Pac-10 Week 3 Notes and Observations: Oregon Ducks
Oregon Ducks 2-1 Overall (0-0 Conference)
This Week’s Score: Oregon 31 – Utah 24
Next Week’s Opponent: Cal
If you had been told that the Oregon Ducks would be heading into the Cal game 2-1 with wins over Purdue and ranked Utah (both in which the Ducks scored 30+), would anyone have had a problem with that? Sure, many of us were hopeful that Oregon would go into Boise State and beat them, but they were the underdog in that one; 2-1 heading into the Cal game would have been considered about on par with what we were expecting.
Yet here we are, and the season has been anything but on par with what anyone could have imagined. LeGarrette Blount is gone, which you would think would be the major story; but it is in fact the complete collapse of Jeremiah Masoli.
Masoli came into the season projected to be one of the conference’s best and most experienced quarterbacks. Instead, three games into the season, Masoli is 29/64 (45.3%) with only 379 yards. He hasn’t thrown for a single touchdown, and has been picked off twice this season. Last week against Utah was an absolutely dreadful 4/16, including an interception in the endzone which could have spelled out a lot more trouble had the defense not stepped up.
He’s still getting it done on the ground (four rushing touchdowns this season), but it has become painfully clear that Masoli is not comfortable throwing the ball at all, and Chip Kelly made it clear in his 2nd half play calling that he’s not comfortable asking him to, either. Relying on your running game, defense, and special teams to steal a game for you every now and then is fine; but you can’t make it the norm.
LaMichael James had a great day, rushing for 152 yards on 27 carries. He also had one of the team’s four receptions for three yards; the others going to Maehl (58 yards), Holland (27 yards), and Dickson (seven yards). It still continues to baffle Sam and me to no end how much of a non-factor Ed Dickson has been this season; it obviously stems from Masoli’s struggles, but surely there should be some easy dump off type of plays that could get Dickson the ball?
The defense put together a very nice day; it is nice to see the unit continue to improve. John Boyett and Eddie Pleasant each had an interception and a solid return (24 and 17 yards, respectively).
But no one had much better of a day than Walter Thurmond who Utah had absolutely no answer for in special teams. Thurmond returned two kickoffs for 62 yards, and four punts for a total of 96 yards, capped off by a 78 yard touchdown to get the game’s scoring started. Thurmond gave the crowd something big to cheer about early, which was huge for Oregon’s early momentum.
We know the fans will do their part this Saturday, and it is starting to look like the defense might, too. But in order to have a chance to upset Cal, Jeremiah Masoli is going to have to return to form overnight; and if there was ever a time to do just that, now would be it.