Hopefully I'm beginning to help you get to know our Alamo Bowl opponent well enough for you to develop a healthy amount of hate for them. After all, it's hard to put everything you have into the hopes that someone will lose if you don't know anything about them. A week ago we looked at the first half of Oregon's season. Today, we'll take a look at the second half.
You really have to look at Oregon's season in halves because their quarterback, Vernon Adams Jr., got hurt in the season opener and missed most of the first six games. When he did play, his lack of experience with the system and his injury played a factor. Jeremy Keown, one of my counterparts over at Addicted To Quack, had this to say about Adams' early season struggles after their week two loss to Michigan State:
"...it is obvious that his short time with the team and learning the system has held him back some, as this offense isn't quite where everyone wants it to be. If he continues to learn the offensive scheme and acclimates himself with the rest of the team on the pace that he has in the short times he's been here, this shouldn't be an issue going forward." - Jeremy Keown
You can find the full article here, or just visit their cleverly named site here. Anyway, this was before everyone really knew that Adams was hurt, but I think he was on to something. The fact that Oregon's offense runs through their QB is just one of the many ways in which their season mirrored TCU's. In their first six games with a learning/less-than-full-strength Adams, they went 3-3. In their second six games after Adams came back, they went 6-0, beating the two teams that played for the Pac 12 Championship in consecutive weeks (Stanford & USC). Here's the low down on their impressive 6-0 run to close our the season:
Game #7: Oregon 26, Washington 20
In Vernon Adams' first game back as the starter he played really well, throwing for 272 yards, two TDs and no INTs. He was also at his best when he really needed to be, going 5-6 on third down conversions in the first half. As good as Adams looked, I really just can't say enough about how important Royce Freeman is to this team. Freeman rushed for 137 yards on 27 carries and, while he didn't reach the end zone, he continued to play the workhorse role that keeps defenses honest.
The defense demonstrated why they are the main weakness of this team and stepped up to close out a close game with a big play when it was needed most. I know, that's weird to say, but here's what happened: The Ducks were firmly in control of this one at halftime, leading 16-3 and Washington was really unable to get much going early. Their only truly successful drive was the last of the half, during which they went 54 yards on 10 plays and came away with a field goal. Oregon's defense let up only 385 total yards in this game. That's impressive when you consider that Washington State put up 641 yards on them just one week prior.
With less than one minute left in the third quarter of this game, Oregon was up 23-6. Then, Washington's RB Myles Gaskin broke free for a 72 yard score to get things going. Oregon only managed a field goal in the fourth quarter and after another touchdown for the Huskies, Oregon's lead had dwindled to 26-20. Washington got the ball back with 1:11 left and was driving when Oregon's defense came up with an INT that iced the game. Even without Josh Doctson, you have to feel good about the fact that Oregon's defense, while they were the hero in this one, regularly give up a lot of yards and points.
Game #8: Oregon 61, Arizona State 55
Yeah, this one had some fireworks. In the second game of a two game road trip, Oregon managed to defeat ASU after battling through three overtimes in Tempe. There was well over 1,000 total yards in this one, and while way to much happened to write it all out for you, you can check out the stats here.
The game was back and forth the whole time. Arizona State was playing inspired and overall it was par for the course for Oregon. Vernon Adams and Royce Freeman combined for 6 TDs and Charles Nelson, Oregon's speedy sophomore return man, took a kickoff back 100 yards late in the third quarter. On the defensive side of the ball, Oregon's defense got shredded for almost 400 yards passing and over 300 yards rushing. On a fourth and goal from the nine with less than 20 seconds left, Vernon Adams brought the Ducks back from the dead with this:
Dwayne Stanford caught that ball for Oregon to send the game to overtime and went on to score another TD for the Ducks in the first OT. In the third overtime, after a Boykin-esque scramble that almost deserved a high five, Adams found Braylon Addison for a 20 yard strike that would be the final score of the game.
He was out. It's hard to tell in real time, but there's no doubt from the replay. He got the call though, and that's what matters. ASU had a chance to win because Oregon failed on their mandatory 2-point attempt, but Mike Bercovici threw an INT in the end-zone on the Sun Devil's next possession. For a team that gives up so many passing yards, its worth noting that this was the second game in a row where Oregon won by intercepting the ball on the last play of the game.
Game #9: Oregon 44, Cal 28
Oregon ran all over Cal in this one. Initially, Cal jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Oregon kept plugging away with Royce Freeman, who is just so much fun to watch. He doesn't have the explosiveness of Aaron Green, but he is so physical and has just enough wiggle to make people miss when he needs to. Anyway, it didn't take Oregon long to climb back, claim the lead, and proceed to pound Cal into the turf.
All the Jarred Goff hype had already cooled down at this point and this was the fourth game in a row that Cal had lost. It wasn't impressive because they beat Cal at home, it was impressive because Oregon just could not be stopped. Oregon racked up 477 yards on the ground in this one with Freeman rushing for 180 yards on 29 carries. Vernon Adams threw for exactly 300 yards and four TDs. This was a game where he looked like he was really hitting his stride. He even did a great Boykin impression for the second straight game with this #AdamsJrFlip.
I have to note once again that Oregon's defense came up with a turnover (INT) in the final minutes of this game. We know all too well how agonizing it is to know that your defense is going to give up serious yards through the air. But if you can create turnovers, especially late in games, you can give up those yards and still win.
Game #10: Oregon 38, Stanford 36
This game was back and forth the whole time, but what really stood out to me as impressive is the way that Oregon conducted themselves on their first drive. They went 80 yards on six plays, all runs, drove it right down Stanford's throat and into the end zone. On the road, against a team that prides themselves on being physical, that's one hell of a statement.
Stanford was ranked No. 7 overall at that time, making this the game where Oregon made people begin to stop and take notice of them again. This game was tight the whole time and to be honest, Stanford really blew every chance they had of making it tough on Oregon at the end. Stanford led 23-21 at the half, but Oregon came out and scored on the first possession of the second half. Then Stanford missed a field goal on their next possession.
In the fourth quarter, Stanford twice fumbled the ball away on the snap in the red zone to squander scoring opportunities when they were down by only one score. Oregon was out-gained in this game too, as Adams threw for just over 200 yards and the Ducks rushed for 231 yards as a team. Freeman had just 105 yards and one touchdown. After all this, Stanford still had a chance to tie the game up on their last play, but could not covert the two point opportunity. Did Stanford blow every chance they realistically had to win this game? Sure. But Oregon is a good team and that's what good teams do; they hang around, keep fighting and find a chance to win.
Game #11: Oregon 48, USC 28
After beating Stanford, Oregon had climbed back into the rankings at this point, making this game a top 25 match up. Vernon Adams responded by turning on his best game of the year at home, throwing for six TDs in what turned into a route of the Pac 12 South Champion Trojans. USC traded blows with them early and the score was 14-14 early in the second quarter. Then, before you knew it, the teams were walking into their locker rooms at the half and Oregon led 31-14. It never really got much closer than that.
Freeman had his mandatory 100+ yards on the ground, but took a back seat to Adams in this one. If Vernon Adams hit his stride against Cal, and proved his mettle against Stanford, he was just showing off in this one. He was making really good decisions in the pocket and hitting his receivers in stride, allowing them to easily make it to the end zone on more than one big play. He also threw for over 400 yards.
Also worth noting is that Braylon Addison had over 100 yards receiving while he, and pretty much everyone else on their WR depth-chart caught a TD. Charles Nelson, their really explosive punt return specialist, moved to safety to help out with depth after injuries and had a big pass breakup early on in the first quarter. So, just about everything went Oregon's way in this one.
Game #12: Oregon 52, Oregon State 42
Oregon State jumped up on the Ducks 7-0 in Eugene to start this one. Oregon quickly answered with a 75 yard drive to tie it up. Then, when Oregon State got the ball back with a chance to retake the lead, Charles Nelson made another big play on defense.
This kid just started playing safety a couple of months ago. He is a straight-up athlete with great football instincts. Watch out for him in the return game as well. Another player who was really impressive in this game was Taj Griffin, who ran nine times for 65 yards and a TD. He scored Oregon's second TD on a 14 yard scamper shortly after the INT shown above.
From there, Oregon stepped on the gas and when the half was over they were up 31-7. In the second half, they may have gotten a little too comfortable. Oregon State scored 14 unanswered points to open the third quarter, and suddenly the blowout had turned into a 10 point game. Twice Oregon State battled back to make it a three point game in the fourth quarter, but in the end Oregon was just way too talented to lose this game at home.
PREDICTION - Game #13: TCU 48, Oregon 45
You might think to yourself, "Our defense has not been great in the secondary. Oregon is a spread offense, so naturally they will attack us through the air". I don't think that's how it's going to go down though. Oregon doesn't have a receiver with over 800 yards this year, and they are honestly more like Baylor where they like to run to set up the pass. I would guess that is because their running back has over 2,000 all-purpose yards and in my opinion is their best player. They are going to try to do to us what Oklahoma did; pound the rock and let your athletic QB find time and create plays when the defense forces you to throw.
Yeah, I believe that we will win, but I'm not going to go too much into how we're going to accomplish that. Basically, It will all come down to our ability to slow down Freeman, and even then it will be a shootout. I haven't shown you any video of Freeman, but you really need to see it to understand what I'm talking about. I'll just leave this here.