Tape It Up: Oregon: Worse Than Feared

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Oregon: Worse Than Feared

Everyone knew Dennis Dixon was important to Oregon's offense, but few thought he WAS the Oregon offense. Turns out, those few were right. Without Dixon, the Ducks (also minus backup quarterback Brady Leaf), could not score a single point in a 16-0 loss to UCLA that exposed the team's worst fear - without Dixon, Oregon is a bunch of sitting ducks.

Oregon is out of the Rose Bowl hunt after their second-straight conference loss, but this one really hurt. Brady Leaf was supposed to have the talent (and the gene pool) to lead Oregon to two wins over run-of-the-mill Pac-10 opponents and keep the Ducks above water long enough to still make a Rose Bowl appearance, now that their national championship hopes have sunk. Except Leaf didn't really get the chance, since the injury bug bit him, too.

Leaf was already battling an ankle injury heading into Saturday's game against UCLA, and he didn't last long. After being sacked in the first quarter, Leaf rolled on his right ankle, the uninjured one, taking him out of the game. He threw a few passes on the sideline but never made it back onto the field. Two bad ankles do not allow for a positive output in Oregon's spread out, run-when-you-can offense. He is questionable for next week's game as well, the season finale against Oregon State.

Next in the QB pecking order was redshirt freshman Cody Kempt, who lasted two quarters before being knocked out on a hit by All-American defensive end Bruce Davis. Redshirt freshman Justin Roper came in to relieve Kempt until he stopped seeing stars, and Kempt was able to finish the game.

Kempt was an abysmal 6 of 23 passing with 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and a sack, while Roper didn't give him much help, completing 1 of 5 passes for 8 yards, taking 2 sacks and throwing a pick in his brief stint under center. Oregon will spend this offseason searching for a suitable backup quarterback - or three - because these guys clearly could not get it done, injuries or no.

And then there is the issue of the run game. Running back Jonathan Stewart entered the game struggling with shoulder and toe injuries, and the Pac-10's leading rusher felt a whole lot worse when he walked off the field on Saturday. He had just 33 yards on 13 carries, turning in an average of 2.5 yards per carry, nearly 4 yards per carry below his season average. And all this came against UCLA, not USC. Perhaps those lingering injuries are worse than Stewart is willing to admit.

Now the Ducks are down to just one healthy quarterback - though Kempt should get the final start - with the Civil War approaching next week, and they desperately need a win to salvage what is left of this season and get into a respectable bowl game.

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