When Oregon Football Head Coach, Willie Taggart, took over the program last Winter, he told fans to “Buckle up” and expect some fun. Five games in to the 2017 season, buckling up may be even more important than ever.
It turns out Oregon’s Ferrari may have just become a cart on a roller coaster.
In many ways, Oregon’s first three (non-conference) games seemed to be an exciting climb out of 2016’s deep valley. The future ride was unknown, but hope was gradually being restored and excitement was fueling the climb. Then, a trip to Arizona State sent the cart coasting a bit downhill. Or, at the very least, caused it to stall.
Was the honeymoon over? Should fans brace for another long descent? A 45-24 win against Cal last night, should have answered that question. Instead it may have left the program and its fans wondering just how many hills and valleys remain this season.
A Very Costly Win
Make no mistake, the Ducks looked leaps and bounds better last night in comparison to their performance, or lack thereof, against ASU last week. QB Justin Herbert had the offense rolling and RB Royce Freeman was making a huge impact, per usual. As an added bonus, the team seemed to have addressed its penalty problem, earning just 5, through three quarters. Unfortunately, things took an ugly turn.
Not only did Oregon wind up with 10 total penalties by the end of the fourth quarter, the team lost several starting players for the game and some, including Justin Herbert, for at least the next several weeks.
During the first half, Oregon star playmakers, Justin Herbert, Royce Freeman and WR Dillon Mitchell, who has been instrumental in WR Charles Nelson’s absence, went down with injuries. If that weren’t bad enough, back up QB Taylor Alie was also injured, causing Oregon to play QB Braxton Burmeister, who most anticipated would redshirt this season.
Ultimately, the Ducks rallied and left the field with a big win. Unfortunately, the cost to get it could leave the team struggling to makes ends meet moving forward.
On the Bright Side
Despite the mountain of injuries (and penalties) that cast a negative shadow on what would have been a much-celebrated win, there were some positive takeaways from the game.
First of all, the Ducks showed they could bounce back, putting the “next man up” mentality into practice. Or, as Coach Taggart put it after the game, he saw a team that was playing for each other.
Second of all, even though both Justin Herbert and Royce Freeman left the game in the first half, the offense continued moving the ball and scored several more touchdowns.
Lastly, the defense, led again by LB Troy Dye, showed up big time. And, they did so without starting safety, Tyree Robinson, who was ejected from the game after receiving a targeting penalty. Although there is still work to do, it’s hard not to be excited with Defensive Coordinator, Jim Levitt, has been able to do in such a short amount of time. The vast improvement might be coming at just the right time.
After the game, Dye addressed the media and explained the defense went into the season with the goal of proving Oregon Football could be known for its defense. As crazy as it sounds, at least this season, they may just get that chance.
At the very least, they will definitely be leading the way up the roller coaster’s next hill, otherwise known as Washington State.
Follow Nichole Brown on Twitter @UOgridirongirl