Jeremiah Masoli, Ed Dickson Power Ducks Upset over #6 Cal

Apparently, all Oregon needed to turn their sluggish offense around was just another set of new uniforms, and Uncle Phil was more than happy to oblige. The University of Oregon legend even went so far as to put a radar on Ed Dickson’s number 83 for Jeremiah Masoli. Jeremiah, you remember your teammate Ed, right? Boy, did he ever.

I guess 8,000 uniform combo's weren't enough. And hey, one more never hurt.

I guess 8,000 uniform combo's weren't enough. And hey, one more never hurt.

After forgetting that he had one of the nation’s top tight ends at his disposal during the first three games (4 receptions for 58 yards), Masoli quickly made up for lost time, looking for Dickson early and often, connecting 11 times for 148 yards and three scores, spelling a disastrous 42-3 defeat for a No. 6 California Golden Bears team that was clearly not prepared to deal with the raucous environment at Autzen Stadium.

With non-conference play leaving much to be desired from the Ducks offense, as well as several pundits questioning themselves for picking Masoli as a dark horse Heisman candidate, Oregon needed to make a statement that they were still the same high-flying offensive attack that earned them a 42-31 drubbing of Oklahoma State in last year’s Holiday Bowl. And man oh man, what a statement they made.

After a fumble on the opening kickoff (again Walter, really?) and a three and out, which brought all sorts of “here we go again” face palms from the student section, the defense stepped up and held Cal to a field goal and a punt; a major win, considering the short distance between dangerous Jahvid Best and the end zone.

The energy the defense displayed on those stops must have translated to the offense, because on Oregon’s next series, the Ducks walked on to the field with an aura of confidence, a swagger even, that they didn’t show at all during their first three games.

Looking much more comfortable in the pocket, Masoli calmly checked his reads and accurately hit Jeffrey Maehl and D.J. Davis on screen passes for back-to-back first downs.

With speedy LaMichael James and a stable of other capable backs imposing the threat of the run, the Oregon offense finally was able to move the ball at will. Although the drive ultimately ended in a tying-field goal, that was all the confidence the Ducks needed for the offense to finally get in a rhythm.

Instead of locking into a single receiver even before the snap and forcing throws to covered receivers, Masoli patiently waited in the pocket and took what the defense gave him, which was a plethora of screens, short throws over the middle on drag routes, and designed roll-outs that found the seams in Cal’s usually stingy defense. The result? 524 yards and a 42 spot on the scoreboard.

The defense, who were once again without T.J. Ward and Walter Thurmond (who was injured on the opening kick-off), did a masterful job of containing Best, thanks in part to a series of drops by Cal receivers that must have damaged quarterback Kevin Riley’s confidence in the passing game, because Riley, who was visibly flustered by most likely the loudest crowd he had ever faced, continuously missed open receivers, allowing the Ducks stack eight in the box which let Oregon hold Best to just 55 yards on 18 carries.

Masoli finished an efficient 21-25 for 253 yards and three touchdowns, James contributed his second straight 100-yard game, ending with 118 and a score, and Remene Alston, Kenjon Barner, Andre Crenshaw and Masoli combined to add over another century mark to the rushing total.

The defense added four sacks, numerous pass break-ups and allowed just 207 total yards to a Cal offense that had averaged just less than 500 yards in each of their first three contests.

With the confidence of today’s huge win and noticeable improvements in each game, Oregon finally seems to have hit their stride at just the right time, knocking off back-to-back ranked opponents for the first time in the Chip Kelly era.

In college football, when you lose is almost more important than who you lose to, and in a month, voters will look back at the Boise State game as simply an 11-point loss on the road to an undefeated Bronco squad who were playing for their season. And even though it was a horrific game, that really doesn’t sound too bad.

So with the defense looking frighteningly legitimate and the offense re-finding their high-flying form, the Ducks have the early edge on the Pac 10 and a serious chance to sneak their way back into the BCS mix.

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Boise State Shows Oregon The Importance of Scheduling

It’s easy to look back after the fact and play armchair GM. You hear it all the time from fans: “coach X needs to grow a pair, he should have went for it on 4th down!” or “he shouldn’t have tried to steal second base in that situation, what an idiot.” But those are the types of plays where if you make it, you’re a genius, and if you don’t, well, you get the picture. After all, hindsight is called 20/20 for a reason.

That blue on blue combination is completly unfair. Yea, I'm bitter. You wanna fight about it?

That blue on blue combination is completely unfair. Yea, I'm bitter. You wanna fight about it?

But there are some instances so apparent, so obvious, that even before something goes wrong, you just know it’s going to happen. And when it does, all you can do is just cover your face with your hands and painfully watch through the cracks in-between your fingers, like watching a replay of car accident in slow motion, over and over again.

What am I referring to? No, it wasn’t the Legarrette Blount punch, or Jeremiah Masoli’s mountain of sucktidude on Saturday against Utah. It was scheduling the first game of the season on the road against Boise State.

Let me break it down. Coming into the season, Oregon wasn’t really a model for stability and constancy. Unlike Florida, who returned all 11 starters on defense, their Heisman-winning quarterback, and a head coach who has a vice grip on the title of “best football coach east of USC”, Oregon faced a lot of questions marks.

How fluidly will Chip Kelly take over the reins from the Mike Bellotti era? Will Masoli play like the superstar he was against Oregon State and Oklahoma State or will he produce stinkers like the Cal game? How will the Ducks handle the losses of Patrick Chung, Jairus Byrd, Nick Reed and Ra’shon Harris on defense and the departures of Max Unger, Fenuki Tupou and Jeremiah Johnson on the offense? That’s a whole lot of turnover to deal with over one offseason. And despite all that, Oregon was hyping themselves up as a Pac 10 contender and BCS title sleeper. That’s a lot of pressure.

So in a season with so many unknowns, they scheduled Boise State, a team desperate for a major non-conference win, in their first game on the road, in a stadium that can unflap even the most unflappable. Doesn’t sound good.

Yes, when they scheduled this game several years ago, they might not have known how much turnover they would be dealing with this season. But last year, when the Broncos traveled to Eugene to face the Ducks – in a very similar situation (new quarterback, a raucous stadium notorious for its effect on the opponents), Boise State didn’t have to play Oregon until their third game of the season, conveniently scheduling tune-up games against Idaho State and Bowling Green to work out all the kinks before playing a powerhouse like the Ducks. And what do you know, it worked out.

So the unproven Ducks go into Boise that Thursday night, in front of a nationally televised audience no less, to play a team who has a home record of 64-2 since 1999 and playing for their BCS life. That’s a dangerous combination.

Playing in a non-BCS conference, where even if they go undefeated, they still aren’t guaranteed a BCS bowl berth, a win against a team like Oregon was absolutely necessary, as a loss would make pundits say, “if they can’t beat Oregon, they have no chance against Texas or Florida.” And Boise State played like it.

But luckily for Chip Kelly and the Ducks, and the fate of their 2009 campaign, even with a loss in the opener, a Rose Bowl appearance still hangs in the balance. So in order for Oregon to have a chance in the Pac 10, they must put the loss to Boise State completely behind them and focus solely on the task at hand, the #6 California Golden Bears. Oh my.