With all the success Oregon Football has had over the past decade, even the most devoted of fans may currently be feeling a little, well. . . blah.
It was easy, especially in the Mariota years, to get excited before every game knowing the Ducks were playing for something big. They were at the top of the mountain and were finally gaining some respect from the rest of the country.
After a rough 2016 season and the ups and downs of this season, it may be hard to get excited to watch your beloved Ducks seemingly (and perhaps literally) limp through the next few weeks.
Here’s the thing though, taking a step back may help bring a few positives to light and help keep us all in the game until Oregon Football climbs to the top of that turf-covered mountain again.
Admittedly, I had high hopes for this season. After those first couple of games, it seemed the team was off to a great start and perhaps that they may be destined for better-than-predicted greatness early in the Taggart Era. With a bunch of injuries to key playmakers, those hopes were soon shattered. Among all those shattered hopes though are figurative several bottles of glue open and ready to put those pieces back together.
First of all, the defense, under Jim Leavitt, has made huge strides in just a short amount of time. There is of course room for improvement but fans have to be very relieved about the trajectory on that side of the ball.
Second of all, the team definitely seems revitalized, energetic and tuned in to the new staff, who is working day and night, literally spending nights at the HDC trying to take this program to the next level.
Lastly, this is just the beginning. Let us not forget about the top-notch incoming recruiting class. Coach Taggart and Co. did some serious work on the recruiting trail during the off-season and beyond. If they were able to do what they did in that short amount of time, fans ought to brace for what they will be able to do moving forward.
In short, it seems, at the very least, the foundation is being laid for a much brighter green and yellow future. It may just require some patience and we all may have to dig deep to spark that once easy-to-find pre-game excitement.
Since today’s kick off is in just of a couple of hours, it’s time to grab shovel and get digging.
Here are 3 things to keep your eye on, not only today but in the weeks to come, if the Taggart Era Ducks are going to find their way to a future National Championship sooner than later.
Yes, Oregon’s starting QB, Justin Herbert, isn’t likely to play today. Yes, his replacement, true freshman, Braxton Burmeister, hasn’t been able to get the win the past couple of weeks. All that said, he now has a couple of games under his belt and has been working hard to learn from the mistakes. These growing pains aren’t ideal for faint of heart but the reps Burmeister is getting should pay off later.
As all Ducks fans know, losing the team’s starting quarterback in years past has cost Oregon big time. That doesn’t necessarily have to be the case moving forward. Teams will naturally take a step back when they lose a starting quarterback, but developing a solid back-up could shorten that inevitable step back. Especially in Oregon’s spread offense system, having depth at quarterback is critical. Hopefully we are seeing that depth developed as we speak.
Penalites ,Penalties, Penalties
Oregon has racked up an unprecedented amount of penalties this season which has to be incredibly frustrating to Coach Taggart, who told the team before the season started, “Just do not get me a penalty.”
There are a number of reasons for the increase in penalties but the bottom line is, the Ducks will not make it far if they keep shooting themselves in the foot by giving opponents free yards.
Watch to see if the Ducks can limit those pesky flags today.
Halftime adjustments and Second Half Energy
For much of the recent past, Oregon has been a second half team. Unfortunately this has not been the case much of this season. It seems, at times, the team has come out flat after half-time and lost momentum early in the third quarter. Much of this can be attributed to their struggles to convert on third down, but it begs the question, what is going on during half-time? What, if any, adjustments are being made? And what can be done to fire up the team to “swag surf” for an entire 4 quarters?
Watch to see what happens today in Los Angeles. Have the Ducks found answered those questions?
If all this doesn’t keep you focused today, keep your eye on Royce Freeman who will likely break Oregon’s career rushing yards today- a record currently held by LaMichael James. Look for Freeman to be a key factor today as the run-game will have to be solid while Burmeister works out the passing game kinks.
Also look for Charles Nelson. His absence (injury) has been one of the most under-the-radar X-factors missing from the past couple of games. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Nelson is probably Oregon’s best athlete on the field and his contribution on the offensive side of the ball is irreplaceable. If he is back at full speed today, the Ducks very well may pull out a much-needed win.
So you’re saying there’s a chance? Yes.
Even if they don’t win though, keep the faith. The foundation is being laid and brighter days are soon to come. Just keep digging.
There is lots of hope not far under the surface.