There is a certain pain that goes along with the unmet expectations of irrational exuberance. When Willie Taggart arrived in Eugene to frozen roads, but a warm reception, he said all the right things. He went on the recruiting trail and (mostly) did all the right things.
The game exposes where you are.
Through the first five games – even a loss on the road at Arizona State – there was noticeable progress on both sides of the ball. Fans began to see the future as more immediate than once thought; but those visions were distorted which became obvious following Justin Herbert’s injury.
The Good: How on earth can there be good to that 49-7 debacle? A couple of notes. Despite playing banged up, Royce Freeman was every bit as explosive as Bryce Love. It would have been interesting to watch the kind of monster game both would have put up had the teams both been at full strength; it could have been a truly epic battle between two contrasting running backs. As it is, Freeman had a spectacular night which is bound to go unnoticed by anyone outside of the Oregon program.
I thought the other good was the offensive line. After significant struggles in every phase of their job against the Cougars a week ago, the group did a pretty good job of opening holes and protecting the quarterback.
In addition, I thought the defense did a pretty good job of making adjustments to their game plan after Love's explosive start. He opened with five carries for 115 yards, but the Ducks limited him to 32 yards on his next 13 carries.
The Bad: Penalties once again tell a big story. This team still lacks discipline. Though some penalties are those of effort or desperation, there were still too many where it was just a lack of on field discipline. Those things must change if this team is going to turn the corner. I don't expect much from the first year of a rebuild, but there needs to be that sign of progress in discipline.
The Ugly: The passing game was one of the worst I have seen since the 2007 loss to UCLA. Braxton Burmeister seemed to regress from the standpoint of confidence. he looked afraid to pull the trigger early and when he did pull the trigger, he was too locked on to a primary receiver to be an effective quarterback.
When Alie came in, his first pitch was a curveball in the dirt. Neither looked very capable last night of doing much. It made the performance of the rushing attack that much more impressive to gain that kind of real estate when Stanford absolutely knew what was coming.
This was perhaps the ugliest game Oregon has played offensively since the 16-0 loss to UCLA in 2007 – a season in which the Ducks played five scholarship quarterbacks. But at least they had five scholarship quarterbacks.
The departures of Terry Wilson and Travis Jonsen sapped the Duck roster of any semblance of depth leaving former walk-on Taylor Alie, true freshman Burmeister and another current walk on Mike Irwin behind Justin Herbert. It would be too much to ask of just about any team to expect much from that group of backups.
It’s easy to blame the predecessors of the current staff for the lack of depth – except that there was depth. When new coaches come into a program looking to reinvigorate the things from the ground up, there will always be attrition. Players in that situation leave. It is easy to lament the loss of those players, but it is the price a team in disarray must pay to get back to their target. To continue down the road of mediocrity was not an option.
What most considered to be a rebuilding year always was; it just looked more exciting than that reality early this season. Maybe if Justin Herbert had not been injured, there would still be the fool’s gold on the field. But this lack of quality depth and significant change in this team was going to be exposed one way or another during this stretch of Pac-12 play. Herbert’s absence just accelerated the obvious truth.