Game Day: Tough Love

In some ways this is not easy to do, but in others it couldn't be easier. Last Saturday night's game was a tough watch and not merely because of the obvious turnovers. I did and still am struggling with what I saw from Oregon's players and coaches, and it's important to shed such baggage prior to an alarming game with Nevada Saturday afternoon.

Darron Thomas was not good, the play calling was equally troubling and it's my opinion that the coaches have a tough decision to make…and I'd like to make it for them, because contrary to the vibe being transmitted via many, Oregon's season is not over and it's important that it start from scratch this week.

I going to spare you any sarcasm you might normally get from me this week, in an effort to make my point clear. Contrary to what the lazy, agenda-driven national media has fed you since the final gun sounded in Arlington last weekend, the Oregon Ducks weren't dominated by the LSU Tigers, but were more so the victim of their own sword. Without those turnovers that's a different game, without a fear of the establishment that's a different game, and without concern for the worst case scenario that's an entirely different game.

And I'd like to tell you why.

No, I'm not making excuses for a Duck team who without question deserved to lose, but what I am doing is explaining why it is they lost, and why as a fan you shouldn't feel inferior to a team and conference being portrayed as "elite."

To steal a quote from the slightly-above-average Dennis Green, LSU "was what they thought they were, and we let them off the hook." Yes, they are elite on the defensive side of the ball. Much like in the Auburn game they won the battle in the trenches. They penetrated our backfield defensively, they wore our undersized D-Line out in the second half and they locked-up our mediocre receivers to the detriment of our QB, but we knew that was going to happen from the start and did little to veer off of a course so obvious from the onset.

Darron Thomas needs to run the football. An option attack – and like it or not that is what Oregon runs – is dependent on a threat of the quarterback running to work at an optimal level. I'm not sure what or who's responsible for Thomas' hesitancy to keep the ball on the zone-read, but he needs to run. Against a team with superior talent it's increasingly important to keep the defense guessing, and when you're continually handing the ball to a back with little forward momentum, it's like handing a juggler 3 balls while tying one had behind his back. He doesn't need to carry the ball 20, 15 or even 10 times a game, but he does need to make the defense consider it as a viable option.

I don't know what's up with the play-calling, but continually running into the heart of the line, throwing 4-yard-outs on 3rd and 12, and failing to get your speed outside the tackles is "Losing 101" for this Oregon team. What happened to the creativity? I understand implementing a game plan based on history, statistics and film, but at some point you have to acknowledge that what it is you're doing isn't working and that "Plan-B" is in-order. Where was the triple-option that worked so well late last year? What happened to the Bubble Screen? And where was the deception; aka fly-sweeps, motion and play- action? Once I saw DeAnthony Thomas on a fly sweep prior to the ball and never did I see Darron Thomas get outside the tackles with a pitch-man on his wing. One only has to look to the Arizona game in 2010 to recall Josh Huff scoring from more-than-80 yards on an option play to the left. I understand that LSU is fast defensively, but forcing them to commit on a play with more-than-one option is likely better than continually handing the ball to a helpless back, with no momentum and would-be-tacklers on his hip.

Lastly, I'm sorry in advance to Justin Hoffman, Will Murphy and Lavasier Tuinei, but athletes relative to the elite BCS level these guys are not…and we saw the result of it last Saturday Night. These guys couldn't separate against LSU defensive backs and Oregon's passing game suffered due to it. I understand that due to a couple dismissals last Fall the Ducks' receiving corps is in the midst of a transition period between mediocre upperclassmen and talented inexperienced freshmen, but it's my opinion that the coaches need to bite-the-bullet and throw young guys such as Tacoi Sumler, B.J. Kelley and Devon Blackmon to the wolves. Sure, they're likely going to make mistakes, but in a situation like last weekend you have to roll the dice. It was apparent from the start that Duck receivers were having trouble getting open and as a result Darron Thomas was put in a nearly impossible position to complete balls. As solid as Oregon's experienced receivers may be, explosive they are not. Oregon has that necessary explosiveness sitting on the bench, and I believe their time is now. We saw the difference DeAnthony Thomas made when inserted into the game (aside from the turnovers), let these other guys make their mark as well.

As I said earlier, Oregon's season is far from over. True, the dream of another undefeated season is no longer, their short stint inside the nation's top-5 is no more, and they're no longer the media darling they've been for nearly a year, but there's still much to be had. A third consecutive conference title is up for grabs and an outside shot at National Title is far from beyond the realm of possibility. The Ducks are still a quality team, can still make you proud, and are a couple wins away from lifting the spirit you lost much of a week ago. It will just take better decision-making under center, a more creative attack, and a few calculated risks from a coaching staff I still believe in.

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