It was a controversial move by Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich last week when he decided to turn the keys to his team's offense over to true freshman Justin Herbert. Was this the right time? Why not wait until after a bye week? Why do it against one of the nation's hungriest, quarterback-gobbling teams?
Well, Helfrich probably knew something we didn't know -- that it didn't matter. Herbert played just fine for a freshman. It was not a special performance but he seemed to get through it without injury, which was one of my concerns. What difference does it make who plays quarterback if you're going to allow 70 points?
Helfrich's move was just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The Ducks are sinking fast. Might as well play the young kid if you're going to get your tailfeathers kicked anyway. At this point, Oregon needs to forget about that "Win The Day" stuff and think about "Win A Day." Or "Win A Game."
A bowl game? Seems impossible at this point.
Yes, the Huskies have more talent than Oregon -- the result of apparently out-recruiting everyone in the conference by a wide margin over the last couple of years. But should we be surprised? No -- Coach Chris Petersen beat Pac-12 teams with players he could attract to Boise, Idaho -- he ought to be able to recruit better ones to Seattle. You may remember Petersen, by the way. He'll forever be known as the guy Oregon should have begged to take its head-coaching position when it gift-wrapped the job for Helfrich.
But that's ancient history, as is Oregon's swagger and aura of dominance. The Ducks were never in this game... never made anyone think they had a tiny chance of winning. All the glitz, glitter and glamor of the Oregon program -- the locker rooms, the uniforms, the study center, the medical treatment facility, all of it -- has suddenly been rendered meaningless. The Ducks used to have teams beaten when they strutted out on the field behind that motorcycle. But those days are gone.
All season, Duck apologists have been whistling the same tune: "Fans have been spoiled. Don't panic. Every team goes through times like this. These guys were in the national championship just a couple of seasons ago. It's cyclical and this is just a momentary speed bump."
It doesn't look like that to me. In college football, if the recruiting and coaching slides just a little bit, the dropoff in performance can be steep. It can go fast -- very fast. If you aren't moving forward you are falling behind. Just repeating what's been done before simply doesn't work.
All those things that used to be Oregon advantages are now commonplace, just a couple of years later.
Oregon beat teams with its tempo and an innovative spread offense -- which has little impact now because everyone is doing it. The uniforms were a big recruiting deal -- but a lot of teams are fiddling around with their uniforms. Fancy locker rooms? Just about everybody in the conference has built a new operations center, locker room, practice area, study center and/or training facility.
What's left is coaching, which also means recruiting. And keeping players focused.
Look, I'm not in that locker room or on the sidelines but for all those people who are saying they are worried the Ducks might quit on this season, I must tell you -- it sure appeared they've already quit.
And really, that's the best possible excuse for what happened Saturday night in Autzen.
Because if it's strictly a talent issue... If the Ducks didn't quit, well, it's a sobering thought for this program to come to grips with suddenly being 50 points worse than a team it had beaten 12 seasons in a row.