In a game where the students were back and Autzen seemed close to pre-pandemic normality, the Ducks quite frankly played a sloppy game vs. Arizona. Even with what may look like a comfy 41-19 victory on the scoreboard, there are some concerning trends that need to get fixed if Oregon wants to continue to win games.
1. Offensive line play still inconsistent
This is a clear trend now through four games this season, as the offensive line has been shaky at times in both run blocking and pass protection. It's odd to see this because in the Ohio State game the line performed, but in the other three games there have been clear problems and it will get exposed against a better Pac-12 opponent.
Part of the issue could be the lack of continuity in the line, as multiple linemen can get subbed out on a drive and that can change the whole dynamic of the situation. Especially with how physical Stanford plays, Oregon will need to have better play or they could be in trouble.
2. Ducks' defense exposed
The Oregon front seven was not very good at all, not only not struggling to get pressure on the Jordan McCloud until late, but they also were very poor in run defense, which up until this point had been viewed as a strength. The secondary wasn’t exceptional either, but they also didn’t get beat deep, keeping everything in front of them.
Once again, this is a development that will matter more against a better Pac-12 foe, and that test could be coming next week on the farm.
3. Turnovers continue to bail Oregon out
Five more interceptions for the Ducks Saturday, who had a lot of turnovers already coming into the game, and this is frankly what kept the Ducks from potentially losing this game. Two of the interceptions were in the end zone when Arizona could have easily scored touchdowns and made it a much different ending than what we saw.
However, this once again shows part of what Oregon has preached in practice over the offseason, forcing turnovers is the most important thing and they continue to prove that.
4. Thibodeaux returns, albeit briefly
Whenever you have the opportunity to see the best player in college football play, it’s a special day. It was just that for Oregon fans who saw Kayvon Thibodeaux return for the first time since leaving the Fresno State game with an injury.
He only played briefly, however, with him gingerly leaving the field in the first half and returning to the sideline wearing full pads and sneakers. Cristobal said after the game this was the plan for Thibodeaux all along and he feels good about where he is for playing next week vs. Stanford.
Especially with the issues to the front seven, Thibodeaux returning full-time would be a massive boost.
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5. Oregon starts and ends strong
One other trend we're seeing more and more with this Oregon team is the ability to start and finish a game strong. We saw the Ducks get out to quick leads immediately in the Fresno State, Stony Brook, and now Arizona games.
Plus, they've been strong in the fourth quarter to put games out of reach in all every game so far. Now, on the flip side, part of the issue is not seeing this play sustain throughout the whole game.
That focus needs to get better. But the ability to start and finish games strong is usually a recipe for success.
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