Josh Huff's Sportcenter Top 10 one-handed catch turned the momentum of the Civil War. - Photo by Andy Wooldridge
Fifth ranked Oregon claimed the 116th Civil War by making plays while Oregon St. made turnovers, a half dozen of them, which will doubtless earn the Ducks a BCS At-Large berth, since Stanford's subsequent 35-17 win at UCLA claimed the Pac-12 North for the Cardinal, eliminating Oregon from the Rose Bowl race.
It all got away from the Beavers in the second half after they had not only pulled within 20-17 on Storm Woods' second rushing touchdown of the game, but had the Ducks backed up, facing a 3rd and 19 situation in their own territory. Oregon quarterback found Josh Huff behind Sean Martin, and Huff made a 1-handed leaping grab to a 28 yard gain, and a first down.
Oregon proceeded to score 4 consecutive touchdowns, all a product of turnovers in one way or another, turning what was a dogfight into a runaway rout, claiming their 5th consecutive win in the Civil War, which means no student-athlete in the Oregon St. program has known a win over their rivals.
The first of the 4 scores, a 5 yard De'Anthony Thomas run, never should have happened, as Oregon St. had recovered a clear fumble, but inexplicable failure of the Pac-12 replay review crew in the face of obvious video evidence gave Oregon an extra chance after what should have been a turnover, and when Oregon gets a second chance, their opponents don't.
That didn't lose the game, however, as it was still only a 10 point deficit, with still nearly haft the third quarter still remaining.
Turnovers on 5 of the next 6 opportunities for Oregon St. to possess the ball did, however, as a mix of a dropped pass, a pair of botched kick returns, (not to mention not managing to get a returner back for a punt), and finally 3 consecutive interceptions thrown by Sean Mannion gave Oregon everything they needed to cruise to an 11-1 regular season record.
The Ducks added 3 consecutive touchdowns off of turnovers, and only the sudden realization by the officials that holding actually is a penalty, after over 2 hours of being repeatedly alerted to that fact by Oregon St. coach Mike Riley, prevented a 4th. score.
The Oregon running game rolled up 250 yards by halftime, on an Oregon St. defense that hadn't allowed a 200 yard rushing GAME all season, and finished with 430 yards on the ground. Kenjon Barner, above, piled up 198 yards and 2 touchdowns, which tied the Oregon season rushing touchdown record of 21, and also including a game high 52 yard run, on 28 carries, despite having to miss several series mid-game after suffering bruised ribs on a hard tackle.
That wasn't even an inconvenience to the Ducks, as Thomas, above, added another 122 yards, and 3 touchdowns, on 17 carries, and Mariota, below, added another 85 yards, including the game's first score, on a 42 yard run, on 8 carries. This in addition to the 140 yards he threw for, completing 17 of 24 passes, including 1 for a touchdown to B.J. Kelly that made it 48-17 with 10 1/2 minutes left, just 11 minutes after the 4 score spree had started.
The 570 (!) total yards Oregon rolled up, and the 4 interception Mannion threw (which has proven repeatedly this season to be a recipe for an Oregon St. loss), rendered the 311 yards Mannion threw for on the 31 passes he completed out of 49 attempts irrelevant.
Mannion, above, has made considerable progress from last season, and without him, the 8-3 record Oregon St. will carry into next week's regular season finale against Nicholls St. (1-9), and the 6-3 conference record that earned the Beavers a third place finish in the Pac-12 North, not to mention what will probably be a bid to either the Alamo Bowl or the Holiday Bowl, after USC suffered their 5th loss of the season to Notre Dame tonight, would not have been possible. But before next season, he simply has got to go back to work on his arm strength, and develop the ability to drill the deep pass instead of floating it.
Both of Woods' touchdown should have been passing scores, as Mannion connected first with Brandon Cooks, above, for a 40 yard completion, and then Markus Wheaton for 37, but both balls should have gone for touchdowns, and would have against some, even many, opponents, but not against the kind of team speed Oregon has on defense.
Woods, above, had some success rushing the ball, with 70 of Oregon St.'s 82 yards on the ground, on 16 carries. But the 2:1 ratio of passes to runs (49 + 1 sack vs. 24 rushes, including only 1 fly sweep) didn't keep the ball away from the explosive Oregon offense enough. The "we don't care about time of possession" Ducks actually held a nearly 3 minute time of possession advantage, the product of 64 rushing plays.
3 of the 4 interceptions also were floating passes (one, above, was a product of being hit by Tony Washington as he released the ball) that allowed safeties far out of the play at the time the ball was thrown to close on the ball, like Duck free safety Erick Dargan did below, or to break off coverage on another receiver and converge on the ball, as happened with noted Oregon interception enthusiast Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, further below.
Wheaton did join Cooks as 1,000 yard plus receivers for the season, and he did have a game high 7 catches, for a game high 98 yards, but there were too many failures to catch the ball, like above, which offset those made, like below.
Defensively, what we saw was a combination of 3 elements that worked together to shred the Oregon St. defense. All debate about lineman tactics aside, the Oregon offensive line did an exemplary job today. After struggling against the Stanford defense, the Duck linemen did a good job of breaking up inside seals by the Beaver defensive tackles, negating the effects of edge pressure.
Much of Oregon's rushing yards came as a result of those failed inside seals, but was compounded by the fact that Oregon St. was in nickel coverage early and also much of the day, with no middle linebacker. This a product of trying to contain the seams against the zone read, and also the wide stuff that Oregon St. has experience with knowing that cannot be allowed to happen against Oregon.
And thirdly, Oregon simply has speed no one else Oregon St. has faced can come close to. There were actually a number of significant gains where the Beaver defense was where they wanted to be, only to be physically out-classed. While the defensive scheme failed severely, it wasn't primarily a problem with soundness or execution, as has been the case several times in the current losing streak, and it will only be resolved on the recruiting trail.
The punt return problem, where Wheaton mis-played a bouncing ball in Oregon territory he never should have been close to, and the embarrassing episode where the Beavers didn't have anyone back to field the punt (which they luckily avoided a disaster on by having the wet ball squirt away from the Oregon gunners for a touchback) underscored the importance of Jordan Poyer, who was temporarily out with problems with the knee he injured earlier in the season.
Poyer subsequently returned, an important thing for the Beavers, who may not need him against the FCS Colonels, but certainly will in whatever bowl game they reach. But a new punt returner MUST be developed for next year, with Poyer graduating.
The second half collapse exposed another disappointing fact about the band-wagon nature of a significant portion of the Reser Stadium record crowd of 47,249 who quit on their team long before the game ended. When Duck fan out-classes far too many Beaver fans, its a shameful thing. But today there were some that demonstrated they don't deserve even the performance they got.
Some have called for skipping the Nicholls St. game, even though it would be financially irresponsible on the level of a fireable offense to do do. Perhaps a better plan would be to use the game as an extended practice session against at least nominal resistance, and try to polish up some of the blemishes the Ducks exposed.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)