Oregon Reality

If you weren't there, and you couldn't watch it on television, it'd be hard to convince you how bad UCLA looked against Oregon Saturday. We're going to keep short and sweet...

You had to be there. Not just because the game wasn't televised. But because seeing is believing.

How else to convince you that UCLA really did run back-to-back play-action passes from the I formation on 3rd and 13 (incomplete) and then 4th and 13 (sack, loss of 10) as the clock wound down to end the first half?

How else to convince you that Drew Olson made a Herculean effort to sidestep a brutal Oregon pass rush not once, not twice, but three times on one play, kept his eyes downfield, spotted his TE Blane Kezirian all alone in the end zone…and then overthrew him by just a foot on a pass of 40 to 45 yards?

(If there's a better metaphor for the season, it's this: on Monday, to kick off USC week, there was a junker car painted with USC's colors that passers-by could take a swing at with a sledgehammer. The first individual I saw let'er rip at the car promptly got the head of the weapon of mis-direction stuck in vehicle, rendering the tool impotent and curtailing the festivity.)

How else to convince you that the three QB recruits in attendance at the game responded to the just-off disconnect with what could only be described as a choreagraphed send-up of the see/hear/speak-no-evil monkeys as Erik Ainge averted his gaze with a sustained salute, Chase Patton muffled his exclamations with a hand over his mouth, and Matt Tuiasasopo grabbed two handfuls of hair from the side of his head? Don't know if that kept the fans' chorus from his ears, but who knows?

How else to convince you that the game was effectively over on the third play from scrimmage when Oregon MLB Jerry Matson intercepted a pass thrown right to him and returned it 22 yards for six? The final score was 31-13, but after Oregon scored on defense, on offense and on a kick-off return in the first quarter alone for a 21-3 lead that would never be threatened, the game was out of reach.

As feared, the Oregon defensive line dominated the game. Four different Duck DL each had at least one sack. The Bruin tackles, Ed Blanton and Steve Vieira, had an extremely difficult time all game long keeping Oregon's defensive ends (Devan Long and Quinn Dorsey) from either sacking Drew Olson, or forcing him from the pocket. Unfortunately, Oregon's DTs (Igor Olshansky and Junior Siavii) were wreaking havoc of their own. When a DL so thoroughly dominates a game the way the Ducks did, the back seven has a field day.

To his credit, Drew Olson played like a man. He was sacked six times, pummeled many, many other times, but was still able to complete 29 of 49 passes for 249 yards. His attitude never flagged, he never stopped battling and he never despaired. He's clearly demonstrated that he can continue to compete when the odds are stacked against him. The next level for Drew is to play smart and hard when the game is still in the balance.

Because the game got away from the Bruins so rapidly, the obvious thrust of UCLA's game plan (establish the run to set up the pass) was abandoned almost immediately, and the Bruins were scrambling to run plays that would net positive yardage for the rest of the day, much less seriously threaten Oregon's defense.

As a result, as gamely as the D played (UCLA actually outgained Oregon, 327 to 228, running 81 plays to Oregon's 58, and shut out the Ducks in the 2nd half), this game was into garbage time before the first quarter was over. When it counted, Oregon won all three phases of the game, and then Mike Bellotti shut it down to conserve energy, play sequencing and player health for the upcoming Civil War. A very unattractive pattern for the season is emerging, as UCLA has now been outscored 167 to 79 in the first half. It is clear that for UCLA to score points on offense, it will take a confluence of extraordinary plays: a perfect throw and a better catch, a superhuman pinball run, a slip-and-fall by the DB, etc. UCLA's O doesn't have the explosiveness to recover from a major setback early in a series of downs and continue to march down the field. Whether we'll see such clutch plays the rest of this year remains to be seen.

Heading into the USC game, the fourth quarter of the season as Karl Dorrell puts it, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the coaching staff attempts to do differently in an effort to achieve a different result than the recent series of carbon-copy no-contests that are now far past the point of palatability.

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