This season there has been a lot of hype about the explosive Oregon offense, propelling them to the top of every poll made by human beings with brains. But as the #2 Oregon Ducks flew south to face USC they understood that the Trojans would be more motivated than at any other point this season. Since USC is barred from postseason play this year, they turned this week’s matchup with Oregon into their version of a bowl game, and 90,000 packed the Coliseum hoped to watch Head Coach Lane Kiffin lead his team to victory against the Ducks, making a program on the downside shift back to the forefront of the Pac-10. There was only one problem for USC fans: The Oregon Ducks played hard, played fast, and finished off the men of Troy 53-32 and allowed Trojan fans to get a head start on that lovely LA traffic. The Ducks got caught in a shootout early, with USC matching the offensive might of Oregon for the first half. But Oregon’s fast-paced offense and physical defense took a toll on the Trojans, and by the time the play clock struck 0:00 at the end of the 4th quarter the Ducks had slammed the door on USC and showed the national television audience that Pac-10 or not, Oregon is for real. The Ducks racked up 599 yards (basically 600 if they didn’t take a knee at the end) and won the turnover battle once again, two components that make Oregon very difficult to beat. With Chip Kelly at the helm, Oregon proved on the eve before Halloween that they are something to be feared in the race for the national championship.
Coming into the game Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas has exceeded expectations by leading the nation’s most powerful offense while remaining accurate and poised. On Saturday he was not extremely impressive, but people need to understand that he really does not have to be. He threw for 288 yards and 4 touchdowns in the game, 3 of which were to wide receiver Jeff Maehl. Maehl, the leading receiver for the Ducks, hauled in 145 yards receiving along with all the scores. Thomas did however turn the ball over twice, one on a fumble that was forced while he was trying to throw the ball away and the other on an interception that was tipped at the line of scrimmage that fell into the hands of what appeared to be an overjoyed sumo-wrestler. But all in all Thomas did exactly what he needed to win the football game by protecting the ball for the most part and putting the ball in the hands of his playmakers. There was no bigger playmaker for the Ducks than running back LaMichael James, who firmly placed himself in the Heisman Trophy conversation Saturday night. James rushed for 239 yards and 3 touchdowns, also racing into the Oregon record books with his 15th 100-yard rushing game. The Ducks and James did take a little while to get going to full speed, which is normal for them. They rely on their superior conditioning and athleticism to wear defenses down, and then gash them later in games. They are somewhat used to playing from behind, especially on the road. The ability to not panic and just remain patient and stick to the game plan is what is most impressive about Chip Kelly and Darron Thomas. Thomas knows how powerful his offense is, so there is no need to do too much or feel pressure to make plays. As the night wore on Thomas’s brilliant smile grew wider and wider along with the Oregon lead.
The Oregon defense knew they had a steep test this week when the stepped onto the field to face USC quarterback Matt Barkley. I had said earlier in the week that the most important thing the Ducks had to do was stop the Trojan running attack because if they did not do that then Barkley would use the play-action pass game to torch the Ducks for big plays. Early in the game this was not the case, with running back’s Marc Tyler and Stanley Havili both running with apparent ease against an undersized Oregon defense. This allowed Barkley to throw to open receivers and Oregon looked like they would be in trouble for the whole night. However, after the first few series defensive tackle Brandon Bair and the linebacking core lead by Casey Mathews got a grasp on the Trojan offense, and Barkley had to start throwing the ball to covered receivers. This translated to interceptions by cornerback Cliff Harris and safety John Boyett. Harris added to his stellar season which has already had 4 interceptions and 3 punt returns for touchdowns, earning him national recognition and boosting his ego just a bit more, which he doesn’t need trust me. The Ducks also added a fumble recovery to win the turnover battle 3-2. The Oregon defense hit the Trojans in the mouth whenever they had the chance and at the end of the game it did seem to wear on the opponent. Barkley threw for 264 yards and 1 touchdown along with the 2 interceptions, not up to par with his usual performance. The Ducks did not allow a point in the 4th quarter again on Saturday, the 7th time in 8 games they have accomplished that. The Oregon defense is a proud group that deserves to get respect from people around the country that thinks they are the weakness of this team. They may not be up to the stature of the offense, but at this rate no one in history will be able to say that. The Oregon offense going into the game was on pace to break Oklahoma’s record for most points ever scored in a season. Start respecting the Ducks defense people, or you may get distracted watching Casey Mathews’s hair while Brandon Bair eats you alive and Cliff Harris sits down and tells you how amazing he is…no pressure though.
With the Ducks having made their point thoroughly clear in the city of angels, they will return home to the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium next week to face the Washington Huskies. Washington was delivered a brutal beat down at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal this week, but have beaten USC and Oregon State on the road this season. Washington is led by quarterback Jake Locker, who entered the season as a Heisman candidate but it has become immensely clear that he simply does not have the talent around him to play at that level. Oregon should win this game big, but in college football it is vital to not take any opponent for granted, especially if they want a chance to play for the national championship. Washington will be motivated and have proven they can play well on the road, so expect Chip Kelly to keep his team focused. The Oregon Ducks will play to win the day, just as they always do no matter who the opponent may be.
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.