It's time to talk Ducks! - (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
As we get ready for Thanksgiving (Oregon St. fans would certainly be thankful for an opportunity to defeat the Ducks!), and then the Civil War 2 days later, we got together with the guys "down the road" that are Addicted To Quack to get caught up on the mindset around the 3 time defending conference champions now that last weekend's 17-14 upset loss to Stanford completely changed their prospects for continuing that string.
Thanks to David Piper, one of the managers at ATQ, for taking some time to talk Ducks and Beavers while the turkey is thawing for tomorrow.
Last week's loss was obviously frustrating, disappointing, distracting, and a lot of other adjectives. But now that the shock has worn off, is the team going to be totally refocused come Saturday? Though they don't control things anymore, they can still reach the conference championship game, a BCS At-Large berth, and possibly even the National Championship Game if things break right, and in any event, a better bowl than if they slip up. We know Coach Chip will be un-phased, but how is that actually transferring to the team?
"I think the team will be fine. Obviously, there is disappointment, but Chip Kelly has always done a great job of getting teams refocused after a loss. Honestly, they may be a bit looser after that game, as it looked like the pressure got to them against Stanford. We have no idea what these guys are actually thinking, since nobody in the media has access to the team right now, but I'm not terribly worried about it at this point."
Kenjon Barner has had a stellar season, but De'Anthony Thomas hasn't put up the numbers most expected, and that traces back to touches. There just haven't been that many. Has that been because teams have regularly focused on taking him away as the best option? Or is it more a product of going with what was working, and it wasn't always him?
"Well, the touches have been there, but teams have been focusing on him a lot more this season. After the Arizona State game, Todd Graham said that their whole defensive gameplan was to key on DeAnthony Thomas. Last season, he was more able to sneak up on people. This year, not so much."
De'Anthony Thomas got away from Oregon St.'s Ryan Murphy in last year's Civil War, and it resulted in a touchdown for Oregon. Will it happen again Saturday at Reser?
How healthy is Oregon at this point? They were accumulating some injuries, especially on defense, but got some players back for Stanford, and defensively played very well. How close to 100% are they.
Oregon is still pretty banged up. The biggest injury right now is probably starting NT Wade Keliikipi, who usually occupies two players, and will hopefully be back for the bowl game. But many players-John Boyett, Avery Patterson, Jared Ebert, Carson York, Mana Grieg--have been lost for the season. I think the Ducks have done a pretty good job of managing those. If Oregon loses this weekend, injuries won't be an excuse.
Why hasn't the ongoing saga of problems with placekicking been solved? It seems that's been a rare and major problem for the last couple of years, and its quite unusual for a problem to drag on under Coach Chip? Did they look at other options in the off-season, and none panned out? Or was there reason to believe Maldonado was going to become reliable?
This is the big question this week. We have no idea. Obviously, the coaching staff was banking on some sort of improvement from Beard and Maldonado, but that never happened. There is a highly-rated kicker in the upcoming recruiting class, Matt Wogan, and unless he's completely terrible, he'll almost assuredly win the starting job next season. We really have no explanation.
Maldonado was a highly rated guy that Chip flipped from Washington late in the recruiting process. Whether it was a straight-up misevaluation in the recruiting process, or whether he just hasn't developed, it's hard to say. But I knew going into OT last weekend that the Ducks were going to lose, because they didn't have a prayer of making a field goal.
With Marcus Mariota being a freshman, and a sophomore in Bryan Bennett behind him, plus having numerous other sophos and freshmen in the starting lineup and the 2-deep, is there any thought that as good as Oregon has been, the Ducks best team may well still be a couple of years out ahead? And how does Duck Nation manage those expectations?
First off, there is not, nor will there ever be, a "Duck Nation." (Ed. note: Yes, there is, per ESPN. But we digress.)
That out of the way, I think the future is uncertain right now, mainly because of questions about Chip Kelly's future, and because of possible sanctions. I'm not worried that the sanctions will include any type of postseason ban, as precedent for that would seem to require allegations beyond any that are known, though I think some level of scholarship reductions are probable.
Chip Kelly's future is the more interesting dilemma, and one for which I don't have a good answer. I don't necessarily think he's gone, but I don't feel good that he's staying, either. If he's staying, there is reason to feel good that this team will be in contention for the conference title every year. But, at this point, the national championship is the big thing eluding us. Its our white whale, and who knows if we'll ever catch it. You only have so many chances to win one, and we seem to have a knack for blowing them.
What's the plan to make sure Coach Chip doesn't wander off to the NFL? (It would seem there is a very vested interest in preventing that, from a Duck's point of view.) Has Phil Knight made a "We'll top whatever they offer." commitment? And where do you realistically think Oregon will turn if they do have to deal with the end of "The Era of Chip" anytime soon?
If Chip Kelly leaves for the NFL, money won't be the issue. It's almost assuredly not a problem. As I said, I don't think it's a guarantee that he goes, but I do fear that we're seeing the last few games of the Chip Kelly era. I just don't know either way, or where we would turn.
Finally, can you at least give us a hint of what shade of green, or green alternative, might be the featured color this week?
I have no idea. Honestly, most of us are so used to it that we kind of don't notice it at this point.
Thanks, David! Interesting stuff as always.
(And some of you readers thought its not possible for Ducks and Beavers to have a Civil discussion!)
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)