What a difference a couple of weeks make. Of course being back on your home turf also helps.
After a tough couple of losses on the road, Oregon Head Coach, Mario Cristobal, led his team to a much-needed 42-21 win against the UCLA Bruins.
Despite, the fact neither team was ranked headed into the game, there was no shortage of story lines. Topping the list was former Oregon Head Coach, Chip Kelly, returning to the Autzen sideline for the first time since leaving to coach in the NFL. Kelly, now the head coach of the Bruins, was greeted warmly by a cheering Autzen crowd.
Unfortunately for Kelly, that welcome was probably the best part of his night.
Despite the Bruins’ offensive yardage nearly matching that of Oregon’s, UCLA shot themselves in the foot multiple times over quarters.
When all was said and done, UCLA turned the ball over three times and Oregon was able to capitalize on all three. Also plaguing the Bruins was their 11 penalties to Oregon’s 1. Unfortunately that one penalty was a costly one for Oregon.
Late in the 3rd quarter, Oregon starting center, Jake Hansen, was ejected after a controversial targeting call. After the call, Oregon fans let their displeasure with the call be known and Cristobal seemed fired up as well. Following the game however, Cristobal addressed the call with much grace.
“Of course it’s frustrating when you lose a great player but I don’t think you ever take the stance to vent or be upset,” Cristobal said.
“These officials are working their tails off and trying to do things the right way.”
Due to the call occurring in the second half, per NCAA rules, Hansen will also miss the first half of next week’s match up against Utah. It will definitely be interesting to see how Oregon adjusts to Hansen’s absence, especially in a tough game on the road, where communication on the line will be even more critical.
Another tough pill to swallow for Oregon fans,might be how inconsistent the offense looked much of the night. Obviously, it’s hard to complain about a win, especially when that win is by double digits. Looking ahead though, a lot of questions remain, particularly with the passing game.
QB Justin Herbert, who has garnered a lot of hype this season as being a potential top 2019 NFL Draft pick, passed for just 56% against a not-so-great UCLA defense. It’s hard to know how much of the lack of passing game the past couple of weeks falls on Herbert’s shoulders, but questions are hovering. Something seems amiss and the team is clearly in need of another go-to guy besides Herbert’s favorite target, Dillon Mitchell. Mitchell is obviously doing a great job but so much predictability in the passing game leaves the Herbert and Co. incredibly vulnerable.
On the bright side, Oregon’s running backs showed solid improvement after sputtering the past two games. Freshman RB CJ Verdell rushed for almost 100 yards and RB Tony Brooks James was back in the mix with an electric 54 yard rushing touchdown.
Coach Cristobal addressed the improved running game following the game.
“We talked about it and it was about enough is enough,” Cristobal said.
“We’re going to put our foot in the ground. We’re going to recommit ourselves to being the physical team that we started the season as.”
The Ducks will get another chance to show whether or not they really heard the “enough is enough” talk when they head to Utah this Saturday, November 10th to face the Utes in a 2:30pm PT game at Rice Eccles Stadium.
At the very least, they should feel much better than they did last week in the Arizona Desert.
Follow Nichole on Twitter @UOgridirongirl