Reasons abundant for UOs collapse
- Jason Vondersmith
- Portland Tribune - Sports
Injuries, penalties and poor execution are among the culprits
Take doormats Stanford and Arizona out of the equation, and the numbers tell an ugly story of the sudden decline of Oregon football.
This year and last, the Ducks are 1-8 against other Pacific-10 Conference opponents. Their lone win was by one point over UCLA in 2002. They have lost eight consecutive Pac-10 games, excluding victories over Stanford and Arizona, by an average score of 46-21.
The Ducks have been outscored 219-70 in the second half of those eight games, including 35-0 to Washington in last weekend's 42-10 loss at Husky Stadium. A year ago, the Huskies outscored the Ducks 28-0 in the second half.
The Duck defense has given up an average of 502 yards in those eight games, while Oregon's offense has averaged 345.
When all the great players departed after the 2002 Fiesta Bowl Ñseven, including quarterback Joey Harrington, went to the NFL Ñand offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford took over as head coach at California, who would have predicted such an enormous drop-off?
It isn't just the losses Ñ the Pac-10 sports some good teams, and all eight opponents have been ranked this year or last.
It is the size of the defeats. The Ducks have been routed by 39, 45 and 32 points since Sept. 27 Ñ three butt-kickings coach Mike Bellotti had never experienced. The Ducks haven't been walloped like that since 1977, Rich Brooks' first year as coach, when they lost 54-0 to Washington, 56-17 to Louisiana State and 56-20 to Washington State.
The year before, 1976, the Ducks lost 53-0 to USC, 41-0 to Notre Dame and 46-0 to UCLA.
And we're comparing the 2003 Ducks to those teams?
Top 10 list
The Top 10 Things Gone Wrong with Oregon:
10. Wayward passes: QBs Kellen Clemens and Jason Fife are completing 68 percent of their passes in wins and less than 50 percent in losses.
9. Expectations: The 1999-2002 streak of Sun, Holiday and Fiesta Bowl game appearances appears to be the peak, not the start.
8. Cornerback play: Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti's stop-the-run-first scheme worked with NFL-caliber corners.
7. Coaching: How can Bellotti, Aliotti and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig not escape scrutiny?
6. Few offensive playmakers: Wide receivers Demetrius Williams and Samie Parker are in that category. But that's it. The Ducks need a big-time back.
5. Young talent: You can question Oregon's recruited talent, but 17 of the 24 first-string players will be back next year.
4. Blocking: This is the No. 1 reason for the offense's ineffectiveness. The blame extends beyond the offensive line, and injuries have ravaged the tight ends.
3. Execution: Bellotti says players need to execute plays and assignments better, and some players agree. Add poor tackling, penalties (10 vs. Washington) and turnovers (three vs. UW, including Greg Carothers' fumble return for a TD).
2. Injuries: Eleven players are out for the year, and a lot of others have missed practices and games. Parker and linebacker Ramone Reed have had deaths in their families. Others have been suspended. Young players have been pushed into action, and second-stringers make up many special teams spots.
1. Emotion and spirit: The Ducks lack fight. Take last week's game. Oregon led 10-7 at halftime. 'We didn't come out in the second half like we did the first Ñ emotionally, focused, intensity level,' linebacker Kevin Mitchell says. 'Give (the Huskies) credit, they capitalized.' How can you not come out excited to play the Huskies?
Here comes Tedford. California (5-5, 3-2 in the Pac-10), still riding high after its upset of USC and putting 51 points on the board at Arizona State last week, visits Autzen Stadium on Saturday. É Tedford led Cal to a 7-5 record last year, even though the program was on probation, and he developed another first-round draft pick at quarterback in Kyle Boller. É 'I will be motivated,' says Fife, who Tedford recruited. 'It's like the apprentice going up against the master. As far as knowing football, he's a great one. He's also a pretty good motivator.' Fife says watching Cal 'is liking watching our offense.' É This year's Cal QBs have completed 59.7 percent (second in the league), and Aaron Rodgers and Reggie Robertson have combined for 2,411 yards passing and 19 TDs in 10 games. Rodgers has a streak of 79 consecutive completions without an interception. É Running back Adimchinobe Echemandu (10 TDs) topped 1,000 yards last week, and receiver Geoff McArthur (seven TDs) has 58 catches for 1,037 yards. É The Bears give up 394.2 yards per game (ninth in the league), but they score 30.6 points (fourth) and have the fewest penalty yards per game (47.9). É Defensive back Donnie McCleskey, one of two defensive veterans, ranks third in the Pac-10 with 8.5 tackles per game.
'Eliminate the explosion plays, and it probably would have been a 17-10 game.' Ñ UO safety Marley Tucker, after the Washington game. The Huskies had runs of 56 yards by Kenny James and 77 yards by Shelton Sampson and scored one touchdown on a 63-yard pass from backup quarterback Casey Paus to Reggie Williams.
'We knew they were able to strike with the big play. We wanted to make them drive, take time off the clock and slow the momentum to a point. We did that for a while. They got the big plays, and we got the penalties and turnovers.' Ñ Mitchell, after Washington rushed for 261 yards.