Like most Duck fans I sat in silence after the game wondering how we could lose to this team. It was obvious USC came to play and that they believed from the first possession of the game they could beat the Ducks on their own turf. It was obvious that the Trojans were going to leave nothing on the field and this game meant everything to them. Regardless, I still thought with everything on the line, my Ducks would find a way to pull out a "W", they always find a way right...Not this time.
To me it started Saturday night after the Stanford game in an interview I heard of some players talking about a rematch with LSU. Also I remember reading that one local journalist thought Oregon was celebrating the Stanford victory more than most. While not uncommon after a big win, I felt for the first time since Chip Kelly took over as head coach that the Ducks might be thinking past their next opponent. This was really a small passing observation but it prompted me to post on my Facebook that Oregon should not overlook USC.
Throughout the week I read much about how USC had been preparing to beat Oregon since Spring, adding extra conditioning, going smaller at linebacker, and putting more speed on the field. The coaches also spent time game planning each week on how to play against Oregon. There was a sense in the LA Media that this game would really define USC's season. So you see the feeling beginning with one team totally focused on the moment and the other possibly thinking ahead.
The next event was Iowa State beating OK State on Friday night. I'm sure the Ducks saw this game and realized afterward if they take care of business that they had a realistic shot at playing in the NC. While most people think this would create more focus, I believe in young teams it can be a huge distraction. The reason is thinking of the possibility of the NC puts the focus on the future and not the task at hand.
So now before the game we hear that Snoop Dogg, King James, and a slew of NBA celebs would be attending. Yet another distraction for this young team with so much on the line.
Now to the game. First possession Oregon completely shuts down USC. Soon there is a turnover and it feels like Oregon is going to start fast. Then an errant simple throw that results in a turnover, first mental mistake of the game. The next mistake happens when a young DB is caught looking in the backfield and gets beat deep. Even though he's in position to make the play he fails to turn around and USC catches it for a huge gain. The next mental mistake is a dropped pass on a 4th and 8 which looks to be set up perfect and might go for 6. Fast forward to the second quarter and you have missed blocking assignments, blown coverages, and then an easy touchdown that is juggled in the endzone by DeAnthony Thomas. Bad throw, bad catch... These are plays that the Ducks O regularly makes. Next play Fumble by LMJ and Oregon goes in down 14 at the half.
Throughout the game there are several more dropped passes errant throws, blown coverages, and missed tackles. Somehow Oregon wakes up and realizes that they are about to get blown out if they don't start playing and then the FOCUS is there. You see Oregon playing good defense, making throws, catching balls, and then USC gives Oregon a gift of fumbling when it seemed like an automatic 3 points if not a touchdown to seal the victory.
Oregon, takes the ball and begins driving it downfield. They are in the hurry up but there are a few times when guys are tackled in the middle of the field short of first downs and No Timeouts are called. It begins to seem like Oregon starts playing for overtime instead of the win...I have never known Coach Kelly to not go for the win. He has ultimate trust in his guys and all of the sudden he's playing for overtime. This goes against everything that he's done since he was here. To me this was a coaches mental error. The clock runs down and Oregon is forced to attempt a 42 yard field goal. Then a gift from the Trojans, a 5 yard penalty. Now a 37 yard field goal...Now the last mental error of the night, a fatal wide left field goal that ends the Ducks NC dreams for 2011-2012 season.
To me there were a ton of mental errors which led me to think that this team for the first time in a few years wasn't mentally prepared. Too many distractions and mental mistakes from the Coaching staff down to the players. I don't blame one player for not making plays, or not being prepared because its everyone's fault. This is a team game, Win as team, lose as a team, prepare as a team, be distracted as a team, they go hand in hand.
I give credit to the whole team and coaching staff when they win so the same has to happen when they lose. It was a team loss, and a lack of focus by all. I learned that the Ducks are almost talented enough to beat USC with their "C" game, but not quite...USC played their best game in the last 3 years and Oregon almost had enough to win. Oregon truly is that good, but it goes to show no matter how talented you are, you can't win every game unless you are 100% focused. Oregon lost to USC no doubt but they still have a lot to play for. This team will be tested by OSU this week, I just hope they don't let USC beat them twice. We will learn if this team has what it takes to bounce back, if it has grit, and if it can refocus, get back into the now, and Win the Day because today is all we have...
Thanks for reading,