It's time Oregon stops lying to itself.
They aren't a great team — they might not even be a good team. Whatever the case, it's time to accept reality and stop telling themselves, and those who will listen, who good they are or can be. Right now, the Ducks are bad... and only getting worse.
For a team who entered the college football season with a lot of hope and appeared on the right track at a return to national prominence a mere two weeks ago, what has transpired at Oregon over the past two weeks is nothing short of embarrassing.
Two weeks ago, Oregon beat the Pac-12’s best with a combination of power and speed on both sides of the ball, showing a type of football that hasn’t been seen in Eugene in a very long time. The Ducks defeated hated-rival Washington is 30-27 in overtime, a classic game that showed it was a legitimate conference contender — or so we thought.
Since that win, Oregon has looked downright bad.
The Ducks lost 34-20 at Washington State, a game in which they trailed 27-0 at the half. Then, they got beat 44-15 in Arizona, quitting in the game and on one another as if it was standard procedure.
The losses were a showing of ugly and embarrassing football — reasons the players or coaches have no clue as to how it happened in that regard. The Ducks resemble nothing of the team that beat the Huskies, but more so a squad that has no passion, no energy and no leadership — something Oregon won’t admit.
The flaws are insane considering how much talent the Ducks have on the team.
This offense that was supposed to be among the nation’s best has looked lost, confused and without an identity to lean on. Quarterback Justin Herbert doesn’t look good, making bad throws and even worse decisions with the ball in his hands. CJ Verdell and Dillon Mitchell have become complete after-thoughts after opposing teams have keyed in on them. And the offensive line that was so powerful and physical for the first half of the season, has been as soft as tissue, with nearly as many holes.
Even worse has been the leadership. Nobody has been willing to step up and say, “let’s go, follow me.” I understand that Herbert isn’t that type of player but as a captain and quarterback of the team, it comes with the territory.
Late in the Arizona game, an errant pass of his led to Mitchell getting absolutely blasted on the field, staying down for a few minutes in obvious pain. As for Herbert, he walked over to the bench, took his helmet off and put his face in his hands. I understand the overall frustration but that can’t happen. He needs to be the one to pick up his players, especially when it’s his doing that’s leading to the downfall.
The defense is a resemblance of Jekyll and Hyde. They show moments of intensity and physicality, forcing turnovers and playing a style that shows how talented they are. But then, the unit often looks softer than the offensive line, showing poor effort when it comes to tackling and a complete lack of execution on the simplest of plays.
Part of Oregon’s struggles is the coaching staff as well.
Head coach Mario Cristobal is in his first year leading the Ducks, but prior to that he had an overall coaching record of 27-46, not good by any standard. The offensive identity he was trying to insert is gone, and the lack of heart and effort is alarming for one of the most physically and emotionally charged coaches in the game.
Offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo has done a horrific job at calling plays of late, becoming predictable with a lack of creativity and identity, instead inviting defenses to feast on his meal-ticket quarterback.
It’s an ugly time for Oregon but it’s not right to panic... yet.
The rebuild taking place in Eugene was going to take more than eight games, something that seemed capable a mere two weeks ago. But now the Ducks have been knocked down to reality and their first step to get back on track, stop lying to themselves.
“We didn't do a very good job as coaches or as a team tonight... it's frustrating and disappointing for all of us,” Cristobal said after the loss to Arizona. "This is a legitimate gut check."
That’s the right start — accountability and truth. Hopefully it transpires something positive as an old reminder of Oregon’s greatness is coming to town in six days’ time.