After the Ducks finished off the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl, the team knew that their goal of returning was within reach. The Ducks overcame a sluggish performance in the first half to dominate the Bruins in the second, scoring 21 points in a span of less than four minutes.
One thing that became apparent is that the Ducks will need injured quarterback Jeremiah Masoli in upcoming games if they want a return trip to Pasadena. Nate Costa filled in admirably, but it was clear that he was very rusty in the most action he has seen in four years.
If the Ducks did not have LaMichael James, things might have gone much differently. James had a big game that included 152 rushing yards and momentum changing runs. One run got the Ducks off their own one yard-line and should have been a 99 yard touchdown run if James would have cut back inside one more time.
I have no doubt Costa would improve with the more time that he got, but he is not as much of a threat as Masoli is in the backfield. The passing game sputtered again as the offense completed only nine passes, three to Ed Dickson and one to Jeffrey Maehl for a touchdown.
Masoli can look bad at times, but his best, which we saw the three previous games, is up there with anyone in the country. The defense will keep them in every game, but they will need an offense to win at least two more games.
With the stellar defense the Ducks have (which I talk about below), adding Masoli back to the mix would put the Rose Bowl is well within reach.
The other thing about this team that no one can deny, is that they have loads of playmakers. The Ducks have won at least two games this year with defense and special teams play. This is an encouraging sight as the Ducks only have seven seniors on the entire two deep roster, and that includes defensive backs Walter Thurmond and T.J. Ward.
But it must also be noted that the Ducks might need to get used to starting off games slow, and possibly seasons. The spread offense almost demands perfection by all eleven players on the field which is not easy to do. Luckily, the Ducks have a defense that is deep and very talented.
The way the conference standings look right now, the Ducks beat the three worst teams in the conference, although don’t expect things to stay that way.
Even so, it is very impressive to not allow three teams in the Pac-10 to put together a drive and score a touchdown of more than one yard (Washington State scored after a fumble at the Oregon one). Having a defense like this is making Oregon fans believe in Chip Kelly and a possible continuation of the Mike Bellotti dynasty.
It is cliche, but defense wins championships, and the Ducks have a good one that has put them in position to take the Pac-10 championship away from Southern California for the first time since 2001.
This unit has sustained major injuries in the secondary, and still has played outstanding. Oregon has the confidence to take on the rest of the conference in a sub-par offensive year in the Pac-10, and are now certainly the favorites to win the conference.