Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ducks Get Clawed By LSU Tigers

As the college football season approached, nearly all the polls and pundits were predicting that the University of Oregon Ducks were going to be a factor in the race for the National Championship. Some of the reasons given were LaMichael James and Darron Thomas. Several mentioned the last second loss to Auburn last year as a possible springboard to winning all the marbles. These writers and sportscasters would wash over the so-called minor considerations like replacing more than half the offensive line and three All-Conference players on defense, not to mention their leading receiver.

All summer long as I read these glowing accolades, a nagging thought kept running through my brain. Were the Ducks going to be as good as everyone was saying? I just could never get it out my mind that the hype was over-blown. Why were the writers just giving a passing notice to a rebuilding O-line and a new defense? If the offensive line was weak, the running lanes James needed were not going to be there. If the defense was being retooled, who was going to make the big 3rd and short stop or create a much needed turnover? A good offensive line is like a well-oiled machine and need time to jell. Defensive playmakers are not going to found in the spring game or in summer camp.

As the LSU game approached, my mind stretched back to another season opener with a national power. Back in 2009 the Ducks were on the radar for some national-level recognition. And like this year, the Ducks were opening the season against a highly-regarded team on that team’s home field (I know, Cowboy Stadium is not Baton Rouge, but it is 1700 miles closer to Arlington than Eugene). There were also many other similarities between 2009 and 2011. The offensive line was undergoing reconstruction, and playmakers on defense needed to be replaced. On a nationally televised stage, the Ducks rode into Boise to play BSU, and after 60 minutes of football, they left town with their tails between their legs and their reputation shattered.

Tonight, in the House the Jerry Built, Cowboys’ Stadium in Arlington, TX, LSU Tigers rode rough-shod all over my Ducks. Their defensive line made the Ducks O-line look really bad. LaMichael James was almost completely shut down as he struggled to find any room to roam and battled cramps. The Ducks much vaunted up-tempo offense seemed as if was operating in quicksand, and Darron Thomas didn’t run like he should have. (BTW: James’ Heisman Trophy campaign is over)

Tonight the Ducks lost 27-40 in a game where the Tigers converted three Ducks fumbles into 20 points. On top of those turnovers (plus a D. Thomas interception), the Ducks had nearly 100 yards in penalties. Often, these penalties put the Ducks in the shadow of their own goal-line. Tough to run your offense when you are staring at 90 yards in front of you.

But I do take some solace comparing this outcome with the similar outcome in Boise two years ago. After losing that game on a warm late summer night in Boise the Ducks ran the table, won the PAC-10 Championship, and played in the Rose Bowl. While this has more than likely eliminated the Ducks from National Championship contention, they can take their revenge out on the rest of the newly formed PAC-12 and win the inaugural PAC-12 championship game.

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