it was great getting to watch him make the most of an opportunity to see the field late in the game. Alston rushed for 3 touchdowns and 75 yards in limited playing time. With aggressive play calling from the head man in the visor (Head Coach Chip Kelly) who basically goes for the 4th down conversion every opportunity he gets, you can sense just how confident this group really is. Considering they tore apart a defense that had two of the best players (linebacker Akeem Ayers and free safety Rahim Moore) in the country and essentially took them out of the scheme. You do have to remember that this is a UCLA team that dominated Texas, allowing only 3 points to the Longhorns. That ability and confidence will need to remain constant the final 5 games of the season, which is the toughest portion of Oregon’s schedule.
The Oregon defense has always been the aspect of the team that has remained a question mark. Sometimes they look like they can’t stop anyone, then they look dominant. Some of the statistics they produce are ugly, others are very impressive. Well the Duck defense made a statement of their own on Thursday. With a very solid run game from UCLA as a result of the pistol offense that offensive coordinator Norm Chow added this offseason, Oregon clearly focused on containing Jonathan Franklin and the rest of the Bruin running attack. The Ducks crowded the line of scrimmage all night to stop the run and attack quarterback Richard Brehaut, who was filling in for the injured Kevin Prince. The Ducks surrendered only 290 total yards and forced 3 turnovers. The defensive player of the game would have to be free safety John Boyett. Boyett got things moving in the Ducks favor by intercepting Brehaut on the game’s opening drive with the Bruins in Oregon territory. Aside from that Boyett was all over the field on defense, and on special teams he was constantly around the football making tackles. Boyett along with most of the defensive backfield looked much improved after lack-luster performances against Stanford and Washington State (except Cliff Harris of course, he’s just amazing on a constant basis…at least if you ask him). I also want to mention how well the Duck defensive line stood up against a much larger UCLA offensive line (average of 317lbs). Stopping the run starts with the men in the trenches, and the line did the job. Kenny Rowe, Brandon Bair, Zac Clark, Terrell Turner, and Dion Jordan all played excellent games for Oregon. On a sadder note for Oregon fans, UCLA did score points in the fourth quarter, the first points surrendered by the Ducks this season after the third quarter horn blows. The worse news? They scored 7 points! How dare they? Well considering it happened in the waning moments of a lost game for the Bruins, it gives them something to be proud of. So now the Ducks are allowing an average of 1 point per fourth quarter, which isn’t too shabby either. It was laughable walking out of Autzen Stadium and hearing how upset fans were that they scored on the Ducks in the second half, people seemed generally disgusted. Trust me Duck fans, the fact that everyone is so angry that Oregon allowed ANY points is a very good sign and a testament to the strength of a very solid defense. Yes, I said it, the Ducks have a good defense. I’m shaking at the thought of what I just wrote, but it had to come out at some point. Respect the Ducks people, that’s all I ask.
Next week the Ducks will fly south to the city of angels to face the men of Troy. USC has lost 2 games this season, both on last second field goals. Yes, the Trojan defense had broken in times of need lately. Nonetheless they are an extremely talented team with a chip on their shoulder bigger than Lane Kiffin’s ego. The Duck defense will really need to focus and bear down on a balanced and electric offensive attack from USC, led by quarterback Matt Barkley. The Oregon offense should be able to penetrate the Trojan defense and put up big points to keep help their own defense. On the eve of Halloween the Ducks need to not be fooled by the ghosts of what USC once was, and make another statement against the best team standing in their way on the road to Glendale.
About the Author
Written by Rob Parness
My name is Robbie Parness and I am a student at the University of Oregon. I'm a California native that loves to play, watch and talk about all kinds of sports. I would love to become a sports writer someday or work in sports in any capacity.