Game Day: It's Time This Thing Got Going

Alright, I've given it some time. We've seen the overmatched (Arkansas State, Tennessee Tech), suffered through the underestimated (Fresno State), and plodded through a relatively unattractive win over an upstart Arizona team last week; it's time this team started flying.

Yes, I know the defense played well last week, and I know we're dealing with a freshman quarterback, young receivers and a retooled offensive line, but they've all had 4 games to get it together, and now I'm ready to see some Oregon football. Quick strikes, explosive plays, running backs in the second level wreaking havoc on unsuspecting defensive backs, the type of action you as Duck football fans have become accustomed to since Chip Kelly came into the fold more than 5 years ago. Maybe we've all been spoiled by what we've had the pleasure of witnessing over that 5 year span, but if it's said truth makes Chip a victim of his own creation, then so be it. Champions are held to high standards, and this coach and this program have heightened standards to a level of excellence only a handful can reach…and I think that's how they want it.

They want to be the best, so I'm going to judge them based on their best play. Marcus Mariota – while having played well – has been reckless at times and prone to occasional mental mistakes. Kenjon Barner – while good – has lacked the "big play" ability we've seen in the past, running for more than 18 yards just once in the first 4 contests. And the offensive line – while young – has struggled at times opening holes for the backs, and has allowed 9 sacks in 4 games…2 games of which were against subpar opponents. Yes, it's been just 4 games, but before you discard arguments based on a minimal sample size, remember that those 4 games which seem small in number equate to exactly one third of the team's regular season. Now does it seem insignificant?

No one (meaning me) is saying this team's been bad or that it's panic time in Eugene, for anyone north of Forest Gump's IQ understood and understands that "youthful mistakes" are called such for a reason and that this team is in fact young. But what I am saying is that the games are only going to get tougher from here and that in order to combat such, the level of play will have to increase relatively.

Marcus Mariota needs to improve…and he can do that. The O-line has to become more consistently dependable…and they can do that. And promising players like Colt Lyerla, Dwayne Stanford, Bralon Addison and offensive linemen Tyler Johnstone and Kyle Long need to grow beyond "youthful mistakes" and take that next step. And now is the time to do it.

Washington State is not a good team. That doesn't mean they're incapable of playing well at times, nor does it mean an upset win over Oregon is impossible. I've always said that in the wake of untimely turnovers and amidst lapses in concentration, any Pac-12 team can beat any Pac-12 team on a given day. And I believe that, but if Oregon plays their game they will win, and if they play the game I'm waiting to see, they'll win big.

Much has been made of Mike Leach's hiring at Washington State and he might have his time, but now doesn't appear to be it. The Cougars have a couple talented receivers, a very good defensive lineman in Travis Long, and an offense built to test you defensive backfield over and over and over again. But they can't run the ball effectively, have had trouble protecting their young quarterback, and have appeared to be defending the pass with Betty Childs and the rest of her Pi Delta Pi's sorority. Wazzu is allowing 346 yards through the air per game, more than 12 yards per catch, and have allowed 10 touchdown passes. Not good, but made worse by the fact that said stats were accrued by the likes of Eastern Washington, UNLV, Colorado and BYU; schools best known for Big Sky conference titles, ‘90's basketball championships, the Rocky Mountains, and a noteworthy religion.

We know Oregon is a good football team. We also know they will likely win this game and likely win it going away. But what we don't know is how good and how much better they can be, due to what we've seen to this point, and primarily due to what we've yet to see for much of the first 4 games.

You've been good Ducks, now let's see you get better.


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