Unproven and untested, the pundits and the critics say. They haven’t played anybody yet. They’re a soft team from a soft conference, with a marshmallow soft out of conference schedule.
The negativistas keep moving the bar back. When the Ducks beat 3-0 Arizona 49-0 the conclusion was the Wildcats weren’t ready for the big time. Then they clubbed 3-1, #23-ranked Washington, fresh off an upset win over Stanford, and the conclusion was, “Apparently the Huskies aren’t that good.” They won their first road game 51-26 over 2-2 Washington State, but it was a neutral site, and the Cougars are clearly headed for a miserable season.
The week of the Arizona State game the talk was all about danger. Watch out for Taylor Kelly, the number one rated passer in the PAC-12. ASU was 5-1, with 26 sacks. Thursday night games are perilous and tricky, a football Mardi Gras where favorites fall under a voodoo curse.
The Sun Devils recovered a fumble on the game’s second play, threw a touchdown on the third, jumping out to a 7-0 lead before a blacked-out, ramped-up home crowd. The voodoo trance of confusion suddenly looked very real.
The Ducks answered with six straight touchdowns and two near pick sixes, reducing the revved up, face-painted crowd to stunned silence.
It was shocking how easily the Ducks dominated this game before turning it over to the second and third team. Barner had a 71 yard td, Mariota a dash for 86, the longest td run for an Oregon quarterback, ever. In all they racked up 406 yards rushing, even with De’Anthony Thomas and Colt Lyerla, two of their principal weapons, each a complete nonfactor in the offense.
De’Anthony Thomas is officially in a slump, the most complete triumph of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx since Josh Hamilton came down with a stomach virus.
But the fact that the Ducks could dismantle Arizona, Washington, WSU and Arizona State without a significant contribution from “The Fastest Player in College Football” only points conclusively to one thing.
Maybe the Ducks are just that good.