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The Green and Yellow Outshine the Green and White

Craig Strobeck

EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon looked to continue its five-game winning streak on Saturday against the North Dakota Bison.  The Ducks had competed their hearts out on Friday with a dominating win against Pacific, which meant that the bench needed to contribute on Saturday to help alleviate the stress and fatigue of the starters.

That’s exactly what happened, as Dana Altman decided to make substitutions after just the first three minutes of the half.  With Altman making substitutions left and right, the Ducks were able to stay fresh and apply constant pressure on North Dakota, allowing them to score only five points in the first six and a half minutes of the half.

Oregon big-men dominating the inside.

Oregon big men dominating the inside.

With Oregon applying a zone press, North Dakota struggled with getting the ball down the court early, which led to an early lead for the Ducks.  The Ducks, who have struggled with rebounding all year, were able to take advantage of their smaller and slower opponents, outrebounding them in the first half, 24-15.  Oregon’s Joseph Young was able to attack the man-to-man defense, and explode for 17 points in just the first half.  The Ducks also got a lot of fast break points off of their defensive rebounds, which allowed them to open a large lead going into the half.

The Ducks shot a credible 56% from the field to North Dakota’s 35%, and dominated the Green and White with 32 points in the paint, compared to North Dakota’s 20.  Oregon was up 49-32 at the half, and continued the first-half game plan in the second period, applying a 2-3 zone and continuing the full-court press.  Oregon’s bench chipped in, with three Ducks scoring in double figures.

Moser making his presence known

Moser making his presence known.

North Dakota caught onto Oregon’s game plan and attacked Oregon’s press by running it down the middle, as opposed to their first-half tactics of moving the ball down the sidelines, which is a much more difficult approach to breaking a press.  Led by Troy Huff’s 25 points,  North Dakota continued hanging in the game, always maintaining just enough contact on the scoreboard that led to the Ducks effort to stay alert.  The Ducks ended up taking this one 91-76, in a blowout.

Oregon definitely worked on their weaknesses in this one, outrebounding this team, 43-26.  Altman utilized a two power forward lineup after realizing Waverly Austin may not have been the right player for the beginning of the game.  Moser and Armadi used their athleticism and length to abuse North Dakota’s posts on the boards and light up the scoreboard.

Although the Ducks have been fairly good holding onto the ball this year, they committed 20 turnovers tonight, which is the big reason North Dakota was able to stick around in this one.  The Ducks seem to always have one category they aren’t as good in, which allows the opponent to hang long enough to make it a game.  Once the Ducks can push themselves to staying disciplined on the boards and taking care of the ball, this team will be ready to compete with the big boys.  As of now, each game is just a stepping stone toward becoming a dominant squad in the Pac-12.

Oregon will take on Cal Poly on Sunday at 7 pm, striving to improve one step at a time.

The Hunger Games: Oregon Transfers Play to Win

Steve Francis

When it comes to college basketball, most fans focus on star power and the celebrity of a team.  Several NBA franchises are even suspected of “tanking” their seasons to increase their chances of drafting incoming stars who have only played a small handful of college-level games.  Every year, sports analysts and wannabe sports analysts (ahem, my friends) gather around the television set or radio to sit in awe of the Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas teams of the world.

But what about the teams that don’t have Andrew Wiggins or Julius Randle?  What about the teams that utilize fundamentals and team ball for the greater good?  For Oregon men’s basketball, it is more about their plan than who they are.

Oregon’s early success can be credited to a number of factors, but the observant fan can see the impact the team’s tenacious transfers have had.  Dana Altman is renowned for his peculiar recruiting, often with an emphasis on nontraditional recruits like junior college transfers, but this year is special.  Dana Altman has managed to compile an entire team so hungry that they are practically starving.  The first four games alone show that the men on this year’s team – especially standout transfers like Joseph Young and Mike Moser – are playing to win the game.

Standout transfer Joseph Young

Standout transfer Joseph Young

By saying that the Oregon transfers are hungry, I don’t mean that their Thanksgiving dinners came up short.  I mean hungry in the sports sense – a team or player that really, really wants to win.  The common viewer might think that every competitor always wants to win, and most competitors will agree, but that simply isn’t true.  Year after year we can see players that lollygag their way around the court or field, giving minimal effort in an attempt to accomplish whatever they can.

Go watch an Oregon’s men’s basketball game! These guys play to win, and if they don’t win, they will have exerted blood, sweat and tears trying. Don’t ask me.  Don’t ask Dana Altman.  Just look at the figures or analyze it for yourself.  Although hunger isn’t exactly measureable, we can look at the top five secondary effects of Altman’s genius in gathering the nation’s top transfers.

1) The Stretch Four

In basketball, there’s a highly-coveted position gaining increasing national attention – the stretch four.  The stretch four is a power forward, or four-spot, than can sufficiently handle the regular duties of a power forward such as rebounding and playing big alongside the center, while also stretching the floor.  By stretching the floor we mean that the stretch four is able to hit at a high mark from fifteen feet and beyond. Former UNLV star transfer Mike Moser does exactly this as he is shooting around 40% from the arc. When the stretch four, or Mike Moser, poses a threat on the outside it gives the post and penetrating players more room to make plays.  Altman excels because he realizes this effect and plays off of it.  Moser starts at that four spot but hardly any opposing fours are capable of limiting both his inside and outside prowess.

Mike Moser showing his versatility

Mike Moser showing his versatility.

2) Shooters

Along with the four being able to shoot, the rest of the team can shoot as well. My father always told me that teams will always need a defender and a shooter; Oregon has the latter.  This is obvious after just minutes of watching Jason Calliste or Joseph Young, both transfers, but even in Abdul-Bassit’s limited minutes this season, we can see that ability in him as well. Altman’s shooters, again, space the floor while making the opponent constantly fear over-helping.

3) Depth

With these many gifted players, it’s potentially difficult to find minutes for everyone, but Altman has practically extended his starting lineup to eight pkayers by giving heavy minutes to transfers Calliste, Elgin Cook, and Richard Amardi.  This makes for a deep and diverse basketball team.  Altman can quickly plug in different players for different situations, which works to keep the opponent on their toes and maintain a high energy level for his guys.

4) Experience

Arguably the most identifiable trait of basketball transfers is their experience. Experience in basketball is highly important and non-trainable; it comes with court time.  We see this on our team in three ways.  First, we often get to the free throw line.  Some of the transfers like Young, Calliste, and Cook excel at penetrating and making contact in a way that forces the referee blow the whistle.  It is obvious why we like this: free throws are easy money.  Second, experienced ballers know how to move the rock.  From watching Oregon this year, we might see efficient point guard Johnathan Loyd swing the ball four or five times before a shot goes up.  This doesn’t slow down the offense by any means, but what it does do is allow for the best shot instead of the first shot.  Lastly, these transfers know how to close out a game.  No matter how shaky the start might be, experience keeps the players calm so they can end the show with emphasis. Oregon has been giving out so-so first halves but crushes teams in the second.  Altman is fully utilizing his team’s experience by starting three transfers and consistently bringing three off the bench.

Elgin Cook at the line

Elgin Cook at the line.

5) Joseph Young

It would be heart-breaking for me to talk about our transfers without mention Joseph Young. Young is leading the team in both minutes and points, and the kid can flat-out hoop.  Exhibiting the coveted triple threat, Young can shoot, drive or kick it out to teammates, if need be.  Young played well at Houston last year but he is bringing star power to the Ducks that we haven’t seen in years past.

So with all these transfers playing well, we have to wonder what will happen to the other guys.  Although Loyd and Damyean Dotson have been starting, their presence is being a little over-shadowed by the new players.  More importantly, what will happen to everyone’s minutes when standout guard Dominic Artis returns?  Will Ben Carter or Arik Armstead get time when they can play?  These are some of the questions Dana Altman will have to answer in the near future, but we should feel confident and excited to see it all play out.

Indeed, Oregon basketball games have become hunger games, where the players play to win.  Why they are so hungry for success I can’t tell you, but Altman seems to know it when he sees it.  He continues to bring in these guys who want to play his style of basketball and succeed in doing so.  Also, their hunger seems to trickle down to the other players.  In fact, the entire team looks like they are always giving their all, and that is all we can really ask for.  Maybe the transfers are hungry because this is their chance to prove they can play in the Pac-12 conference?  Maybe they’re hungry because Altman inspires them to be?  Whatever the case, now that the regular football season is over, it’s time to sit back and let the games begin.

Ducks Scare Away the Tigers

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Photos by Craig Strobeck

Eugene, OR.-  The undefeated Pacific Tigers matched up on Friday against the Ducks. This contest was Oregon’s first of three battles in the Global Sports Hardwood Challenge.  Hosted in Eugene, the Challenge should test the Ducks’ mental toughness and bench depth, as it will surely be a long weekend for the No. 14 team in the country.

The Ducks came into Friday’s game with their heads high after a dominating win against USF last Sunday. The biggest priority for Oregon is establishing good team chemistry, as the Ducks are composed primarily 0f transfers still becoming accustomed to one another’s styles of play.  Although it can be frustrating establishing that chemistry, it is encouraging to note that the only thing that can beat Oregon at this point is, well . . . Oregon!  They have the talent and coaching, and now Dana Altman’s goal is putting it all together.

Coach Altman thinking up motivational halftime speech to motivate turkey-filled Ducks

In Oregon’s first game of the Hardwood Challenge against the Pacific Tigers, the Ducks came out the same way they did in the first half of the USF game. They were caught out of position on defense, were dominated on the glass (25-15 in the first half), and shot a poor 54% from the line and 25% from three-point range.  The Tigers put up nine offensive rebounds and shot 42% from three.  It was clear the Ducks had a little too much stuffing on Thanksgiving, because they simply looked slow, sloppy and lethargic.  Both teams turned the ball over, but Oregon’s early turnovers led to transition points by the Tigers, killing Oregon’s momentum.  The result — the Ducks were down 36-29 at the half.

On defense, the Tigers played a 3-2 zone to Oregon’s early man-to-man, which quickly turned into a zone, to match the Tigers style of play.  Although the Ducks did move the ball around well, they couldn’t convert on their opportunities.  Meanwhile, the Tigers popped threes all in the Ducks’ faces on lazy close-outs.  Coach Altman understood in order to start scoring against the Tigers’ zone, they needed to attack Pacific’s zone gaps by dribble penetration, finding players open either under the basket or kicking the ball back out to perimeter shooters.  Dana Altman turned to a three-guard lineup (Loyd, Calliste, and Young), hoping they would be able to create opportunities for one another.

Young leads comeback in 2nd half

For such a talented offensive team, 29 points in a half is unacceptable to Coach Altman.  With Mike Moser being the only scorer in double digits at the half, the intensity had to pick up quickly.  The Ducks did just that, and within the first few minutes of the second half, they hounded the Tigers and made them their prey.  The Ducks moved much better on defense, switching back into their man-to-man to stop the three-point feeding frenzy that the Tigers had become accustomed to in the first half.  Oregon began to steal, block, and close-out much better in the second half, which led to fast break points.  Joseph Young began the come back with a three pointer and two incredible acrobatic lay-ups, assisting the Ducks in an early 16-0 run and pushing the lead to 45-36.  Pacific went cold for the remainder of the game, shooting just 36% overall to the Ducks 56%.

Calliste running the show as the leading scorer off the bench

Jonathan Loyd led the attack with 13 assists on the game.  His quarterback- like vision on the court created opportunities for teammates, as four Ducks ended up scoring in double digits, led by Moser’s 19 points.  Dotson quetly had a nice game with 13 points on 5-5 shooting, and Calliste came off the bench to contribute another 15.  Oregon will need to continue to get solid contributions from their bench this weekend, simply because the starters cannot carry the load every game.  By the middle of the second half, it was pretty obvious the Ducks had this one put away, as they went into cruise control and finished the game with a score of 85-62.

As this season continues, Oregon will have to address their issues on the boards.  It will not be possible for this team to continue dominating opponents without stronger rebounding.  Their increased attention to detail on the defensive glass will be key, since teams will only continue to get bigger and stronger as the season goes forward.

Oregon will continue to improve on their incredible potential in Saturday’s matchup at 3:30 pm against North Dakota.

An Emotional Civil War Victory Marks the Beginning of an Era

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photos by Kevin Cline

In five years, the previous decade of Oregon football may end up being remembered as two separate eras: before and after the Arizona game of 2013.

Some would say that opening sentence is nonsense, arguing that the latter era began once Mark Helfrich became the head coach. I would respond by suggesting that for this first time this year, the Oregon football team truly belonged to Mark Helfrich. After a great start to a season that had Duck fans and players alike dreaming of a national championship, the Stanford loss hurt. But it was understandable. After all, Stanford is a great team who just last year, against a Chip Kelly coached Oregon team, beat the Ducks in equally devastating fashion.

The game couldn't have started much better after an Ekpre-Olomu int

Last week’s loss to Arizona, however, was different. It was worse than any loss under Kelly. For the first time this year, people wondered aloud whether Helfrich was the right guy for the job. For better or worse, Kelly’s name had been removed from the program’s performance and future outlook. The Mark Helfrich era officially began on Friday night. It might not have been the start that Duck fans were hoping for, but it was significant nonetheless.

The game started in ideal fashion for Oregon. After an Ifo Ekpre-Olomu interception in the endzone to end Oregon State’s opening drive, Oregon marched down the field and scored an easy touchdown. Thomas Tyner rushed for 53 yards and DeAnthony Thomas punched it in for six.

On the next Beavers possession, it looked like Oregon would run away with the game. The Ducks’ recently-maligned defensive line looked dominant and forced a punt. Oregon effortlessly marched down the field, scoring a touchdown on a 13-yard Thomas Tyner run.

Tyner had a great game, finishing with 153 yards rushing

At 14-0, it looked like things would get out of hand quickly. Unfortunately for the Ducks, that’s not how things played out. After another defensive stop, Bralon Addison muffed a punt, and the Beavers recovered, giving their offense great field position. The defense came up big yet again, forcing a field goal attempt, but a Dior Mathis running-into-the-kicker penalty negated the ensuing miss. The Beavers took advantage, scoring a crucial touchdown to keep the game within reach.

Oregon marched right back down the field, but all-too-familiar red-zone struggles kept the ball out of the end-zone as Helfrich opted to kick a field goal on 4th-and-goal from the two yard line. The Beavers answered with a field goal of their own, bringing the score to 17-10.

Mariota had 285 yards passing and 3 touchdowns

On the next possession, a Mariota interception in Oregon territory gave the Beavers a chance to take control of the game, and they almost did. An odd play that initially looked like an OSU touchdown pass was ultimately ruled a fumble and touchback after review, giving the Ducks a break they desperately needed. With plenty of time on the clock before the half, Oregon attempted to march down the field, but another Mariota interception gave the Beavers the ball near Oregon’s 30-yard-line for the second time in as many drives. They took full advantage this time, scoring a touchdown and bringing the game to a 17-17 tie heading into the half.

The momentum Oregon State had at the end of the 2nd quarter carried over into the third. After an Oregon turnover on downs to start the half, the Beavers, starting a drive in Oregon territory for the 4th time, converted a long field goal to take a 20-17 lead.

The Ducks answered with a deep Mariota touchdown pass to Josh Huff. Oregon State marched down the field again, but was ultimately stopped on 4th-and-1 from Oregon’s 4-yard line. Oregon failed to take control of the game and gave the ball back to the Beavers, who put three more points on the board behind a 3rd Trevor Romaine field goal.

It was hard to breathe if you were a Duck fan

At 24-23, a De’Anthony Thomas kickoff return and two nice runs had the Duck’s offense humming. However, Mariota missed a wide open Pharaoh Brown for a would-be touchdown, and Wogan ended up yanking a FG attempt to the left to end the drive. Oregon State answered decisively with a methodical touchdown drive. A failed two-point conversion put the Beavers ahead 29-24 with 11:00 left in the 4th quarter.

Oregon answered with a touchdown drive of their own thanks to a gutsy performance by Josh Huff, who caught his 2nd touchdown of the game on a critical 4th-and-11 throw from Mariota. A failed two-point conversion kept Oregon State within one, 30-29.

The teams then traded poor drives before Oregon State went down the field with ease, scoring on a beautiful end-around touchdown run with a minute in a half to go in the game. Oregon took over from their own 17 down 35-30. Their final drive of the game isn’t one that’ll be soon forgotten.

In a palpably high-pressure situation, Oregon’s stars shone bright. Mariota, in what he called “the best drive of [his] career,” made beautiful throws to Daryle Hawkins and Bralon Addison to start the drive, putting Oregon in position to score.

Josh Huff hauls in one of his three TD catches

The pressure was so heavy that it felt like all oxygen had been sucked from the stadium. Finally, on 3rd down from the 20-yard line, Mariota threw it up in Josh Huff’s direction, in what he would later call “a really bad pass.” Huff leaped into the air, reached behind him and clutching the ball with 10 white knuckles, brought down the game-winning touchdown.

Oxygen descended back down into Autzen as it erupted with joy.

With 23 seconds on the clock, Oregon kept the Beavers at bay, winning 36-35. In a game that was far from perfect, Oregon found a way to get it done. After an embarrassing loss to Arizona last week, the worst since before this era began, it was hard not to wonder if Oregon’s half-decade among the nation’s elite was over.

An one-point victory over a struggling Beavers team doesn’t change the question, but if getting the job done is the Hallmark of the post-Arizona era, Oregon fans have a lot to look forward to.

RANDOM GAME NOTES

Josh Huff is a Civil War hero

Both teams made a lot of costly mistakes. This game could have been very different for either.
You have to feel good for Josh Huff. Say what you want, that guy is a warrior who loves the game. His teammates love him for a reason. On senior night, with the best game of his career and the game-winning touchdown catch; that’s just a great story. He ended up with 9 receptions for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns. What a great performance.

Huff said that on the 4th-and-11 touchdown catch, the route called for him to run a post but he cut it off short because he knew Marcus was in trouble. That was a pretty good decision, eh?
Those with questions about the play-calling probably won’t change their tune after this game. I’ll just leave it at that.

Their were times when this offense was unrecognizable. Luckily, they did just enough.

Will the dominance continue under Helfrich?

Coming into the game, Oregon State was ranked 122nd out of 125 FBS teams rushing the ball. Tonight, they looked like Alabama. They ended up with 259 yards rushing (not including sack totals).

I noticed some people questioning whether Mariota was injured because of some of the throws he made; no way. He had a couple throws tonight that were absolutely ridiculous. One that sticks out came in the 3rd quarter when he was rolling to his life and fired a stripe to Daryle Hawkins near the sideline. Incredible throw. He had 5-6 of those. Say what you want to make yourself think he’ll stay another year, but Mariota will be a top-10 pick in the 2014 NFL draft if he chooses to leave. I would bet my house on that.

The decision to go for it on 4th-and-11 shouldn’t be overlooked. Many coaches would’ve attempted a field goal there. Helfrich absolutely made the right call, and I said as much before the success of the play. It wouldn’t have been right to put that kind of pressure on Wogan, particularly after the previous miss and the way the Beavers were moving the ball.

There are big things ahead for Thomas Tyner

Thomas Tyner had 83 yards and a touchdown in the 1st quarter. He had a couple of runs that really showed how special he could end up being. The 3rd-and-13 first down run in particular looked like he was shot out of a cannon. Given how much Byron Marshall improved between years one and two, it’s exciting to think about what Tyner will look like next season. He had 83 yards and touchdown in the first quarter alone.

Finally, a note about the Oregon faithful. The crowd went absolutely bananas after the Josh Huff touchdown. It was so nice to hear Autzen erupt like that. For as excruciating as this game was to watch at times, it was almost worth it because of that reaction. Everyone was jumping and/or dancing around for at least two minutes. Awesome atmosphere. Autzen hasn’t lost it folks; the Ducks just haven’t played many close games recently.

From the Oregon State Locker Room: Beavers Upbeat Despite Loss

Kevin Cline

After beginning the season ranked in the Top 25 and coming off a 2012 season where they won nine games, expectations were high for the Oregon State Beavers this season, or least the hope was for more than six wins.  Bookended around those six wins were an embarrassing season-opening loss to FCS school Eastern Washington and a regular season-ending five-game losing streak, punctuated by a loss to their bitter rival in the closest Civil War in over thirty years.

Following that loss, I expected to find an Oregon State locker room hanging its heads, only to find that the team, while disappointed, inspired by its performance despite the loss.  Oregon State head coach Mike Riley seemed echoed the team’s sentiment of wanting to improve following an embarrassing loss in their home finale last Saturday against Washington.

“From where we came from last Saturday until Friday night was a long way, which is a good thing,” he said.  “They can be very proud of the fact that they competed like crazy tonight.  They made a lot of plays on both sides of the ball, as did Oregon.”

“We just left a little too much time on the clock.”

OSU rush for 231 yards in Friday's game

OSU rushed for 231 yards in Friday’s game

While Riley was candid in stating his attempts to keep the ball away from Oregon, “we were already starting to burn the clock down,” he admitted, it was not a sentiment shared by Beaver senior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds.

When asked if there was too much time left on the clock, Reynolds said, “I have extreme confidence in our defense, I knew that we were going to go out there and make plays” adding, “I was confident our guys could get it done.”

Yet in a one-point loss, a few plays here or there make the difference.  When asked about the 4th-and-1 call from the Oregon five-yard line late in the third quarter when Oregon State failed to convert, Riley jokingly confided, “right now, I’d kick the field goal.”

Still, Oregon State’s coaches and players seemed upbeat despite the close loss.

“I told them, ‘now at least we can all look in the mirror, and you can look at each other and be proud,’” said Riley.

That’s not all that the Beavers are looking forward to doing.  As for whether Oregon State will play in a bowl game, Riley sounded confident that the Beavers still have a postseason contest remaining: “Oh, we should be [in a bowl game], there’s no doubt that somebody wants us.”  When asked if he would be surprised if the Beavers weren’t selected for a bowl game, Riley answered emphatically, “Absolutely.”

Ducks Dominate Dons

Steve Francis

EUGENE, OR.- The San Francisco Dons came into Matthew Knight Arena averaging 92 points per game on the season.  With such an explosive offense, Coach Altman understood that this matchup would challenge his players’ character and defensive discipline.  Oregon leads the Dons all-time with an overall record of 7-2, with USF’s last win against the Ducks in 1953.

The Don’s came into Sunday night’s game with their best game face they could possibly display to try to rattle the Ducks, but the mighty Ducks played their hearts out to come out victorious in a 100-82 blowout.

Oregon struggled in the first half, as their starting point guard Jonathan Lloyd tipped off the game with a quick two fouls that sent him to the bench, bringing in Jason Calliste to run the offense.  The Don’s came out strong; with their first two points coming off a back screen ally-oop dunk that definitely shook MTA and sent a message to the Ducks. Oregon quickly realized this one wasn’t going to be easy.

Mike Moser Putting The Team On His Back In The First Half

Mike Moser Putting The Team On His Back In The First Half

Oregon struggled to move the ball around in the first half with Lloyd out, but Forward Mike Moser and shooting sensation Joseph Young were still able to carry the Ducks thanks to their incredible one-on-one offensive capabilities.  Moser faced up on USF and shot 4-7 for 9 points, while Young did what he does best in dropping threes (2-3), and getting to the line. Damyean Dotson, who had been struggling this season finding his role on the team, finished the half with 7 points on 3-5 shooting.

Oregon shot 60% from three, and 52% overall in the first half, while the Don’s shot a poor 32% overall. The score at the half was 40-35 Oregon… Wait, what?  With the shooting numbers Oregon erupted for compared to USF’s they should have been up by at least twenty!  So what happened?  Oregon shot 4-11 at the line, compared to USF’s 8-10, and USF was also able to wrack up 9 offensive rebounds compared to Oregon’s 2.  When you give up offensive rebounds, it doesn’t matter if your team is shooting 100% to your opponents 30%, because second chance points will end up winning you the game.

The Ducks were looking to run in the beginning of the first half, and so were the Don’s.  However, neither team found success in the style of play, so they both slowed down to setting up their half court sets.  Oregon ran a man to man defense the entire game, while the Don’s started off with a 2-3 zone that after a quick three 3 pointers by the Ducks quickly turned into a man to man defense as well.

The Ducks Took It Strong To The Basket The Entire Night, Led By Elgin Cook

The Ducks Took It Strong To The Basket The Entire Night, Led By Elgin Cook

With Austin Waverly contributing minimally, coach Atlman gave forward Elgin Cook solid playing time off the bench that led to an outstanding performance, as he finished with 18 points and 6 rebounds on 5-8 shooting on the game.  After discussing their halftime weaknesses, the Ducks came out stronger than ever to compete with the Dons.   The Ducks continued to battle on the boards, as they ended up outrebounding USF 39-38 after being down 23-19 at halftime.

There’s no other way to say it other than, things simply started to click. Jason Calliste ran the offense for the majority of the game, and finished with 16 points, while Damyean Dotson finished with 17 and 6 boards.  Young had his lowest scoring game of the year with 12 points, but with the others playing well and carrying the load of the scoring, Young did what he had to do only when the team really needed it in the first half. Once everyone else got theirs, his night just became a walk in the park.

The Dons kept hanging around in the second half with a 14-point deficit for the majority of it.  You kept thinking the Don’s would come back at some point, but every time the Dons scored, Oregon would come back and score double what they did.  The Ducks ended up cruising to an 18 point lead by the end of it all, as the Duck’s athleticism and pure talent was just too much for USF to handle.

After the game, Damyean Dotson admitted in his postgame interview to putting too much pressure on himself to carry the load of the points as he said, “I just let the game come to me, the first couple of games I was forcing, worried about scoring, but tonight I just focused on defense and rebounding.”

Dotson Taking Things Into His Own Hands, Finding His Place On The Team

Dotson Taking Things Into His Own Hands, Finding His Place On The Team

When asked about the team in general, Coach Altman said, “ offensively we’re doing fine, my concern is defensively. We gave them 9 second chances… We’re not playing as a unit.  That’s my job to make that happen, and I’m not doing a very good job of doing that.”  The team is struggling to work cohesively on the court as well as they would want them to, specifically defensively.  As Altman said, “We’re not getting to our spots”, and that’s simply the truth.  The fact that USF was able to stay in the game shooting 32% while the Ducks were shooting incredibly well means that they’re playing well on one side of the ball, but not the other.

December is going to be a huge month for the Ducks, as they’re finally going to be able to focus solely on basketball once finals are over.  That’s the time the Ducks will be able to really improve their team chemistry, so they can play up to their potential like we’ve all been expecting.

 

The Winning Mindset

Attitude is everything.  And, while it was only two Ducks who expressed disappointment not being able to play in the National Championship, one has to wonder if that attitude has affected the rest of the team.

To many fans it was disheartening to hear Josh Huff and DeAnthony Thomas expressing their lackluster enthusiasm about a return to a Rose Bowl.  Both those players are in a leadership position with the Ducks, and with some healthy hindsight, perhaps it would have been better had they not said anything.  They should have known better.  Of course, the other players had to have heard the statements, and whether they agreed or not with their teammates, little good was going to come of expressing themselves in that manner.

Whether it was Karma, a reflection of an entitled attitude or some combination thereof, the Ducks watched all hopes of a return to either the Rose Bowl or any BCS game go down the drain.  Life is funny like that.  Often it seems that painful lessons come when they are most needed.  Oregon has yet to win a National Championship in football, yet the players and fans can act exceedingly arrogant at times, and yes, entitled.

Arizona has never been to the Rose Bowl before.  To many players on that team, it is as good as winning a National Championship.  It must have been a strong point of contention and motivation to hear the Ducks acting as if it was beneath them.  It’s guaranteed that Rich Rod and company made sure their players heard the quotes from Thomas and Huff plenty this week.  It was painfully obvious who the hungrier team was.

Heck, even the programs that have won the National Championship and the Rose Bowl — i.e. USC — would not turn their noses up at a return to Pasadena.  They would be thrilled, and they would treat it rightfully as the honor that it is.  Oregon’s leadership should have done the same.

Oregon does not look hungry right now.  They look like a team that believes the National Championship should be theirs simply because of past successes.

Jerry Glanville, former professional head coach, once said that the physical difference between the worst teams and the best in the NFL was minor, but that the difference in attitude was huge, and that can easily be applied to college football, as well.  The Ducks have the physical talent to compete with any team in Division I, but right now they don’t have the right mindset.

Until they do get it right, there will be no National Championship, no Pac-12 championship and no Rose Bowl. Nothing is given away in sports, no matter how talented the team.  Oregon is talented, but some of the most important members of the team are not acting like leaders, but like spoiled children who, when things don’t go their way, threaten to take their ball and go home.

The Rose Bowl may suddenly seem like a much nicer option now.

5 Reasons The Oregon Ducks Will Regroup and Win the Civil War

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If you grew up playing the original Nintendo system, you might be familiar with an old arcade game called Marble Madness.  ( We’re talking about the first Nintendo) You know the one: a directional pad, the shiny red A and B buttons, Select, and Start button.  A sleek five button controller like God intended.  This game would mesmerize kids with elaborate mazes players navigated to pass each level. When a highly skilled player would reach the later level called “Silly”, flashing text would scroll across the screen saying “EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG” and the levels and controls would be flipped, causing a number of broken controllers from adolescent gamer rage.

In Arizona this weekend most Duck fans streamed out of the stadium midway through the fourth quarter, but without the usual quick step in fans’ webbed feet convincing Oregon wins have produced so often the past five seasons. On November 23, 2013, everything they knew was wrong. Arizona fans jeered Oregon fans with “Quack quack” as they walked past, rubbing the salt just a bit deeper into the fresh wound. As a member of the media that day, I felt some relief that my responsibilities required clothing neutrality. Parts of me briefly no longer wanted to bleed green and yellow.

Photo: David Pyles Mariota saw one passing record go by the wayside on Saturday.

Photo: David Pyles
Mariota saw one passing record go by the wayside on Saturday.

The Cats clawed away at Oregon’s defense, picking up chunk yards all afternoon. For a second loss this year, Oregon missed run-stopping linebackers Michael Clay and likely NFL Rookie of the Year Kiko Alonzo. The simple formula to beat Oregon this year has been run, run, and run some more. That said, there is reason for hope in the final contest versus Oregon State. Here are five things to consider:

1. Autzen stadium – Although the season hasn’t gone according to plan, ripping off another ten win season can still be accomplished at home for Oregon against their little brother. Oregon is unbeaten at home this season, and the Autzen factor will account for a touchdown advantage in this final 2013 home game.

2. Senior Day – Everyone in the stands in Arizona could feel the emotion as they said goodbye to their seniors. That electricity helped propel the home team to one of the biggest upsets of the season. The Ducks will say goodbye to their graduating class in addition to several early departures to the NFL, so this will be the final home game for a number of key contributors to Oregon’s recent seasons of success.

Photo: Pyles The Civil War will likely be the final home game for De'Anthony Thomas.

Photo: Pyles The Civil War will likely be the final home game for De’Anthony Thomas.

3. Open auditions – It is this writer’s belief that given the inconsistency in certain position groups this season, this will be the final in-season game for players to show why they deserve to continue atop the depth charts heading into the bowl season and beyond. A healthy crop of red-shirts and college ready 2014 recruits will certainly challenge current players this spring, so this Civil War will provide critical in-game experience and additional player film.

4. A dismal running attack – The Oregon State rushing offense is ranked 120th in college football this season. With a lights out secondary for the Ducks and the Beavers propensity for throwing interceptions, this game could provide some much needed medicine for a defense who has struggled in recent weeks against run heavy offenses.

Photo: David Pyles The future is still very bright with Pharaoh Brown and Thomas Tyner.

Photo: David Pyles The future is still very bright with Pharaoh Brown and Thomas Tyner.

5. Pride – A number of emotional fans wearing their “we only care about now” badges on their twitter sleeves this weekend called for drastic changes for a 9-2 team. This is evidence that some fans, along with some players, have become entitled. This weekend will be a test of the mental makeup of the coaches and players. Adversity breeds character, and this will be a week Oregon will regain some of that much needed confidence.

Cats Upset No. 5 Oregon in the Desert

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photo by David Pyles

Coming into Saturday’s game, the Oregon Ducks had five straight wins against Arizona, including two on the road. Yesterday, Ka’Deem Carey and the Wildcats made sure that streak didn’t continue, as Arizona raced past No. 5 Oregon to pull off the upset, 42-16.

Photo by David Pyles - Fishduck.com

In Arizona’s biggest win in two decades, the Wildcats ended the Ducks’ national championship hopes and the right to play for a Pac-12 title.

The shock began right from the start, as Shaquille Richardson made a remarkable play on a tipped pass, throwing the ball back into the field of play, which allowed Scooby Wright to walk the tight rope along the sideline to the first interception against Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota this season.

Arizona quickly capitalized on the mistake with a 6-yard touchdown run by Carey, and that was pretty much the story of the day.

The Wildcat’s took advantage of numerous miscues by Oregon, behind a dominating performance on the offensive line and the legs of junior running back Carey, who was an absolute workhorse, rushing for 206 yards and four touchdowns on a school-record 48 carries.

Zona quatterback B.J. Denker was impeccable against the nation’s No. 5 team, going 19-22 through the air and two scores, while adding 102 yards on the ground.

The Ducks gave the Wildcats plenty of help as well, with three turnovers and twice more on downs, but undisciplined play also hindered them on both sides of the ball.  Every time the defense made a stop or the offense made a big play, it seemed to be followed with a costly yellow flag or a dropped pass.

Mariota threw for 308 yards and two scores, but added an uncharacteristic two interceptions to the stat line.  De’ Anthony Thomas (16 carries-83 yards) and Thomas Tyner (11 carries-53 yards) took most of the load in the backfield, after Byron Marshall went down with an ankle injury.

Oregon didn’t have a terrible game; they were just unable to get into rhythm and made a few too many mistakes.

They will need to fine-tune some things before next week’s game against the Oregon State Beavers, as the 117th Civil War game takes place in Autzen Stadium.

Inside The Arizona Wildcat Locker Room

David Pyles

The cool Saturday was clothed in dreary gray with uncharacteristically wet weather, and it only got drearier in Tuscan for the #5 Oregon Ducks. Although most in press row wondered aloud if Arizona had publicized the contest at all when the game kicked off, thousands of empty seats were quickly filled as news spread that the Wildcats were putting on a first quarter exhibition for their fans. It was an emotional senior day as Wildcat fans said goodbye to their all-time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns RB Ka’Deem Carey in his final home game. He rewarded them with a historical afternoon(48 carries, 208 yards, 4 TDs) against an Oregon defense considered among the PAC12′s top tier coming into the game. Carey said after the game: “Being raised here and born here, it means a lot. I put it on for this city. I can’t believe I took that many carries. I’m not the only one out there working, it is a together thing. When you walk into this building you see upsets on the wall. You see USC, you see Oregon from a couple years back. I can’t wait to see this game up there. It’s an honor to be mentioned (with Wildcat recordholders) with those guys. It’s a blessing for me.”

Photo: David Pyles Ka'Deem put up historic numbers against the Ducks.

Photo: David Pyles. Ka’Deem put up historic numbers against the Ducks.

Coming into the game, Arizona had lost two heartbreaking games at home in back to back weeks. Senior MLB Jake Fisher commented on today’s win, “We had lost two in a row, and that’s not acceptable. Three (games) that we had let get away. We were angry.” He felt the entire team chemistry was different today. “The offense was keeping us (the defense) off the field, and we were working in unison.”

Of the offensive strategy, head coach Rich Rodriguez spoke glowingly, “If we could keep getting first downs, we could keep our defense off the field…I didn’t know he (Carey) had 48 carries until after the game. I thought after that first quarter, I thought we would be alright. I felt control offensively, and that we were in good shape.” Coach Rodriguez believed the win was complete in all phases of play as well. “We tackled really well against a team that’s explosive. We rallied to the ball. I thought the defensive staff had a good plan,” he continued, “We don’t have the biggest, most physical defense, but they are starting to grasp what we are doing and did well today.”

Quarterback B.J. Denker was an unheralded player out of high school, but he played like a blue chip star on a national stage. “This is a crazy win for our program, players, for our coaching staff, for our seniors. I tried to do my job every play, play within myself and within the system. This was redemption after the Washington State game.” Denker added, “When we put it all together, we dominated them in all three phases. The third downs and red zone efficiencies were the key.”

Photo: David Pyles Ducks teammates couldn't rally in Tuscan.

Photo: David Pyles. Ducks teammates couldn’t rally in Tuscan.

Duck fans will remember a premature celebration in Tuscon from a zealous fan base in a previous year. Down on the field midway through the third quarter, Arizona safety officials were already working with ESPN producers on “safe zones” for players and reporters if the students storm the field. At the time, it again seemed as somewhat premature. As the fourth quarter progressed, it became apparent that this win would be a four quarter onslaught that would leave no doubt for fans from both sides. After the win, the Wildcat coach exuded “This is the highest ranked team we’ve beaten since I’ve been here. They (Oregon) are a very good football team. To beat them at home on senior day, I thought that was really special. This is, without question, the best we’ve played all year.”