Oregon-UCLA: My, how far Oregon has fallen
Sure enough, without Dennis Dixon, Oregon laid a big fat "O."
On November 11th, the Oregon Ducks were No. 2 in the nation. Then came what I am getting closer and closer to calling the worst injury in the modern history of college football.
So this was not the Oregon team we were supposed to see. Not the same team a lot of people had pegged to play for the national championship.
But who could've guessed this? The Ducks ended the game - yes, the game, not the first quarter - with 148 total yards against that good, but not great UCLA defense.
And can someone explain to me why Dennis Dixon is no longer considered a Heisman Trophy candidate? I mean if you look at the Heisman as a most valuable player-type of award, Dixon is easily the nation's MVP.
(Jonathan Stewart found no running room against the swarming Bruins)
Brady Leaf, Cody Kempt and Justin Roper all had their chance, but failed miserably. The three understudies combined to go 11-of-39 for 105 yards with three interceptions. Those three were also sacked 6.5 times as part of the 16 tackles-for-loss that the offense suffered.
To make the misery worse, because there was no threat of a passing game, Duck running back Jonathan Stewart was sapped for just 33 yards on 13 carries.
Needless to say, the Ducks are mere shells of their former selves. Long in the rear view mirror is that 31-point blitzkrieg of Michigan in the Big House.
On the other side of the ledger, UCLA has new life breathed into it. At 5-3 in the Pac 10, the Bruins still actually have a shot to grab a share of the conference title if they can beat rival USC for the second year in a row.
"I didn't think we'd be in this position at 6-5," Coach Karl Dorrell said with a slight grin. "But this is what we worked ourselves into position for, to have a chance to play in the Rose Bowl."
The Bruins, facing their own mass of injury problems, just put the game on the backs of their defenders and let it roll.
"We wanted to make sure not to give them any big runs." Dorrell continued. "We wanted their quarterback to make plays for them, so we had a scheme to capitalize on their mistakes. And it worked perfectly."
And nobody flew around the field like middle linebacker Christian Taylor. The senior finished the day with 13 tackles, including a sack and four tackles for losses. Fellow 'backers Reggie Carter and Kyle Bosworth both contributed five tackles each and three more minus-result tackles.
The DBs did their job of throwing a blanket on receivers as well, allowing just 11 completions and grabbing three picks, each of which set up the Bruins in Duck territory.
Karl Dorrell kept things cool in the post-game, but you knew he was satisfied, "That was a very rewarding performance. To be able to capitalize on those turnovers. We took advantage of some opportunities when we had them. We didn't shoot ourselves in the foot. They didn't capitalize on our mistakes and we did, so that was the key of the game."
Like most everyone around the country, Dorrell knew this wasn't the same Oregon team coming into the Rose Bowl today. "We were going to win this game. No doubt in my mind. We played smart and made the critical plays when we needed to."
For what it's worth, the offensive heroes for the Bruins were running back Chris Markey, who toted the ball 30 times for just 91 yards. But walk-on Craig Sheppard supplied 49 more yards and the game's lone touchdown, a door-slammer with 5:21 left.
To Oregon's credit, their defense played lights out as well. The Bruins only gained 220 yards and a paltry 10 first downs.
Quarterback Ben Olson, who started the season with a lot of fanfare, entered the game in the second half, but was only 4-of-10 for 64 yards.
Every time UCLA kicker Tai Forbush put foot to ball.
The Frosh placekicker went 3-for-3 and essentially put the game away with his third field goal, a 28-yarder near the end of the third quarter.
Player of the game:
Christian Taylor, UCLA linebacker.
As mentioned above, Taylor ended the game with 13 tackles and four tackles-for-loss. It was the perfect end to this senior's final appearance in the Rose Bowl.
- UCLA (6-5, 5-3):
A date with cross-town rival USC looks all the more daunting with their lack of offense. But the good news is that Ben Olson got better as the game went along and will have a full week of practice this week, after getting just "about 25% of the snaps this week" according to Coach Karl Dorrell.
The Bruins need a win over USC and an Arizona win over Arizona State to stake a share of the Pac 10 and make an appearance in the Rose Bowl.
The Civil War battle with Oregon State.
This game looks more and more improbable with Dixon still in street clothes. Both the Ducks and the Beavers are at 5-3 as well. So a share of the Pac 10 title could still be a possibility - though unlikely. But nobody would have thought an 8-4 season was even remotely possible after their hot start to the season.