Down to the Wire
Two wet ones in a row. IT NEVER RAINS IN AUTZEN held true for a few brief moments in the second quarter as the sun came out. After halftime the rain was back. First Cal, then Stanford.
The weather wasn't the only thing sloppy about this game. Oregon's play was at times careless and hard to watch. Fumbles, poor execution, and inconsistency plagued the Ducks. It was as if Oregon was doing everything they could to keep Stanford in the game.
That being said, they managed to pull out a win.
Oregon had to drive the length of the field in slightly more than two minutes. Masoli completed three of six passes, but it was his 25-yard run on 3rd-and-8 that saved the game. A few plays later it was LeGarrette Blount running the ball in for six.
It was an exciting win after a sloppy game. A few fans ran onto the field to celebrate the last-drive heroics, but most fans merely walked out of the stadium relieved to have won, frustrated by a team that hasn't met expectations.
7-3! We have seven wins. We could end up with 10 wins. As far as I am concerned, that is a good year.
Now before I get ahead of myself, we still need to win out to get to 10, but even if we win two or even just one, it's a winning season while dealing with all of the QB problems we have had.
Oregon fans have high expectations for their teams, and they should. Oregon has had great talent at the program, plus top facilities and nationally recognized recruiting classes. This hasn't brought a national championship or even numerous Pac-10 championships, but Oregon is always considered competitive.
Last year spoiled Duck fans. Everyone tasted what it felt like to be at the top, close to a national championship and a Heisman winner—only to have it taken away by a torn ACL.
A season later, without Dennis Dixon or Jonathan Stewart, Oregon isn't living up to the high expectations set. But should they? The Ducks have dealt with numerous quarterback issues.
Preseason projected starter Nate Costa never made it to the first game. Sun Bowl hero Justin Roper didn't have the desired mobility and was injured in the third game. JC transfer Jeremiah Masoli was knocked out in the first drive against Boise State. True freshman Chris Harper has the legs but lacks the arm and was promptly moved to WR.
Lastly, true freshman Darron Thomas was supposed to redshirt, only to burn it in a late fourth quarter comeback attempt.
This brings us to where we are. Jeremiah Masoli has started the majority of the games for Oregon. He has had moments of brilliance and times where his decision-making is questioned. But on Saturday, it became clear how Oregon fans feel about inconsistent play.
In the first quarter Masoli was booed after misreads or poor passes or not staying in the pocket. Fine. Those are reasons to be frustrated. There were moments when he was booed for running instead of passing or booed for passing instead of running. OK? Now it's becoming clear.
Dennis Dixon was the perfection of an Oregon QB. Masoli is a ways away from being that at this point. But let me point out that he is a sophomore. Remember where Dixon was as a junior? Those same boo-birds were out.
Settle down. This season is not lost, but it's not the one you are going to be telling your kids about 20 years down the road. We still have plenty to play for and should be pleased with the season we have with the inexperience at QB.
That brings me to my final thought. Oregon has been known as a great passing team, making this season statistically one of the worst in the past decade. But look at the running numbers. We lead the nation in rushing TDs.
I know that people want Roper, because he is a better passer and will help "balance" the offense, even though he is not the running threat that Masoli can be. But Roper is the wrong decision.
Let me explain. First, Mike Bellotti gets paid a lot of money to make this decision. He is the one who choose Dixon over Leaf, Clemens over Jason Fife, Joey Harrington over A.J. Feeley. Get my point? He knows what he is doing.
Second, the strength of Oregon's offense is their running attack. In the spread offense, Masoli is more of a threat to run, making the defense have to pay attention to him during the handoff. If Masoli keeps it he can hurt the D, whereas if Roper is in, you only need to key in on Johnson or Blount, making the "one-dimensional" offense even more so.
Masoli is a capable passer. 11-21 for 144 yards with one TD is a respectable game. I know most of these yards come after the catch, but he gets the ball to playmakers. He could've easily had a second TD if not for a dropped pass.
The point is, Masoli is a gamer. He took the game into his hands and won it for Oregon. He used his skills and strengths to take the Ducks the length of the field and win. I'll take it.
It's not time to start thinking of next season. We have a lot to play for still and need to be proud of what we have done.
Don't just be a fan—be a supporter of the Ducks. It's easy to forget they are kids, playing as hard as they can for a respected program. It will come. We just need to take a step back and calm down. We'll be OK.