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Running it up and shutting it down

There was a bit of a verbal brouhaha between Nick Aliotti and Mike Leach after the game.

After Terrance Mitchell returned an interception 51 yards for touchdown, Oregon led 62-24 with 13:01 left in the fourth quarter.

The second team defense came in, gave up one first down and forced a Washington State punt. Ryan Hagen tipped a pass at the line, the linebackers shut down a quick out to Ricky Galvin and Troy Hill kept close coverage on a slant route. 

Chuck and duck: Connor Halliday torched the Oregon defense for 557 yards last night, and Nick Aliotti wasn’t happy about it.

 

The Cougars punted from midfield, and shanked it. With 9:30 left the Ducks brought out the second team off offense, Lockie and Forde in the backfield, Evan Baylis at tight end, B.J. Kelley and Chance Allen out wide, Matt Pierson, Everett Benyard, Cameron Hunt inside.

The twos couldn’t get much going, just one first down on 8 and 6-yard runs by Forde, Alejandro Maldonado punting after five plays.

And the Cougar offense, the number one offense, threw 12 straight times on 78-yard drive, scoring in 3:17 to make it 62-31 with 3:48 to go in the game.

Jake Rodriguez and the threes took over next, Kenny Bassett and Lane Roseberry at running back, and they went -7 yards in three plays, with a holding call on Hunt and a false start on Andre Yruretagoyena. Maldonado punted again, this one going just 32 yards, a dull thudder fair-caught by Leon Brooks at the WSU 45.

1:37 left to go in the game. Connor Halliday and the Cougs moved quickly down the field, six straight pass plays, five complete, chewing out yards in chunks versus a scout team defense, scoring with 20 seconds left to make it 62-38.

B.J. Kelley zoomed the resulting kickoff out to the 24, nearly breaking away. With 11 seconds left, the Ducks didn’t go into victory formation, but ran a play, an inside zone read to Roseberry for three yards as time ran out.

After the game Nick Aliotti was livid. He told the press corps,

That’s total bullshit that he threw the ball at the end of the game like he did. And you can print that and you can send it to him, and he can comment, too. I think it’s low class and it’s bullshit to throw the ball when the game is completely over against our kids that are basically our scout team.

I am kind of stunned he would keep his quarterback and crew in there,” Aliotti said. “And still he threw the ball with 20 seconds left. But he did. They want stats, they got stats. But we got the most important stat and that’s the ‘W’ and we are happy about that.

Aliotti is a passionate man, and part of the frustration he’s expressing centers around his defense getting worked for a NCAA-record 89 pass attempts and record-tying 58 completions. Halliday played the whole way and racked up 557 yards, 4 tds. The Ducks intercepted him four times, including the one Mitchell ran back for the pick-six.

It’s a tricky thing, those end-of-game situations for a school and a fan base that has grown used to dominating teams and blowing them out. Five years ago the Ducks won a Civil War for the Rose Bowl 65-38 and Oregon fans were thrilled. Now 62-38 seems ho-hum and a little dissatisfying. All those points and yards! Marcus Mariota had two fumbles, one returned for a touchdown.

The Ducks looked sloppy and inefficient at times, and the defense looked porous, although the first-team defense shut the Cougs down in the third quarter after some half time adjustments. You wonder why they didn’t make those adjustments prior to the game. There was nothing surprising or tricky about the WSU attack: it was just fade, slant, drag route, quick screen and swing pass, over and over and over, getting 4,6, 8, 10 yards a play, occasionally breaking off a little dump route for a big gain. Halliday threw for 557 yards, but most of the actual passes were three and four yards downfield.

Aliotti’s outraged seems misplaced. If you don’t like the opponent moving the ball, stop them. 

It’s great that the twos and threes are getting playing time. In fact, the subs have finished every game for the Ducks, many of them getting a significant chunk of snaps over these first seven games. After a while, however, they ought to start showing some progress and making some plays.

It’s understandable that Leach and the Cougar coaching staff would want their kids to keep competing. After all, they’re 4-4 on the season and still playing for a bowl. He has to think about their pride and their psyche going forward. They have a tough matchup with Arizona State up next, on Halloween night, Thursday October 31st in Pullman.

Even so, how would the rest of the conference react if the Ducks started keeping their starters into the game until the end, running green light tempo to score another TD with twenty seconds left to make the score 80-24?

The Ducks are in a close race with Florida State for the #2 spot in the BCS race. Ohio State is still undefeated, and only plays one ranked team for the rest of the year, Michigan in the last game of the regular season. Margin of victory isn’t a factor in the BCS rankings, but perception is a key ingredient in the polls, particularly for West Coast teams. Many voters only see the scores and a couple of the highlights.

Should the Ducks start pinning teams down until they cry uncle? Or is Aliotti out of line calling out another coach?

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