fishwrap - Page 202

Recruiting Update: Budda Can See the Future — Will it be at Oregon?

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Craig Strobeck

Football Recruiting

Visits

Saturday’s 44-21 stomping of  Utah took the edge off a week filled with uncertainty.  Now, back in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 Championship and a Rose Bowl berth, the Ducks look to make a late recruiting cycle push to add to an already impressive class.

ATH/S Budda Baker (4-Star/Bellevue, WA/Rivals100)

ATH/S Budda Baker (4-Star/Bellevue, WA/Rivals100)

Saturday’s matchup saw a few visitors with the firepower to immidately see the field next fall.  Headlining the group, athlete Budda Baker (4-Star/Bellevue, WA/Rivals100), has long been tied to the Ducks, and the weekend spent in and around Autzen Stadium has put Oregon out in front for the talented jack-of-all-trades.

Right now I feel Oregon is a little higher than the others,” said Baker.  “I liked how Oregon didn’t promise me anything; they kept it real with me.  I respect that.”

Going into his official, Baker’s mother’s health and connection to her son had been a topic of concern.  All qualms were alleviated however once they stepped on campus.

“The trip started off really good, because when we showed up they had a wheelchair and stuff for my mom and helped her out a ton,” said Baker.  “They welcomed us both with open arms and they were very accommodating with everything we need[ed].  I felt like she was real comfortable with Eugene and the coaches.  She said she really liked it a lot.”

Baker even went as far to receive his mother’s blessing regarding his future.

“I asked her if she could see me playing at Oregon and she said she definitely could.  She was real impressed with the academics and all of the coaches.”

Baker has been nothing but stellar in his final prep season, turning in highlight after highlight enroute to leading his prep squad to a perfect regular season record.  Getting reps on both sides of the ball, Baker made note that Oregon is very interested in utilizing him in a similar role.

“The coaches were telling me about the depth chart and that it was up to me if I want to play offense or defense.  They talked about me playing both ways a little but not too much.  I like that they left it up to me.”

Oregon Faithful, IMHO, it’s just a matter of time until an official “Quack” is made, stay tuned!

Along with Baker on the Oregon sidelines, diamond-in-the-rough safety Glen Ihenacho (3-Star/Gardena, CA) felt the impact of what Oregon has to offer.

I really liked my visit to Oregon,” said Ihenacho. “The campus, the fans and atmosphere were all great.  What really stood out to me was the team and their character.”

At 6-foot, 185 lbs., Ihenacho has flown under the radar with the likes of Baker and other safeties flooding the headlines on the West Coast.  However, Oregon is not sleeping on the California-based defensive back, with a late push to gain a potential commitment.

“(Oregon is) in that top group for me,” said Ihenacho.  “I had a good talk with coach (John) Neal and he told me a lot about (playing at Oregon).  He’s a great coach.”

Expect the Ducks to make an offer in the near future as Neal continues to assemble another top defensive back corps.

For up to the minute recruiting news, please visit our friends at DUCK TERRITORY, who graciously provide FISHDUCK with in-depth analysis and player-generated material. Look for my latest recruiting update every Wednesday. WTD!!!

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Did Saturday’s Win Reverse Oregon’s 21st-Century Curse?

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by Nathan Roholt, Fishduck.com

Saturday’s schedule saw a huge win for Oregon, and I’m not talking about what USC did.

While the game against Utah may not have been an overly impressive victory – Oregon didn’t score at least 55 against an unranked opponent for the first time all season – it was still one that was sorely needed for Oregon, both for 2013 season and the historical purposes.

Bouncing back after a tough loss to Stanford was important, but not unexpected.  The Ducks have been able to rebound from tough losses in recent seasons; having followed its previous nine regular season losses with a win in the following game.  That is a far greater track record of success than what curse has plagued Oregon the entire 21st century.  I call it:

The Curse of the Third Weekend in November

Like Walter Thurmond in 2009, De'Anthony Thomas' kick return for a TD changed the game against Utah

Like Walter Thurmond III in 2009, De’Anthony Thomas’ kick return for a TD changed the game against Utah.

This weekend’s results, both the wins by Oregon and USC, may have produced elation for Duck fans, but this was a rare experience for them.  Historically, last weekend had annually been one of the most profoundly miserable weekends for the Ducks.  Since defeating Oregon State, 25-14, on November 20, 1999, seemingly every significant heartbreaking moment in recent Oregon memory has taken place on the third weekend in November.  Look at the ‘history of misery’ that has taken place for the Ducks on that weekend during the 2000s:

2000: Oregon State 23, Oregon 13. The fifth-ranked Ducks controlled their own destiny for going to the Rose Bowl heading into the first ever Civil War where both teams ranked in the Top-10.  Instead, it became a game most remembered for the five interceptions thrown by Joey Harrington, and the loss created a three-way tie at the top of the Pac-10.  Somehow out of this three-way tie, it was decided that Washington would be going to its first Rose Bowl in eight years.

2002: Washington 42, Oregon 14.  Oregon suffers its biggest margin of defeat to the Huskies since 1983, in a game best remembered for what happened after it ended, with Washington’s players going back onto the field to stomp on the Oregon “O.”

2004: Oregon State 50, Oregon 21.  As if suffering its biggest margin of defeat to the Beavers since 1942 wasn’t bad enough, this loss keeps Oregon from a winning season and a bowl game, the only time the Ducks failed to have a winning season since 1993.

2006: Arizona 37, Oregon 10.  Worst loss at home by the Ducks since the aforementioned loss to the Huskies in 2002.  Arguably the last bad loss at Autzen Stadium for the Ducks, who haven’t lost a game at home by more than a touchdown since.

2007: Arizona 34, Oregon 24.  It happened on a Thursday, but it was still the third weekend in November, where, following Dennis Dixon’s season-ending knee injury, second-ranked Oregon loses both the game and its quarterback.

De'Anthony Thomas helped get Oregon back in the game against USC in 2011

De’Anthony Thomas helped get Oregon back in the game against USC in 2011.

2011: USC 38, Oregon 35.  The Trojans take a 38-14 lead late in third quarter before a furious Oregon rally at the end falls short on a missed field goal.

2012: Stanford 17, Oregon 14.  I think I’ve said enough about this game already.

Only four times (2003, 2005, 2008, 2009) in the previous 13 seasons have the Ducks won on the third weekend in November.  Two of those wins – over Arizona in 2008 and 2009 – could have easily gone the other way.  The Ducks saw a 21-point fourth quarter lead shrink to three before a late LaGarrette Blount touchdown sealed the game in 2008.  In 2009, Oregon needed many breaks to defeat Arizona 44-41 in two overtimes.  Luckily, the football gods decided missing the Rose Bowl on a missed extra point would be a fate too cruel for even Oregon fans to endure, lest it should be added to this list.

The most telling note in these historical struggles:  The two benchmark seasons for Oregon this century, 2001 and 2010, were the two years that Oregon didn’t schedule a game for the third weekend in November.  Perhaps it would be prudent in the future for Oregon to play any card it has, to keep that date open on future schedules.

Unless doing so is unnecessary; following a tough 20-17 loss to USC, maybe Oregon has passed on its third weekend in November Curse to Stanford, a program who went from national championship dark horse to Alamo Bowl participant in a few short hours last Saturday.  Historically, it had always been Oregon who had previously had its national championship hopes and conference title dreams snatched away from them at this particular point on the calendar.  That rare shift to seeing its hopes for a conference title restored at the expense of someone else’s loss, rather than the other way around – the way USC did for many years – is one Oregon fans can certainly embrace.

Can the Ducks re-establish themselves as Pac-12 Champions this season?

Can the Ducks re-establish themselves as Pac-12 Champions this season?

Perhaps this shift in roles between Stanford, Oregon and USC is permanent.  For years, USC found its losses to conference opponents as nationally celebrated events, only to find a way to emerge as conference champion by season’s end, a role embraced by Oregon this year should it beat Arizona, Oregon State, and the Pac-12 South champions.  If Oregon wins the Pac-12, it will play in its fifth-consecutive BCS bowl, something only done by USC and  Ohio State.

USC’s role has switched to a school whose identity is one of the scrappy team trying to win through chemistry and guile, a reputation once belonging to Stanford.  Now Stanford becomes what Oregon was pre-2009: a program every bit as talented as the rest of the conference, but one whom despite big wins, struggles to establish an identity as the conference’s premier program.

The curse began in 1999, the same year Stanford won the Pac-10, with Oregon finishing the season ranked higher.  Stanford wouldn’t win the conference again until 2012, when those identical circumstances applied again.  Clearly, the loop needed to be closed before being passed to the Cardinal.

So to Stanford, we bestow the Curse of the Third Weekend in November.  May it gave you the same such fortunes for the next 13n years, and may the curse’s passing keep the Ducks affixed atop the Pac-12 conference for many years to come.

Visitors’ Locker Room: Discouraged Utes Lose Fourth Straight, Fall 44-21 to No. 6 Oregon

Craig Strobeck

The Utah Utes have been unpredictable so far this season.  Earlier in the year, they lost to UCLA by only seven points, and shocked the Pac-12 when they beat then-No. 5 Stanford.  However, Utah has now lost four straight after falling 44-21 to a hungry Oregon Ducks team, moving to 4-6 on the season.

The Utes were frustrated after the game, feeling as though they played well for the first three quarters but allowed the Ducks to take over in the fourth quarter.  Defensive lineman Trevor Reilly was particularly upset with the loss, feeling that his team had an opportunity to win.

“Defensively, if you take away four or five missed assignments, we’re in the game,” Reilly said. “At the end of the day we’re still 1-6 in conference.  We need to close games out.”  Head coach Kyle Whittingham added, “Our defense was very good for about three-and-a-half quarters,” echoing this emphasis on maintaining focus for a full 60 minutes of football.

The Utah offense had a tough time moving against the Oregon defense in the second half.

The Utah offense had a tough time moving against the Oregon defense in the second half.

Whittingham pointed to the kickoff returned for a touchdown by De’Anthony Thomas in the third quarter as the game’s real turning point.  “The play of the game was the kickoff return,” said the head coach.  “It swung all the momentum back in their favor and we never recovered.  The wheels came off after that.”

One of the main storylines for the Utes coming into the game was the absence of starting quarterback Travis Wilson, who did not travel to Eugene this weekend due to a head injury.  With Wilson out, all Adam Schulz had to do was make his first career start in one of the loudest venues in college football against the No. 6 team in the nation.

Despite the difficult circumstances and the loss, Whittingham was generally pleased with the way Schulz played.  “I thought he had a courageous effort.  Being thrust into a starting role, first start, against a legitimate Top-10 team, I thought he handled it pretty well from a mental standpoint… Overall, I was proud of the way he competed.”

Schulz, however, was harder on himself than his head coach was.  When asked about his performance, the Utah quarterback expressed his disappointment. “In this offense, a lot of it is on the quarterback. Every play you have a decision to make, and we didn’t win so obviously it wasn’t good enough.”

 

Though the Utes contained him for most of the game, Byron Marshall went off in the fourth quarter.

Though the Utes contained him for most of the game, Byron Marshall went off in the fourth quarter.

Utah has been dominant this season in rushing the passer. The Utes were No. 2 in the nation coming into the Oregon game with 33 sacks on the season, led by Trevor Reilly.  The front seven did its job today, getting to Mariota three times and holding the Ducks to 10 rushing yards in the first half.However, the issue for the Utes on defense came in the secondary, as Mariota regularly had large windows to throw into.  In fact, he was perfect on his first 10 passes.  Without a way to slow down the passing game, the struggles in the backfield cancelled out the exceptional play of the front seven.“[Mariota] is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and he is very capable either running or throwing the ball,” Whittingham said.  ”He tore us up in the throw game.  We couldn’t cover those wide receivers…  and in the second half it seemed like we couldn’t cover anybody.”

With this loss, the Utes fall to 1-6 in conference play, and must win their next two games against Washington State and Colorado to become bowl eligible.

College Football Nation: Duke does it again and Oregon is back in it

 

College football was fun today. There were so many entertaining games on all at once I don’t think I kept the TV on the same channel for more than a few minutes at a time.  We had the exciting finish down at Auburn while their rivals Alabama did not look like the #1 team in the nation.  FSU is still rolling despite the sexual assault charges trying to bench their star quarterback.  Ohio State wanted to make a statement today but just came up average vs an average Illinois team.  Then you had Stanford being upset by USC. . . we call that a let down game. Word of advice, when Lee Corso picks USC, it is a done deal!  He is now 16-0 when picking USC on gameday.  Outside of Stanford no one in the Top-10 lost today.

Let’s get into a recap of today’s action and thoughts:

1. So as of late everyone was questioning if Alabama is truly the #1 team in the country week after week as FSU keeps turning in dominate performances.  Well, after an uninspiring 20-7 win over Mississippi State, voters might second guess themselves when selecting Alabama as #1.

While down in another part of the state we had the game of the night.  Auburn led Georgia most of the night.  On a crucial 4th and goal, Georgia was able to score and take a 38-37 lead with about a minute to go.  Then on 4th and 18, Auburn converted a Hail Mary and scored, going up 43-38.  It was the game of the night and with Auburn and Alabama both winning, it is a winner take all when they meet at the end of the season for the SEC WEST title.  Now that is going to be one of the most anticipated Iron Bowls they have played in a long time.

SEC QUICK HITS: South Carolina beat Florida today 19-14.  Now all South Carolina needs to have happen is for Missouri to lose just once out of their final 2 games and they are in the SEC title game.  As for Florida, they just wish this season ended about 4 weeks ago.  Ole Miss handled Troy 51-21 to keep the possibility of a 9 win season alive.  Vanderbilt beat Kentucky 22-6.  Kentucky fans would have cared about that game but basketball season has started so their focus has shifted elsewhere.  Alabama is still the cream of the SEC crop but looks to have their hands full when they face Auburn.  The SEC still has a shot at repeating with national titles but could still easily knock each other out of the title game.

2. Duke is not just a basketball school anymore.  Duke has been known to be one of the worst football teams in the ACC and the country for that matter but after their second win this season over a ranked team, they are out to show they belong.  Duke beat Miami 48-30 to move into first place of their division.  Going to the ACC title game is Duke’s to lose.  Congrats to the Blue Devils and we all hope for the best if you have to face FSU.  No one wants to face them right now.

Despite Jameis Winston being slammed in the media for a sexual assault allegation, he stayed focused and led his team to a 59-3 drubbing of Syracuse.  Winston was 19 of 21 passing.  That kid is amazing.  I hope to see Alabama vs FSU in the title game.  That will truly show us what that kid is made of. . . if he is still eligible by that time.

ACC QUICK HITS: Boston College became bowl eligible with a 38-21 win over NC State.  Boston College running back Andre Williams ran for 339 yards to break Boston College’s single season and single game rushing record. Congrats to him.  North Carolina beat Pitt 34-27 to secure its 5th win of the season.  Only one more win to go and they are bowl eligible.  Good to see the Tar Heels turn things around after such a horrific start.  Maryland got things back on track with a 27-24 overtime win over Virginia Tech.  Virginia Tech is just not what it use to be. Clemson thumped Georgia Tech 55-31 earlier in the week but can’t get much recognition because of their loss to FSU.  FSU has a spot in the title game as of now and will only get knocked out if they beat themselves.  They are playing inspired football on both offense and defense.

3. I thought we had an upset brewing when Texas Tech took an early 14-0 lead over Baylor.  But that was short-lived when Baylor took a 21-20 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.  That is a lot of points in one quarter.  It did not stop there.  Baylor finally got their offensive juggernaut going and went on to beat Tech 63-34.

Oklahoma State beat Texas 38-13 and really secured that win with their defense.  It is usually Oklahoma State’s offense making the headlines but today the defense took over.  By beating Texas, Oklahoma State set up a winner-take-all showdown with Baylor next week.  Winner of that game is in the drivers seat for the BIG-12 title.

BIG-12 QUICK HITS: Oklahoma started off slow but eventually pulled away from Iowa State securing the 48-10 win.  This win allowed Bob Stoops to be tied with Barry Switzer for 157 wins.  Kansas snapped a 27-game BIG-12 losing streak today with a 31-19 win over West Virginia.  Losing to Kansas in the BIG-12 is an all time low for any BIG-12 program.  Kansas State squeaked by TCU 33-31 to pick up their sixth win of the season and become bowl eligible.  Baylor is still the point a minute offense but should have their biggest test next week vs Oklahoma State.  I imagine that game starting slow and by the 4th quarter it will be in the 40′s.

4. Ohio State wanted to make a statement today and by beating Illinois 60-35 it looks like they did.  If anyone watched that game you saw Ohio State allow a very bad Illinois team a chance to get back into it and make it a game.  At one point it was a 12 point game.  Urban Meyer was looking for style points with the BCS but will not find them after today.

Michigan State took one step closer of its goal of playing in the Rose Bowl with a 41-28 win over Nebraska. Michigan State forced 3 turnovers in the 1st quarter and blew the game wide open.  After seeing Nebraska struggle for most of the game, the Cornhusker faithful will probably be looking for Pelini’s head on a platter.  He is good for that program and the fans just need to accept him.

B1G QUICK HITS: Michigan barely beat the clock and kicked a last second field goal to tie Northwestern 9-9 and send the game in overtime where Michigan prevailed 27-19 in triple overtime.  That is now 6 in a row that Northwestern has lost since starting 4-0.  Tough times for the Wildcat fans but at least they can call on the Florida Gators because they know exactly what they are going through.  Penn State put up another victory, 45-21 over Purdue.  This would make Penn State bowl eligible but they will still have to wait another 3 years. Wisconsin ran all over Indiana 51-3.  Wisconsin ran for over 550 yard in that game.  Ohio State wants a shot at the title game but will need to see an upset or two in the next few weeks. Urban Meyer will probably be the biggest Gator fan and Auburn fan in the upcoming weeks.

5. When Lee Corso picks USC to win, they win.  USC pulled off the upset of the night by beating Stanford 20-17. With this win does that mean Coach “O” will be the new head coach of USC?  If I were USC’s athletic director, I would thank Coach “O” for keeping the program together but let him know that there will still be a coaching search happening at season’s end.  We all remember how he did at Ole Miss.

With that loss, it puts Oregon right back into the driver’s seat for winning the PAC-12 North and hosting the PAC-12 title game. Oregon did their part today by beating Utah 44-21.  Now all Oregon needs to do is win out and they are headed to the Rose Bowl.  How quickly things have changed for Oregon.  Last week all hope was lost after a dominating Stanford win and this week thanks to Stanford loss, Oregon is right back in it all.

PAC-12 QUICK HITS: UCLA used linebacker Myles Jack on offense again vs Washington and he did not disappoint. He scored 4 rushing touchdowns to help beat Washington 41-31 and showed that no matter what side of the ball he is playing on, he will produce positive results.  In the battle of “bug uglies”, Colorado beat California 41-24.  Colorado is hoping to win out and gain bowl eligibility, but with USC and Utah left on the schedule I do not see that happening.  Washington State is only one win away from returning to a bowl game after beating Arizona 24-17.  I expected that game to have a much higher score.  Thanks to USC, Oregon is back in the drivers seat for a PAC-12 title and a slim chance of a title game appearance.

BEST OF THE REST: Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch turned in another Heisman worthy performance against Ball State as he led his team to a 48-27 win.  Because he doesn’t play for BCS team, he probably won’t win the Heisman, but he is a leader and gets the job done and deserves some recognition.  UCF probably had one of the most exiciting finishes of thes day with a 39-36 win over Temple.  This win keeps UCF in 1st place in the American Conference or whatever you call the old Big East these days.  Congrats to the Golden Knight and I hope you make it to your school’s first BCS bowl game this year.  Cincinnati is probably the least recognized 8-2 team in the country.  They put themselves in a position for a possible conference title split with a 52-17 win over Rutgers.  Louisville beat Houston 20-13 and hopes for a UCF loss or two to be back in the lead of winning the conference before they bolt for the ACC.  The real question is whether or not their coach, Charlie Strong, will be going with them to the ACC or will be plucked up by a bigger BCS school with an opening.

The season is coming to a close and we still have a log jam of undefeated teams.  I think Auburn is going to give Alabama all they can handle at seasons’ end.  FSU will not be challenged the rest of the season and should book their plane tickets to Pasadena.  Ohio State just hopes to keep scoring 60+ points and cheer on the Auburn Tigers or Florida Gators in the weeks to come.  Baylor is going to have their hands full with Oklahoma State and Texas still left on the schedule.  Winning those games could possibly jump them past Ohio State but not FSU. Now if you are an Oregon fan, you are hoping for complete BCS CHAOS and a slim chance of moving into the title game.  Oregon fans still hope their “We Want Bama” shirts can come true.

NATIONAL NEWS:

1. College football mailbag

2. FSU sexual assault case

3. Coach bully’s player?

4. Another rushing record

5. Catch of the year

 

 

Chip Kelly Update: Maybe He Is a Genius After All

from Video

The Eagles consolidated their recent gains by knocking off division-leading Green Bay, 27-13.  It was a solid win (and their first against a team with a winning record).  Nick Foles did not have another Hall-of-Fame-type of game.  He started with some tentative play that brought back grim memories of his terrible showing against Dallas, but he steadied himself in the second half, ending with three touchdown passes, no interceptions and a tightening grip on the starting quarterback position in Mike Vick’s absence.

Players are stunned as Foles runs for a first down

Players are stunned as Foles runs for a first down.

Foles will never have Vick’s running ability, but continues to run well enough to keep the defense honest.  He picked up a key late-game first down on a 9-yard read-option keeper, for example.  That play was the cherry on top of a glorious 9 minute, 32 second 4th-quarter drive by the Eagles that was still only at the Packers’ 21 when time ran out.  The Eagles lead the NFL in speed of touchdown drives by a mile (just a minute and 48 seconds, almost 45 seconds faster than the 2nd-place Bills) so it’s great to see them able to shift gears into ‘super-slow’ mode to ice a game.

On the other side of the scrimmage line, the defense has quietly become pretty decent, especially against the run.  They shut down running back Eddie Lacy, who has been having a great year, and held their opponent below 22 points, for the sixth game in a row.  The only other team that has done that is undefeated Kansas City.  Better yet, the heart of the defense is a front line that is even stronger after trading away nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, and doesn’t have a single player older than 25.  The D’s best moment came when Vinny Curry got a helmet-yanking sack and then gave the referee a tender hug; Jimmy Kempski suggested he make that ref hug his signature sack dance.

Vinny Curry shares a tender moment after ripping Tolzein's helmet off.

Vinny Curry shares a tender moment after ripping Tolzein’s helmet off

There is an asterisk on this win, though, because the Packers’ great quarterback Aaron Rodgers was out injured.  How lucky was that for Philadelphia?  Consider this: Rodgers had not missed a full game since he was named starting quarterback in 2008.  2008!!!  Considering that Rodgers is the NFL’s all-time career leader in passer rating, and was MVP of the Super Bowl he won, that’s a pretty big asterisk.  On the other hand, Rodgers doesn’t play defense, and the Eagles scored 27 against one of the league’s better squads.

The injuries didn’t stop there, though, for either team.  Green Bay’s backup QB, journeyman Seneca Wallace, was injured not long into the game.  That actually seemed to work in Green Bay’s favor, though.  While Wallace is widely considered a stiff, and looked it before he pulled a groin muscle, 3rd-string QB Scott Tolzein — signed off the practice squad earlier in the week — played well and finished with 280 yards and a touchdown, against two interceptions.  He showed a strong arm and lots of poise, especially for a guy playing his first regular season game after three years hanging around the bottom of various rosters.

The Eagles also got some lucky breaks, none luckier than DeSean Jackson’s 55-yard touchdown catch (the first of Nick Foles’ three scoring tosses).  Jackson beat his man and a safety deep on a post route, but Foles’ throw, perhaps hindered by a cold headwind, was closer to the defenders than Jackson.  They bumped each other and the ball popped up; DeSean calmly plucked it out of the air and slow-walked backwards into he end zone as the two backs crumpled to the turf.  That play could have been either of TWO interceptions, but looked like another Foles masterstroke on paper.

DeSean struts slowly backwards into the endzone

DeSean struts slowly backwards into the endzone.

Foles’ other two touchdowns were thrown to Riley Cooper, who is suddenly one of the NFL’s best No. 2 wide receivers.  The odd thing is that Michael Vick targeted Cooper frequently, even to a fault in my opinion, but somehow Foles is finding Cooper open where Vick couldn’t.  Foles is going to be very hard for Mike Vick to dislodge as starting quarterback when the veteran returns from injury; the tall second-year QB has 16 TDs and no interceptions this year, the second-best season start in NFL history (Peyton Manning set the record this year by throwing 20 touchdowns before he had an INT).

Coopers’ first touchdown catch was an odd one.  Riley was in between the corner back covering him and a safety, but Foles threw a high, looping ball on the other side of the safety.  He claims that this was deliberate, that he knew Cooper was a baseball player (drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies, in fact) and could track a pop fly.  Believe him or not, that’s exactly what happened.  The second TD was more conventional, with Cooper throwing down a nasty double move to shed his cornerback, Foles hitting him perfectly in stride.

The most impressive thing about this victory was how Philadelphia handled its own rash of injuries.  Cornerback Bradley Fletcher was out before the game started (along with starting QB Vick and WR Jeremy Maclin), and three more Eagle starters joined them; left tackle Jason Peters, safety Earl Wolff, and linebacker Mychal Kendricks.  NFL rosters don’t allow teams to carry many subs, but Chip Kelly had the perfect answers with Roc Carmichael at CB, Allan Barbre at tackle, Patrick Chung at safety and Najee Goode at linebacker.  Each stepped up seamlessly; Barbre was seen on one play blocking a safety 20 yards past the line of scrimmage.

The Eagles are now tied for first in the (admittedly crummy) NFC East with Dallas, who was killed by New Orleans.  They play Washington on Sunday and then have their bye week to heal up.  This season has had some real low points, but the Eagles are emerging as a real playoff contender, with Foles at the helm, a stiffening defense and a highly efficient offense that leads the league in explosion plays (both on the ground and in the air).

The coaches had matching Star Trek sweatshirts.

The coaches had matching Star Trek sweatshirts

Despite having all his coaches wear mod Star Trek-looking sweatshirts, Coach Kelly was not flashing any futuristic offense or defensive trickery.  His team won with a lot of solid, fundamental football, the spotty talent and his radical revamping of the team, notwithstanding.  This might be the best evidence that, despite taking a lot of criticism this year, Chip might be a genius after all.

Defense: The Missing Ingredient For a Spot in the Sweet Sixteen

Many have heard the adage “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships” but is that the truth?  Though some question the validity of the statement, the Oregon Ducks have proven that for them, defense has been a crucial part in their 2013-14 late-season success.

The Ducks showcased both heart and skill in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament proving the seven months of hard work paid off.  However, none expected Oregon to take the route full of trials and tribulation in order to be a part of the Madness.

Obviously, every team wants to have a winning season and be a shoe-in for the tournament.  However, that is less commonly how it works.  Most teams face adversity at some point in the season.  The Ducks were one of these teams.

With 13 straight wins to open the pre-season, U of O looked exceptionally promising and expected to make an appearance in the NCAA tournament.

When the Ducks fell into a losing slump, the 17 Oregon players had to practice resiliency in order to keep their tournament seeding alive.

Oregon defense cut the opponents' average final score from 81 points at the beginning of the season to 71 points at the end of the season.

Oregon defense cut the opponents’ average final score from 81 points at the beginning of the season to 71 points at the end of the season.

The Ducks’ record reflected 13-0 but head coach Dana Altman was neither satisfied nor confident that pure offense would be enough.  He told his team they would have to start guarding opponents in order to continue getting the W.

Oregon was scoring enough points to win games.  Of their first 13 contests, 10 contained a final score of 80 points or more with four hitting 100+ points.

Although they started out strong, the Webfoots would swim circles part way through conference play.

The next eight out of 10 games resulted in losses for the Ducks.  The opposing team scored an average of 81 points versus the 76 points scored by Oregon.  This directly reflected the fact that six of the eight games were lost by a couple of possessions or less.

Now one must not be too quick to judge because many more statistics should be taken into consideration.  Whether playing at home or on the road, the personnel each team carries and the pace of the game can make a difference in points scored.  Remember, every team is different and will have different strengths and weaknesses when matching up.

Getting a "stop" on defense means preventing the other team from scoring. This can be a game-winning factor.

Getting a “stop” on defense means preventing the other team from scoring. This can be a game-winning factor.

While it is commendable to score an immense amount of points, games cannot be won by offense alone.  Likewise, the best way to beat a team is to keep them from scoring.

A team that loses 110-100 may be happier than a team that loses 60-50 because at least they scored 100 points.  By keeping a team from running up their points, it crushes their morale.

In the last 10 games the Ducks have played, they have held their opponents to an average of 71 points per game.  By limiting the total points scored, Oregon also increased their average total game points by three, to 79, thus winning nine games.  This helped solidify a seat for Oregon in the NCAA tournament.

Other keys to Oregon’s late season success would have to be Waverly Austin’s presence inside, the offensively-minded Joseph Young, Jason Calliste’s three point shooting and the Oregon native Mike Moser returning home.  Austin contributed to the Duck’s late-season wins such as the game against Arizona St. when he had five points and 10 boards. Joseph Young averaged 20 points per game while Jason Calliste’s average behind the arc shooting was a stunning 46 percent during the last half of the season.  Calliste was 5-9 against UCLA, 4-5 against Arizona and 3-4 against Oregon St. in three-point shooting.   Yet, one of the biggest boosts Oregon received this year was the return of Moser after playing for UCLA and UNVL. The 6’8″ forward was a force not to be reckoned with this year.

Good news for the Ducks — JaQuan Lyle has decided he will wear the Oregon name across his chest when suiting up for the 2014-15 season.  The 6-5, 215 lbs point guard from Huntington Prep will be a great asset to the Ducks because of his ability to handle the ball as well as being a coveted five-star shooting guard.  Hopefully Oregon can utilize this 41st ranked (out of ESPN’s top 100) Evansville, Ind. native on their journey to another NCAA appearance next year.

Help-side defense is a great example of the importance of a team having each others' back.

Help-side defense is a great example of the importance of a team having each others’ back.

In the first round against Brigham Young University, Oregon was able to hold the Cougars to just 68 points.  They accomplished this by out rebounding BYU 37-32 on top of poor FG shooting on BYU’s part.

In the second round against Wisconsin, the Ducks came out strong and lead at halftime 49-37.  The Badgers ruffled the Ducks’ defensive feathers in the second half, scoring 48 points.  Wisconsin converted 85 total points, which was above the opponent average in previous games.

Could this have been why Oregon lost?  There are many other factors that play into the final score of this season-ending game: scoring droughts, personal fouls and the multitude of Wisconsin fans in the stands to name a few.

It was no coincidence the Oregon jerseys said “Fighting Ducks” on the front.  Against the odds, honor was still brought to the University of Oregon through the never-ceasing effort by the men’s basketball team.  Not only did they fight throughout the season to make it to the top 32 teams, but they fought to the very end of their last game of the season.

Thank you, Ducks, for your dedication to getting the most out of your personnel – there is much of which to be proud.

Top photo by Steve Francis

 

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