I think Purdue might be my new favorite team. I love first-year coach Danny Hope, I love first-year-starting quarterback Joey Elliott and I love that goofy little mascot with the hard helmet and hammer. Why you ask? Because they're here and their arrival means the end of "The Punch" replay, endless commentary and the charcoal-black-cloud which has been hovering over everything green for more than a week.
It's time to play some football and time to move on from one of the most disturbing incidents in University of Oregon Athletics history. I can't speak for you, but I've seen it enough. I know LeGarrette Blount made a mistake, I know his suspension is being second-guessed by everyone with a soapbox to stand on. We all know the facts of the case, but what I want to know is where Oregon will go from here?
Will the Ducks' offensive line improve to a level of acceptability? Sure, these guys are new and we all knew there were going to be some growing pains along the way, but we were also expecting something a little better than what we saw last week. Oregon's 152 yards of total offense, 31 of which came on the ground, were numbers I thought I'd never see. While Jeremiah Masoli was never sacked in the game, countless plays were either stopped or disrupted before ever having a chance to succeed. If LaMichael James, Andre Crenshaw, and Kenjon Barner are going to excel, the boys in the trenches will have to do better. If Ed Dickson, Jeffery Maehl, and Jamere Holland are going to make plays, the boys in the trenches will have to do better. And if the Ducks are going to improve, compete, and win a game or ten, the boys in the trenches have to do much, much better.
In addition, will Oregon play with a purpose? From the opening kick last week the Ducks seemed to be spinning their wheels. The play-calling was sporadic, beginning and ending through the air, with a mix of half-hearted running in-between. Ten of Oregon's first sixteen plays were passes, of which one was completed…for a whopping yard. I'd like to see the Ducks run from the get-go. Make your opponent stop your bread and butter before you try to establish alternative means. I'm all for a balanced attack, but why go away from your strength before it's been taken from you?
Finally, will the Ducks fight for their coach? If ever there was a man in need of a pick-me-up, it's Chip Kelly. No first year coach should be forced to endure the intense level of challenge thrown in his direction last week. This guy had to play a very tough opponent in a hostile environment on national television in a game that ended in a series of altercations rivaling Monday Night Raw.
ESPN's Ivan Maisel chronicled Kelly's post-game speech to his team in an article published last Wednesday on espn.com. He spoke admirably of Chip Kelly, his message, and the means by which it was delivered. The players seemed receptive, but will they prove it on the field?
It's been a long week for everyone. If you're a player, coach representing the University of Oregon or even just a fan, you're ready to move on. You've heard enough, seen enough, and mostly likely thought more than enough about last week's game. I welcome Purdue and everything it represents to the lovely city of Eugene. They'll have beautiful weather, an electric atmosphere, and a team ready and willing to greet them Saturday…but let's hope they can't wait to leave Saturday night.
Game Day: Are You Ready For Some Football?
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