If you've read this blog for long, you know that your Rivrdog is a major Oregon Duck fanboi. I got that way when I sent my youngest off to Duck U to get converted to a liberl ed-you-coated, and I fell in love with the football team, which up until 1998, I had admired only from afar. You haven't seen much Duck fanboi stuff from me so far this year, because the Duck's strength-of-schedule thus far has been underwhelming. No more.
Fast-forward through the Belotti days to the Chip Kelly era (past 4 years), and my duck-love grew stronger, but I am a football realist. I knew that the young team that Kelly was going to field this year would be long on explosive offensive talent, particularly rushing talent, but might have trouble against really deep teams.
That all changed last night in Los Angeles, in the venerable Coliseum before 93,000+ fans, mostly USC people. USC was there to jump back into the national title talk, and they had their own offensive mojo with their world-class QB Matt Barkley and MASTER of the World Class receivers, Marquise Lee, Nelson Agholor (162 yds), and a host of lessers. Their RB corps isn't too shabby, either, but mainly it's Lee and Agholor on offense. When Barkley gets either of them the ball, and he did, many times, they caught almost all of those passes and made beaucoup yards after the catches. Lee is THAT good. He's big, and he's fast. He doesn't LOOK fast, but when the fastest CB or FS, with a good angle, can't bring him down, you KNOW he will play on Sunday, and he will play himself into the Hall of Fame when he does. If there was no pro draft, Matt Barkley would get 28 offers next year. He's as good as RG3, minus a bit of leg. Probably a better passer than RG3.
No, USC would be #1 right now if they had a defense to match their offense, and, pre-season, they were expected to be #1. A couple of gritty/lucky teams have taken them out before Oregon got there, but those games might have been laid off to momentary lapses into sloppy play, and an offense that got stuck in a lower gear.
Not yesterday. Oregon struck first, in 65 seconds, as frequently happens when #24 Kenjon Barner gets the ball and puts his outstanding football head to work commanding his matchless football legs. But USC came right back, with the Barkley/Lee combo, mostly. USC kept coming back, shortening the score at the end of Q3 to a measley 3-point Duck margin. I'm glued to my TV, and when I could force myself to draw a breath after the first 45 minutes, I told the gudwife that the first offense to have to punt would lose the game, and with about 9 minutes left, USC punted.
I was right. USC's offense began to tire Both teams were sucking plenty of smoggy air by then, but the Ducks kept up their blistering no-huddle pace on offense. The Ducks continued to score, getting back up by 18 points, but with a couple of ticks left, USC scored on a running play (by that time, Lee was sufficiently tired that the Oregon CBs had his number, and also Barkley had gotten a bad dose of inaccuracy, too). The USC RBs hadn't had a lot of use in the Barkley/Lee/Agholor game, so they were fresh enough to score one last, futile time. BTW, I have never seen 3 plays run in any football game before, with one second left on the clock, have you? That NCAA timekeeper was wearing a Trojan helmet, I think.
When it was over, Kenjon Barner had amassed 321 yards rushing and 26 receiving. That rushing number blows away the old school record of 288, set by LaMichael James (NFL: RB/SFO) a couple of years ago. Mariota flung 304 yards worth of completed passes, was 20-23 with zero INT. Barkley flung 35-54 for an unbelievable 484 yards, but was INTX2 (those INTs stopped obvious scoring drives which might have given USC the game). Oregon ran up 730 yards total offense on USC, and those yards plus the 62 points were the most that school has suffered in 124 years of intercollegiate football.
It could be reliably said that it was Barkley vs. Barner, and Barkley's arm ran out of fling before Barner's legs ran out of zoom.
Another note: the fabled Howie Long has a son, who played offensive Right Guard for the Ducks yesterday. In fact, he never took a snap at that O-line position until 5 days ago. His pulling blocks were so good, two of them sprung Barner for TDs, and by the second quarter, he was consistently double-teamed by the USC D-line. Chip off the Long block, I'd say.
Oh, and don't look now, but the Oregon State Beavers beat a pretty decent AZ State team last night in Tempe, AZ, came from behind to do it, and did it with their #2 QB. The Civil War game looms large on the horizon, as both Oregon teams are that good. The Beavs got edged by the Huskies at the Fish Bird house in Seattle last week for their first loss, but it didn't get them down, and the Beavs could still wind up in the Rose Bowl if the Ducks go to the BCS title game. If both teams achieve those goals, and win their games, there won't be a good high school player in the country that doesn't want either the Duck or Beaver logo on their college unis. Can you say twin dynasties of different swimmers? I knew you could.
It's a great day to be an Oregonian. Well, at least until Tuesday night...