It’s official: Oregon’s offense is back and flying higher than ever. Which means the Ducks are the team to beat in the Pac-10, and even more importantly, they have forced their way firmly back into the BCS picture.
Fresh off of a 39-point thrashing over then ranked-No. 6 Cal, Oregon completely obliterated Washington State 52-6 Saturday night, making the Cougars look eerily similar to the team from “The Waterboy” before stutterin’ Bobby Boucher arrived to save the day.
After an initial scare on the opening kickoff (again), the Ducks were all business, completely outclassing a defenseless Cougar sqaud who couldn’t help but watch as the Oregon offense moved the ball at will, compiling 505 yards of total offense.
Jeremiah Masoli kept the Washington State defense guessing as he executed Chip Kelly’s spread-offense to perfection, completing 14 of his 18 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.
He added 56 yards and a score on the ground, before giving way to Nate Costa midway through the second quarter leading 35-0.
With the Ducks’ offensive line constantly creating holes larger than Phil Knight’s safety deposit box, the talented stable of running backs couldn’t help but have a field day. And I mean everybody.
LaMichael James, Remene Alston, Masoli, Andre Crenshaw, Kenjon Barner, Costa, and even Jide Shinaba all were effective carrying the ball.
Five different players found the end zone as Oregon rushed for 316 yards on 60 carries, averaging just under six yards per rush.
As impressive as the Ducks offense was, the defense was even better. The unit allowed only 139 toal yards, with much of that coming in garbage time.
They forced nine punts, recorded four sacks, came up with two interceptions and did their best to keep Washington State off the scoreboard entirely.
So putrid was Washington State’s offense, that they fumbled the ball on their only play that went longer than 12 yards.
The Cougars only touchdown came after Scott Brady called for a fair catch and muffed the punt at his own 2-yard line. And even then, it took Washington State three tries to get in.
“We wanted the shutout real bad,” rover Javes Lewis said. “But in this type of game, it doesn’t really matter.”
After a hectic week dealing with both on and off the field issues, the Ducks had reason to let down.
Two days prior, the possibility of a LeGarrette Blount reinstatement came about. And at the beginning of the week, they learned that cornerback and team captain Walter Thurmond would be lost for the season.
But the Ducks quickly suppressed any chance of a letdown by scoring touchdowns on six of their first seven drives.
“Our letdown was Week One,” Lewis said, referring to the 19-8 loss at Boise State that precipitated Blount’s infamous outburst. “You learn your lessons through pain, and we had a lot of pain that game.”
Despite being written off by the voters following that demoralizing loss on the Smurf Turf, the Ducks have steadily improved each game.
After squeaking past Purdue, the defense shut down a Utah team that carried with them the nation’s longest undefeated streak. And then last week, the offense came alive as well, when the Ducks put together a nearly perfect game against Cal.
Oregon couldn’t have picked a better time to hit full steam, because they are entering the make-or-break portion of their schedule next week. They travel to UCLA to face the Bruins, followed by Washington, USC, and Stanford.
In the past, the Ducks have been known to crumple under the pressure of lofty expectations, but this year is different. Why? They are armed with a weapon they have never had before: a shutdown defense.
So now, sitting undefeated atop the Pac-10, and climbing their way back up in the polls, Oregon has once again returned as a team to watch in the BCS…and this time, not just because of their uniforms.