While many chuckled at, some questioned, and others planned vacations around "it" when first mentioned, this weekend's game with Portland State couldn't have been better planned. It will offer an opportunity to heal for some, exercise demons for others, and regain much needed confidence for coaches, players and fans alike.
And boy do they need it!
Last week's loss at the hands of Washington State still elicits goose bumps and a cold sweat to my shaken AND stirred body. Visions of fumbles, interceptions, and wide open Cougar receivers dance in my head like a multi-left-footed Jerry Springer on a show that shall remain nameless. And for the record, that's not good. Nor is it good that Jonathan Stewart still talks about the game with a red faced tone, used frequently by little leaguers shortly following a game-ending error. Furthermore, the defense, which while playing behind the eightball most of the afternoon due to less-than-advantageous field position compliments of their ball handling associates, looked lost, hesitant, and inexperienced against an offensive unit which had yet to earn high marks in any of its previous contests.
Are you beginning to see why this is such a timely game?
Three weeks ago, this game was to be a bye of sorts. Players nursing nagging injuries would take the opportunity to rest and allow for healing. Coaches may have used the occasion to work on a little game planning for the Husky game a week from now, possibly experimenting with a new wrinkle or two regarding future opponents. Fans could've enjoyed seeing future Duck standouts performing for extended periods during a meaningless game, which would almost certainly have been decided sometime in the second quarter.
But none of that can happen now.
Snoop has to play now. Dixon has to play now. Those future Duck standouts will have to wait until the fourth quarter to see any action now.
Why, you may ask? Simply put, they have some reconstruction to do.
Oregon's previously galvanized psyche, which was cracked three weeks ago in Berkeley, was shattered beyond recognition last weekend in Pullman. Dennis Dixon looked scared and lost before being replaced by back-up Brady Leaf in the second half. Snoop's tension level before and during the game seemed to rival that of a death row inmate halfway through their final meal, and Nick Aliotti's defense, who'd played admirably to that point, looked like a bunch of freshmen and injury-plagued replacements…oh, well they may have a pass.
This team needs its swagger back. They need to steamroll the Vikings in Autzen today and show themselves that they're still capable of executing like a champion. They weren't "exposed" like many have alleged. For years people have known that speed and physicality are the recipe for defeating the Spread Offense, yet when executed properly and with precision, speed and physicality can be overcome. Oregon hasn't done that. In both of their losses, they've frequently turned the ball over, failed to proceed properly through progressions in the passing game, and continually missed blocks off of the ball. All things which lead to malfunction, and consequently marks in the loss column.
The Ducks are a team on the ropes, not just physically, but mentally as well. Their season needs resuscitation, rehabilitation, and therapy which can only be provided by winning and winning big. Portland State offers that opportunity. The opportunity to get right, get healthy, and get themselves, their coaching staff, and their fans back onboard a ship steadily afloat.
Help is on the way Ducks, and you have Utah State to thank.
Editor's note: Last spring Utah State pulled out of its contract with Oregon and a vacancy in the 2006 schedule was created. Portland State agreed to fill the void.
Game Day: Help Is On The Way
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