Stanford Cardinal

Oregon's offensive woes could become demoralizing

Oregon's offensive woes could become demoralizing

STANFORD - It's official. The Oregon Ducks are a white hot mess with no remedy in sight beyond the return of quarterback Justin Herbert. 

Losing Saturday night at Stanford was largely expected. But getting trounced 49-7 in a game that saw the defense appear to be unprepared and freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister display zero improvement over last week, it's safe to say that the Ducks (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) will not win a game until Herbert returns from a broken collarbone.

The question now is whether or not the team becomes completely demoralized in the interim making Herbert's ultimate return irrelevant. 

Oregon coach Willie Taggart insisted that his team would remain upbeat and positive. Senior running back Royce Freeman, a team captain, said it's imperative that Oregon maintain its confidence. Nevertheless, some of the long faces of players leaving the field following the game displayed more than just your garden variety disappointment. Some appeared to be downright devastated.

Including a 33-10 loss to WSU last week, the Ducks have lost their last two games by a combined score of 82-17. Such beatdowns are typically reserved for the FCS teams Oregon pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to for them to come get smacked around at Autzen Stadium. 

This is an Oregon team that three weeks ago grappled with the disappointment of suffering its first loss, 37-35 at Arizona State. Now, the can't score 35 points over eight quarters. 

And the problems all start and end with the quarterback play. 

Before this continues, it must be reiterated that Burmeister is only a true freshman. He shouldn't have been expected to perform as spectacularly as Herbert did as a freshman last season when he passed for 19 touchdowns and four interceptions. Burmeister could still develop into a great quarterback. 

That all said, what we witnessed Saturday might can not be merely chalked up as freshman jitters. It might have been Oregon's worst performance from the quarterback position in at least 20 years. It's certainly in the conversation. Things got so bad that Taggart figuratively threw his hands up in the air and at times refused to call pass plays even while facing obvious passing down-and-distance situations. 

Burmeister completed 3 of 8 passes for 23 yards with two interceptions. Senior Taylor Alie entered the game in the third quarter in hopes, Taggart said, of providing a "spark." Instead, he completed just 2 of 5 passes for 10 yards. Included was a throw that went straight into the ground about three yards in front of an open Jacob Breeland, who reacted in frustration that certainly was felt by every player on the team, whether they would admit it tonight. 

Let those passing numbers sink in for a second then try to recall having witnessed a worse game from Oregon quarterbacks. In 2007 after quarterback Dennis Dixon went down with a knee injury at Arizona, Oregon lost the following week 16-0 at UCLA.  In that game, the quarterback trio of Cody Kempt, Brady Leaf and John Roper completed 11 of 39 passes for 139 yards with three interceptions. One could argue that those numbers are actually worse overall that what we saw on Saturday but at least former coach Mike Bellotti kept trying to throw the ball. 

When the Ducks lost 19-8 at Boise state to start the Chip Kelly era, they at least got 121 yards out of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who rushed for a touchdown as did Burmeister against Stanford. 

Even during the 2015 Alamo Bowl debacle, Jeff Lockie completed 7 of 15 passes for 36 yards with zero interceptions in just over a half of football. That's better than the 5 of 13 for 33 yards with two interceptions that Burmeister and Alie combined for at Stanford. 

What makes Saturday doubly disappointing is that Burmeister displayed zero improvement from his performance last week against Washington State. In fact, he regressed. Against the Cougars Burmeister completed 15 of 27 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. Oregon would have killed for numbers like that on Saturday. They would have helped the offense sustain drives by supporting the 276 yards Oregon rushed for.

Even Roper, a freshman in 2007, progressed from game to game. Following that UCLA loss, he completed 13 of 25 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns with one interception during a loss to Oregon State. A month later in the Sun Bowl, Roper completed 17 of 30 passes for 180 yards and four touchdowns. 

Oregon linebacker Troy Dye said the defense couldn't allow 49 points so the unit is in no position to worry about what the offense is doing. However, if a team is going to run a no-huddle offense and leave your defense on the field for 37 minutes then you had better score loads of points on offense. Otherwise, you can expect the other team to find the end zone quite often.  

UCLA is next for the Ducks. The Bruins (3-3, 1-2) have the second worst defense in the conference allowing 40.5 points per game. With Herbert, Oregon would likely drop 50 in UCLA. Without him, the Ducks might be lucky to reach 24 points. On the other side, the Bruins offense is averaging 39.5 points per game. Put Oregon's defense on the field for 37 minutes with no scoring support from the offense against the Bruins and quarterback Josh Rosen will lead them to 50 points in a heartbeat. 

A third lopsided victory will put this team's resolve to the ultimate test. If they break, the Ducks could fall short of reaching bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season. 

 

Ducks would be wise to huddle up, run clock and shorten their games

Ducks would be wise to huddle up, run clock and shorten their games

I'm waiting. Not for Oregon to DO something. I'm waiting for them to SAY something.

Braxton Burmeister, a true freshman, had a miserable night at Stanford Saturday. He completed three passes for 23 yards and had two interceptions. Ugly. But this is a freshman who was supposed to be a redshirt this season. He is playing only because the previous coaching regime missed on some quarterbacks it recruited and really missed on one it didn't -- a kid out of Lakeridge named Eric Dungey who ended up at Syracuse and very well might be named the national player of the week after leading his team over Clemson Saturday.

But that's ancient history. What I'm waiting for the current coaching staff at Oregon to say is simply, "We just aren't doing a very good job of getting our young quarterback ready."

The Ducks aren't throwing Burmeister under the bus, they're throwing him to the wolves. He's getting beaten up mentally and physically.

I mean, this kid was touted as a pretty promising quarterback when he was recruited. He seems to have some tools. And I have a hard time believing the Ducks couldn't come up with some throws for him that he's capable of executing.

Oregon is a puzzling offensive team. It rushed for 276 yards against the Cardinal and has a bevy of outstanding running backs. I'm not sure why that running game isn't translating to open receivers. How about some effective play-action passes? Stanford has built its program on a power running game, stong offensive line play and play-action passes. It hasn't asked much from its quarterbacks since Andrew Luck took his talents to Indianapolis. Oregon Coach Willie Taggart is well aware of that system -- he was there. Is it too much to ask that a few temporary changes be made with Oregon's offensive system?

And while I'm at it, why go no-huddle with an inexperienced quarterback? All it does is shorten Oregon's possession time and put more pressure on its defense. Run some clock, shorten the game -- the no-huddle is doing nothing but harm right now. Run the ball, run clock and keep the other team's offense off the field.

Give yourself a chance. And give your young quarterback a chance.

Why not rest players earlier when games stretch long past 3 hours?

Why not rest players earlier when games stretch long past 3 hours?

A few bouquets and boos from my college football weekend:

  • I've said it frequently, but coordinators make a difference. Oregon was brutal on defense last season and then Jim Leavitt shows up as defensive coordinator. All of a sudden Oregon is bringing a crowd to the football and not missing tackles. There is organization instead of chaos. Now I understand the opposition is going to get tougher, but this is a night-and-day difference. Leavitt knows what he is doing.
  • Portland State drew only 4,442 in its home opener Saturday afternoon and sent those loyalists home with a disappointing 37-14 defeat. That program just can't seem to find a groove. I wish I had an answer. Well, I do have an answer -- winning. But I just don't know how that's going to happen.
  • Oregon State? Offense was much better at Washington State but the defense is awful. As I said, coordinators matter and you wonder if somebody is going to walk the plank on the OSU coaching staff.
  • Oregon's running game is terrific and certainly Justin Herbert is an NFL quarterback in waiting. But against better competition you have to wonder if the lack of experience at wide receiver is going to hurt.
  • What has happened to Stanford?
  • Football coaches have always bewildered me with their reluctance to remove starters -- particularly their valuable quarterbacks -- late in games. Oregon kept a good part of its offense on the field past the halfway mark of the fourth quarter with a huge lead. Washington State kept Luke Falk out there way too long in a blowout. Oregon State was still sending Jake Luton on the field long after the Beavers' chances of winning were long gone. Luton, of course, got hurt.
  • Here's my deal: these college games today are taking forever to play. Instead of looking at the game clock and making a decision about taking players out, take a look at the wristwatch once in a while. Three hours is a long time to stay on the field. I get tired just watching these games and I can't imagine what it's like to keep trudging back out on the field to take more hits as long games crawl to a finish. Resting players is not only a precaution, it's a chance to allow the backup kids who are killing themselves in practice all season to get some game time.
  • One more thought about Oregon: It was an impressive enough win at Wyoming that there was no need to go for it on fourth-and-two in the third quarter with a 42-10 lead. And there was certainly no reason to be throwing to the end zone with 11 seconds left in the game. Yeah, I know -- you want the backups to get some experience. If that's the case, put them in earlier.

Brackets Revealed for PK80

Brackets Revealed for PK80

The brackets for the much-hyped PK80 tournament have been released, and if you are a fan of college basketball you are in for a treat.

The tournament, boasted as one of the largest regular season tournaments in college basketball history, features 16 teams – a list that includes a combined 24 National Championships, three of last season’s Final Four teams, as well as five other teams that made the field of 64 last season.

PK80 will consist of two brackets, “Victory” and “Motion,” with each bracket crowning their own champion over the weekend. 

According to a press release, the names were chosen to pay tribute Nike and Phil Knight –

- “Victory”: In Greek mythology, Nike was considered the goddess of Victory

- “Motion”: The swoosh logo is not only meant to represent motion, but to also resemble the wings of the goddess Nike

Here is a quick breakdown of both:

VICTORY:

The “Victory” bracket will play host to local teams Oregon and Portland, 2017 National Champions North Carolina, as well as UConn, Georgetown, Oklahoma, Michigan State, and Arkansas.

Round 1 will see North Carolina vs Portland, Arkansas vs Oklahoma, Georgetown vs Michigan State, and UConn vs Oregon.

MOTION:

“Motion” will be headlined by 2017 runner-up and Northwest favorite Gonzaga, along with fellow local school Portland State. They will be joined by Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils, Texas, Stanford, Ohio State, Florida, and Butler.

Round 1 will see Duke vs Portland State,  Butler vs Texas, Florida vs Stanford, and Gonzaga vs Ohio State.

Click here to view a printable bracket

The two brackets will run simultaneously at Moda Center and Veterans Memorial Coliseum from Thursday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Nov. 26, with no games being played on Saturday.

Note: The champsions of the individual brackets will not play eachother, instead the brackets are being treated like two individual tournaments. 

For more information visit pkinvitational.com

 

 

 

Oregon to face Arizona State following Sun Devils' 98-88 OT win over Stanford

Oregon to face Arizona State following Sun Devils' 98-88 OT win over Stanford

LAS VEGAS - Arizona State, the No. 8-seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, defeated No. 9-seed Stanford 98-88 in overtime today during the first round to set up a second-round matchup with No. 1-seed Oregon at noon on Thursday at T-Mobile Arena.

The No. 5-ranked Ducks (27-4) should be a bit leery of the Sun Devils (15-17) given that UO narrowly defeated ASU 71-70 at home on Jan. 21.

On Tuesday, Oregon coach Dana Altman talked about the challenges ASU poses and about how important it is to Oregon to win the Pac-12 Tournament. 

In the last meeting between ASU and UO, the Ducks needed junior forward Dillon Brooks, recently named Pac-12 player of the year, to score the team's final 12 points in order to pull out the win. Brooks finished the game with 27.

Oregon on that night had trouble with ASU junior guard Shannon Evans II. He finished with 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting. Against Stanford Evans had 16 points while senior forward Obinna Oleka scored a game-high 27 with 13 rebounds.