Against the Wall

Give the Ducks credit, the team proved that they had the right stuff in Tucson on Saturday night by demonstrating a refuse to lose mentality. Chip Kelly commented after the game that when Oregon takes a lead into the locker room at halftime, they "expect to finish." They always preach finishing.

Well, preaching and executing that plan are not a given and Arizona threw everything they had at the young Ducks and then some.

This was a seesaw battle between two very evenly matched teams with both squads moving the sticks for the same 22 first downs and Oregon putting up 459 total offensive yards versus a close 441 for the Cats. Games like this build character, pure and simple. Remember that this is a young Oregon offense with only one significant personnel loss on the horizon, senior tight end Ed Dickson.

Jeremiah Masoli gets most of the press, but wide receiver Jeff Maehl played the game of his life against Arizona. Maehl was easily Oregon's top receiver with 12 catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. However, those impressive stats only tell part of the story. When Oregon needed key receptions it seemed that Maehl was routinely reeling in acrobatic catches, often getting hammered just as he caught the ball. Remember, there wouldn't have even been an overtime if Jeff Maehl hadn't caught a do or die fourth down throw and then fought for the first down with only 23 ticks left in regulation. Masoli quickly took advantage of the opportunity and threw two quick passes to D.J. Davis and Dickson to pull the Ducks even at 31 points.

Arizona also gave the Duck defense fits but Nick Aliotti's squad dug in and never gave up. The Cats were matching Oregon's team speed and often blew big holes in the Duck's defensive line for solid gains. To complicate matters, there usually wasn't much of a pass rush and sometimes it seemed that Wildcat quarterback Nick Foles had all night to pull the trigger. In the end it may have been a bit ugly but the defense did enough to win.

When the game was finally over and the Arizona students who had been preparing to rush the field to celebrate had retreated, the Oregon players talked like their brains were wired together. Nobody sought glory and they each asserted that it was a team effort, how they battled together and how their backs were against the wall. Never give up. This team believes in themselves, the coaches and each other. Successful teams have excellent chemistry and this group has it like few other Duck squads.

Next week the team will grab their lunch pails and get back to work. The players and coaches are reluctant to discuss bowl game possibilities which leaves the rest of us to dwell on a Civil War game that will be played for all the marbles. Personally, I am smelling roses…

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