Smurf Turf Blunder Bowl: Broncos and Ducks Fail To Live Up to the Hype

Casey Mabbott@@oregonsportsguyContributor ISeptember 4, 2009

Let me be clear:


Over four quarters doomed by turnovers and sloppy play, neither team showcased any reason why they should be ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation.

Both teams squandered several scoring opportunities.

Both teams had sloppy play by their young centers.

Both teams had very sloppy quarterback play.

Neither team established the run.

Both teams failed to show why their head coach was being praised as one of the best offensive minds in recent memory.

And in the end, the fourth quarter closed, and by default the scoreboard had to show one team in front of the other.

But make no mistake, the winner of this game will not be playing in a meaningful bowl game this postseason.

First of all, both teams were stacked with unproven underclassmen. Oregon has been praised as one of the best rising teams in the nation, well before their first snap. Boise State was given similar hype, and neither lived up to it in one of the biggest flops of big ticket billings in the last decade.

Jeremiah Masoli was a sliver of his former self. He hardly ran, and when he finally gave up on plays and took off, he was ineffective.

On plays he did choose to pass, he was hardly rushed and still made poor decisions.
Oh yeah, he also fumbled and threw an interception.

Overall, the numbers speak for themselves. Masoli was 14 of 27 for 120 yards combined with 14 rushing yards.

Hardly the type of performance you want from one of last years surprise players.

LeGarrett Blount? An afterthought once he finished with -5 yards on 8 attempts. His biggest shot at Boise State? A punch to the jaw of Byron Hout during the post game field swarm.

Not only was Blount’s punch as ill advised and ineffective as his running, he will probably be suspended for at least the next week, and hopefully longer if new coach Chip Kelly has any hope of restoring order.

Speaking of Chip Kelly, his first game as a head coach backfired in his face.

Many fans and sportscasters alike were praising Kelly for his brash decision to play on the smurf turf in the opening week.

No cupcake/tune-up game for week one? I like it.

Choosing a team that is 64-2 at home? Would not have been my pick.

Chip Kelly should have been smart. He should have chosen a team like Washington State or Washington to give his team a chance to tune up and build their confidence.

Instead he got a dagger to the heart of his BCS hopes.

Chip needed a game against a middle of the road team he could gauge his team’s speed against. Gauging it against one of the fastest and most tricky teams in the nation was not a good idea. Chris Petersen has shown time and time again that he can out coach and scheme just about anyone, just ask Bob Stoops.

A first year head coach should have been more about proving his team than proving the size of his athletic supporter. Mike Bellotti almost always chose an opponent beneath the ducks for their first game, and for several years it paid off, right up until the point his QB was hurt and the nation realized Bellotti spent year after year game planning around Boobie Miles.

So Chip and his team hopefully learned an important lesson. The college version of football is more about taking advantage of athletic abilities, and less about purely showing off.

He should have called for more screen and swing passes to the short side of the field. You gain five or six yards at a time, move the chains, and keep the defense honest. That at least would have opened up the deep stuff and then that in turn would have opened up the running game. Trying to hit young unproven receivers in tight coverage 20 yards down field seems like a foolish choice.

Overall, the offense was just plain undercoached and short of effective playmakers.

Oregon fans can blame the refs for making quite a few calls that ranged from questionable to downright boneheaded, but either way, Oregon failed to produce yards even on plays when yellow flags stayed in the pocket.

The defense was no help either.

On a night when many a duck fan was wondering aloud whether any of the 6 new starters on defense could replace the likes of Patrick Chung or Nick Reed, their hopes were dashed.

Oregon allowed only 159 total yards in the first half, but several of those came on big plays, particularly on third down.

Oregon was also down by a score of 13-0 at half time, and could have been down 19-0 if Kyle Brotzman had not missed two very makeable field goals, one on the opening drive.

The defense tightened in the second half, caused 3 turnovers,  but ultimately still gave up plenty of big plays and were ineffective stopping the running of the Broncos late in the 4th.

Think the final score means the Broncos did everything right?


Boise State’s generally untested offense looked only slightly less sloppy than Oregon’s, barely able to squeeze out 300 yards against a tired and confused defense.

Sophomore Kellen Moore nearly threw for 200 yards, which might as well have been 50 compared to the yards the Broncos usually rack up. He was responsible for two fumbles and nearly threw for 2 interceptions, saved only because the young ducks secondary showcased hands of solid brick.

The running duo of Jeremy Avery and DJ Harper accounted for 162 combined yards, or 3.5 yards per carry.

The Boise State offense held onto the ball for 42 minutes, and only rolled up 338 yards. That is a mere eight yards per minute. That explains why the game felt so slow. Couple those stats with Oregon being one-for-10 on third down and you have a dynamite recipe for a Thursday night snoozer.

The Broncos defense played inspired football in the first half, holding Oregon under 50 total yards, a big leap for a team that finished with the most points in the last two seasons.

The second half was a different story.

Oregon made a comeback attempt, which started out like watching Rudy and ending as if the hunchback in 300 had actually been allowed to join the Spartan Army.

Masoli threw a pick and fumbled in back to back drives, and then failed to score when presented with a gimme on the BSU 31.

Moore and co. then squandered several chances to shut the door on Oregon, rescued only by the absolute piss poor tackling of Oregon’s young linebackers in the closing minutes.

So what did we learn from all of this?

That as it usually goes, preseason rankings mean next to nothing.

That football is still football, and at the end of the year your bowl bid is based on strength of schedule.

Well guess what?

Boise State has no shot, nope, not a chance in hell.

Oregon was the only ranked team they have on the schedule, and they outranked the Ducks 14-16. No hope of moving up this week.

Fans will probably remember this game come January, but it will be an afterthought to the networks sports casting the BCS predictions. The usual teams will be there, but even an undefeated team from the WAC whose only big name opponent was a PAC-10 team during a rebuilding year will hardly qualify.

And even if I am wrong and BSU somehow gate crashes the BCS party again?

Well even then I doubt Coach Peterson will be able to out-maneuver opponents while he is dealing with a team largely built on speedy and  inexperienced underclassmen.

When his team beat Oklahoma in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, his team was built on Jared Zebrankski and Ian Johnson, two upperclassmen with a chip on their shoulders. It also took several trick plays to run around an overrated Sooners defense, so don’t expect the same treatment this year.

Overall, I expect both teams to endure two to three more losses each and enter next season recharged and ready to prove they are a real contender, not a bunch of underclassmen trying to fill the shoes of departed local legends.

Boise State will probably finish second in the WAC, after losing to Hawaii and Nevada.

Oregon will finish third in the Pac-10, after lopsided losses to USC and Cal.

Even if either team gets their offense in check, the work is cut out for them on defense, and unlike offense you need a first rate scheme and first rate coaching, something neither of these teams appear to have on paper. This is bad news as always for overly optimistic coaches. When it rains, it pours.


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