The Oregon Ducks Find Themselves In A Familiar Situation


As Scooby Wright fell on a fumble late in the 4th quarter at Autzen Stadium, the air left the stadium in a swift fashion. The forced fumble capped off a 31-24 win for the Arizona Wildcats, and Oregon fell to its two-year long tormentor once again. If 2014 was the season to vanquish its National Championship demons, the loss to the Wildcats made those expectations appear lofty and grim. The following week Oregon had to take on the highly ranked UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl. Decade long adversary Stanford still loomed on the schedule as well. Mariota’s final season as a Duck seemed destined to be a dud on that cold Fall night in Eugene.

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Oregon’s loss to Arizona came on October 2nd. Three months later, the Ducks played in the National Championship game against Ohio State.

As insipid as Oregon looked in its loss to the Wildcats, the Ducks managed to correct much of their flaws, and string together eight straight wins, which catapulted them to a Rose Bowl win and National Championship appearance. But the greatest season in Oregon football history didn’t materialize without the October 2nd mishap against Arizona.

Flash forward a season later to 2015, where the Ducks find themselves in a familiar situation.

After a devastating loss to Michigan State in week 2, the Ducks sit at 2-1. The overall mood among the Oregon fanbase is cynical, and rightfully so. Through the first three weeks of the 2015 season, Oregon hasn’t resembled a National Championship contender. Not even close.

Thus far, against the likes of Eastern Washington, Michigan State, and Georgia State, Oregon’s opponents have averaged 33.7 ppg. The Ducks opponents are also outgaining them through the air. Their opponents’ total offense average is 456.3, which is perhaps the most discouraging of the three stats. It’s clear that Oregon’s young and revamped defense is experiencing some growing pains, to put it kindly.

But the Duck’s early-season concerns don’t begin and end on the defensive side of the ball. To some, Oregon’s quarterback situation is still in question. A battered Vernon Adams or low-ceiling Jeff Lockie? The bevy of options under center isn’t so reassuring.

Still, these are the Oregon Ducks after all. Death, taxes, and the Oregon offense putting up mass quantities on the scoreboard are all guarantees. And even though Marcus Mariota is long gone, the Ducks still have more firepower in their arsenal than any other Pac-12 team.

With the likes of Royce Freeman, Byron Marshall, Charles Nelson, Bralon Addison, Dwayne Stanford, and Devon Allen at the skilled positions, perhaps the Oregon defense doesn’t need to resemble Alabama’s. But the product showcased in the first three weeks of the season is unacceptable for a program with playoff hopes.

Oregon has long embraced the bend, don’t break mentality, so don’t expect the Ducks to deploy a fearsome defense any time soon. For better or worse, the Oregon Duck’s season rests on the shoulders of its renowned uptempo offense.

After the loss to Arizona in 2014, the margin for error was reduced to zero. With an early season loss to Michigan State, the same scenario is in place. If Oregon wants a place among the final four at season’s end, they will need to go 9-0.

Of course, the most important game comes this Saturday at Autzen Stadium against the 18th ranked Utah Utes. Oregon’s loss to Arizona in 2014 proved to be a vital lesson the Ducks carried with them forward. While Oregon’s loss to Michigan State still lingers, whether the Ducks can learn from its costly mistakes in that game could decide the fate of Oregon’s season.

Currently, the one-loss Ducks sit outside the top ten in rankings. To get back to the National Championship, they will need to be perfect.

Oregon has been in this situation before.