Oregon senior guard Cameron Hunt said today that when he called out teammates for not caring following a 70-21 loss to No. 5 Washington on Oct. 8 he meant that they weren't giving maximum effort, not that they were actually indifferent to winning or losing.
"I think during that game what I meant to say was that the effort wasn't there," Hunt said. "I don't think anyone's quit on our team. I think we have a really good squad coming together and I believe in coach [Mark] Helfrich 100 percent. I trust him. He's our leader. I'd go to war with him any day."
Problem solved. Maybe.
Hunt wasn't the only UO player to wonder out loud about player commitment following the loss to the Huskies. Freshmen Brendan Schooler and Troy Dye also said there were players who didn't appear to have their heart into the game.
UO coach Mark Helfrich said last week that the notion some players have quit was simply not true, and shouldn't have been stated in public.
Maybe so, but there has certainly been something negative going on internally. Let's not forget the players-only meeting following a 41-38 loss to Colorado in which teammates called out one another for poor play and poor effort.
As Hunt indicated, there is a difference between effort and caring. On the other hand, doesn't caring typically lead to greater effort? Doesn't a lack of effort come from a lack of desire?
Whatever the case, the Ducks (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) had better fix themselves mentally or their season will essentially end Friday night at California (3-3, 1-2).
Oregon must win four of its final six games to become bowl eligible. Cal is one of the most winnable remaining games on the Ducks' schedule. A loss on Friday and it would be difficult to believe the Ducks could win four of five to reach a bowl game with road games remaining at No. 19 Utah and USC.
"I trust in this team and we just have to be able to give our full effort and put everything together," Hunt said.
Here is the reality: These are young men who have grown accustomed to experiencing success that have recently been slapped in the face by a sobering amount of failure. When that happens, some panic. Some blame. Some lash out. It's quite normal.
"In times like these, certainly character is revealed and guys expose themselves for who they are," Helfrich said. "For the vast, vast, vast majority of our guys, they're doing, or at least trying to do the right things."
Front-runners can kill a team when things go south. The Ducks players hope to avoid that and readjust as a team.
"I feel like players have taken a whole new accountability and responsibility for what has happened," safety Khalil Oliver said. "We've realized that it's on us."
Oliver said the team focused a lot on team unity during the bye week. If that pays off, the team could be in business. If not...
A quick look at California:
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, California Memorial Stadium.
Betting line: California by 3.
Records: Oregon (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12), Cal (3-3, 1-2).
Coaches: Oregon's Mark Helfrich (35-12); Cal's Sonny Dykes (17-26 at Cal, 39-41 overall).
Last week: Oregon and Cal were both off, previous to that got run over by Oregon State, 47-44.
Golden Bears' impact players: Cal leads the conference in total offense (530.2 yards per game) and ranks second in scoring offense (42.3) behind Washington, which dumped 70 on the Ducks two weeks ago.
Leading Cal's offense is senior quarterback David Webb. He leads the conference in passing yards per game (360.2) and is second in touchdown passes with 22, one off of Washington quarterback Jake Browning (23), who threw for six at UO.
On paper, all of the above spells bad news for one of the bottom five defenses in the nation.
However, Cal's weakness is also a horrible defense. Oregon State rushed for 474 yards during its 47-44 win over Cal.
Oregon and Cal could set defensive football back about 100 years on Friday night.
The Golden Bears' leading receiver is Chad Hansen, who leads the conference in receptions per game (9.8), receiving yards (770) and receiving touchdowns (eight).
Fear factor (five-point scale): 5. Cal's defense is horrible, but so is Oregon's. The Ducks can put up points. But so can Cal. The big difference here is that UO is starting a freshman quarterback. Justin Herbert's biggest challenge could be making enough plays to keep pace with Cal's offense while making his first road start.
Preliminary pick: California 43, Oregon 40. Ducks could win by three touchdowns if they've ironed out all of the problems from the neck up and Herbert and the UO running game can put up 45 points. But that's a big if at this point.