Bare-boned Ducks now Suffering

It's really simple. If you have no one experienced enough to run the spread offense, don't be surprised if a good defense makes a long afternoon out of what otherwise could have been a nice day. Oregon lost quarterback Brady Leaf in the first half against UCLA and at one point were down to the fourth team quarterback in the 16-0 loss to UCLA.

(PHOTO) Brady Leaf (16) is sacked by Brian Price (92) of UCLA in the Bruins' 16-0 victory over Oregon.(Photo by Chris Wilson)

"Our offense failed to show up today unfortunately," said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti. "We dropped about six passes today and you can't do that. We didn't make enough plays. We had too many three-and-outs. We had too many turnovers. And we had too many dropped passes. "

All season the Ducks had been thought of as the most dynamic and dominant offense in the country. But that was with Dennis Dixon, Brian Paysinger, Cameron Colvin, Jeremiah Johnson and a healthy Jonathan Stewart. Of course, all except Stewart are out for the year and Stewart was limited to 33 net yards gained on 13 carries. For the game the Ducks managed only 148 yards of offense, 101 of those gained in the first half. Three quarterbacks, Brady Leaf, Cody Kempt and Justin Roper threw a total of 39 passes but only completed 11 of them and had three picked off. The No. 1 rushing offense in the Pac-10 could only muster 43 yards rushing.

It would be nice to point to something positive about the Oregon offense after today, but there isn't much to say. Four turnovers, 5-of-22 on 3rd down conversions, and zero red-zone chances; and those facts aren't buffered by any glimmer of hope that things might get better between now and next week's season wrap-up against Oregon State. The Ducks have now gone through all the quarterbacks on the roster healthy enough to take a game snap. During practice last week Kempt moved past Roper on the depth chart to second string, and Oregon even used running back Andre Crenshaw as the signal caller several times. Crenshaw had 11 carries for a net of 22 yards on the day. Even the offensive line, a unit that had been so good about protecting Dixon all year long, gave up five sacks to the aggressive UCLA defense.

"Our No. 1 and 2 guys are down," analyzed Bellotti. "Our No. 3 guy was down earlier this year so we're now down to No. 4 and 5. They didn't play well today. It was sort of painful to watch."

According to Bellotti, Crenshaw, Marvin Johnson and some other unnamed candidates may work at taking snaps. Johnson played quarterback at Dominguez High School and led his squad to a championship in the top-level of California high school competition.

Defensively, the Ducks played well and at times were dominating. In the first half, UCLA's quarterback Osaar Rasshan did not complete a pass. In the second half, Ben Olson returned to the field for the Bruins but was not particularly impressive, as he was 4-for-10 for 64 yards and an interception.

"I don't know if I've ever seen our defense play better, and I've been here for 19 years," commented Bellotti. They played inspired football. They gave us a chance to win."

Patrick Chung led the way on defense with seven solo tackles, including two for loss plus a pass break up. Jerome Boyd had four solo tackles and a couple of assists while Will Tukuafu had three solo tackles, three assisted tackles, and two sacks among his three tackles for loss. Matthew Harper had four solo tackles and two break ups. Nick Reed also had four solos, one being for loss. Jeremy Gibbs recorded two sacks while Kevin Garrett and Kenny Rowe each had one.

Offensive coordinator Chip Kelly now faces another week with redesigning his playbook for players who have little experience under their belt, but as he says, "you play with what you have" and his task this next week will be great as the Ducks must find some way to score. Like today's game, the Civil War will be about field position, turnovers and which field goal kicker has a better day. Against UCLA, the Ducks didn't even get a chance to see how their field goal kicker Matt Evensen could do – they never got close enough to his field goal range.

This was the first time Mike Bellotti has been shut out in his coaching career at Oregon. The 9th ranked Ducks tumbled badly hoping to find some combination of players that could produce a point-scoring drive. The Ducks in fact had gone 267 consecutive games, stretching back to Sept. 28, 1985 in a 63-0 blowout against Nebraska, without being shut-out.

They now have one week to find some solutions, but it might be too much to hope for. This has been a season that introduced the Ducks and their fans to opportunities they've never known before. It would be a sad shame for the year to end with the team broken and unable to move the ball.

The Ducks must start to work on salvaging what is left of the year on Sunday.

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