If you’re Oregon, I’m not quite sure which is worse waking up this morning: the fact that you played so horrendous in your much-hyped and nationally televised season opener, or that nobody is even talking about how bad you looked thanks to LeGarrette Blount and his right hook.
Seriously. One side of the coin shows that Oregon doesn’t even deserve to sniff the compression shorts of Top 10 teams in the country—at least not right now, anyway—and the other side places an indelible blotch of misconduct and selfishness on the program.
But I’m telling you, as bad as it looked, Blount’s haymaker that put Boise State’s Byron Hout flat on his back isn’t the worst of Oregon’s problems. Not after a 19-8 loss to No. 14 Boise State that left the Ducks heading home to Eugene with one quiet quack and the Broncos saddling up for their journey to a BCS Bowl game.
With Oregon returning Blount, who set a Ducks' record with 17 rushing touchdowns last season, and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, there was enough reason to believe that Oregon could be legitimate Pac-10 Conference contenders and BCS party crashers.
An opening week loss doesn’t do anything to Oregon’s hopes of winning a conference title, but it severely cripples their national reputation, on a night when millions looked in anticipation of what could be one of the country’s best offenses.
Oregon’s offense looked like mere specs of lint on Boise’s blue turf field, getting pushed around repeatedly by the Broncos' offensive and defensive lines. Masoli couldn’t throw the ball and Blount couldn’t run the ball, ultimately culminating in an embarrassing night that saw Oregon record it’s first first down of the game with 7:07 to play in the third quarter.
Oregon rushed for only 31 yards (Blount contributed minus-five yards to that doozy) to Boise’s 164, and only gained 152 total yards to Boise’s 361. If it weren’t for a fourth quarter spark in Oregon’s offense, they wouldn’t have recorded the six first downs that they did.
Masoli was supposed to be the star of the show—the star of the quarterbacks at the very least—but that didn’t happen, either. Masoli was 14-of-27 for 121 yards and one interception, but he did score the Ducks' only touchdown of the game, with a five-yard run with four minutes and change to go in the third quarter.
Boise State’s Kellen Moore, a redshirt freshman, was much more impressive on this night. Moore was 19-of-30, good for 197 yards and a 10-yard TD pass to Austin Pettis. He actually looked the part of a quarterback that you would expect to find on a team with BCS aspirations.
Boise State’s O-Line gave Moore ample time to deliver the football, but the lefty was still impressive with his feet, gliding in and out of the pocket to buy extra time for passing lanes to open up. The kid makes plays and he’s confident.
D.J. Harper carried the ball 19 times for Boise, racking up 88 yards and a touchdown. Harper was a key part of the attack that allowed Boise to keep the football for approximately 35 minutes longer than Oregon.
And, really, this was all on a night when Boise State didn’t even play their best football. The game wasn’t as close as the score would indicate, not when the Broncos missed two field goals, fumbled a field goal snap, and committed three turnovers.
Both teams suffered from the inevitable opening game jitters and early season inconsistencies, but the difference was that Boise looked like they had an idea of what they wanted to do and had confidence in executing. Oregon just looked plain lost.
The menacing blue field that gives Boise State a unique home-field advantage may as well have been the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean for Oregon. There was no life preserver that could pull them out of the blue and orange current that was Boise’s relentless defense.
The Broncos' defense forced two turnovers (one fumble and one pick), but their dominance wasn’t the type that is going to light up the morning box score. It was quick, methodical, and as painless as a lethal injection. There was nothing to it, but before you blinked, Oregon was fast asleep and Boise’s offense was back on the field.
"Hats off to our defense tonight," Moore said. "They made a ton of plays."
But, of course, all of this is going to get lost in the translation of trash talk, punches, and subsequent suspensions. That’s fine for the fans and for the public, because the headlines are simply water cooler talk for the rest of us. But for Oregon, the fighting and severe lack of sportsmanship on the part of Blount should be low on their list of priorities this week.
That’s not to say that what Blount did was acceptable on any level, because it’s not. Blount’s punch was only the beginning, as then he had to be restrained by police and Oregon personnel from going after fans on his way to the locker room. If you are that combustible, I question why you’re playing prime-time athletics to begin with.
Nor were the actions of Hout acceptable, either. After a game or trash talking and trying to knock the head off of your opponent, you don’t need to keep running your mouth after the clock runs out. Does an extra verbal jab deserve a physical KO? No, but Hout knew what he was doing, therefore, he got what he got. You may think that Blount was the bigger idiot here, but he at least did one thing smarter than Hout...he had his helmet on.
Now it’s up to Oregon head coach Chip Kelly to deal with the matter swiftly, preferably today, so that the Ducks can prepare for next weekend’s game against Purdue.
"I did not see anything. I will see it on tape and make a decision on what we need to do with [Blount]," Kelly said. "There is no place for that. I do not condone that. I will make that decision if that is the case."
Oh, it is certainly the case, as Oregon needs to refocus after looking like a rattled club who was out to revenge last year’s loss to Boise State in their own home, rather than move forward and win the first football game of 2009.
Blount’s going to be on the bench for a while, but that’s not the biggest issue here. Blount is only one guy.
Kelly’s biggest issue should be how in the world did Masoli and the rest of the offense spend so much time on the bench? Until he figures that out and gets the Ducks squared away, it will be an ugly scene in Eugene.
At best, for the time being, they are Boise State’s step stool. At worst, they are a team that fights harder after the game than during it.
You can reach Teddy Mitrosilis at firstname.lastname@example.org.