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Feathered Foes

November 17, 2008

(at UO 55, UA 45)


When I first saw Oregon’s latest new uniforms I thought, “Feathers? How can we lose to a team with fake feathers on their shoulders?” Then Jeremiah Masoli flew by Ronnie Palmer for 66 yards. Then Willie Tuitama’s pass flew into Patrick Chung’s arms. Then Ed Dickson flew unseen down the middle of the field again and again as if flying by night.

I really don’t like the feathers.

So our white-on-red uniform combination is not invincible. But you have to try very, very, very hard to kill it.

Speaking of defeated fashion, did you notice the facemask on the back of Mike Stoops’ sweatshirt was the wrong color? Our helmets are all blue, but Stoops’ mask was white. Oregon changes their uniforms more often than I change my underwear, and the Wildcats look like they’re wearing bootleg sideline apparel.

The TV broadcast was a little off too. You don’t realize how much you rely on that on-screen first down line until it’s gone. It seemed like our players were having to run 25 yards for a first down. I didn’t have that problem when Oregon had the ball though, since you don’t need first downs when you score every other play.

Arizona came into the game leading the Pac-10 in scoring at 39 points per game. I never expected us to raise that average this week. I never ever would have guessed we’d raise that average and lose.

We need to let the 4th-and-3 call go. We lost the game because we gave up 45 points in the first half. Read that again. We only scored 49 in the first half against Idaho. Our team was Idaho bad in the first half. That’s really hard to believe.

But, man, that was a great 4th-and-3 play call. We never throw swing passes to our running backs. I don’t recall a single one all year. To have that play saved and ready to go for this exact situation was very impressive.

It would probably be a good idea to practice it a bit more however.

One play I think we should take a break from is the middle screen. If Willie isn’t throwing an interception he’s drilling his lineman in the back.

You know what else it’s probably time to do? Stop calling this a “spread offense.” Right now the two things our offense does best are run up the middle and throw it too our tight ends. Our two tailbacks have 20 rushing touchdowns; Tuitama only has 18 touchdown passes. Our two tight ends have 10 touchdown catches; all our wide receivers combined only have eight. I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just saying it’s not a spread offense.

A game like this really makes you glad we locked up a bowl bid last week. We actually didn’t lose any ground in the standings because Cal also lost, so if the season ended today we’d still mostly likely be in the Vegas Bowl.

What are our postseason possibilities with just two games left? After a bit of sports nerdery I proudly present the result of every potential outcome for the bowl-bound Cats:

-Win both games, Oregon beats OSU
This is the best case scenario for Arizona. It would put us in a three-way tie for third place with the Beavers and Bears, both of whom we would have beaten. Add in our proximity to El Paso and our decade-long bowl drought, and we’d be on our way to the Sun Bowl.

-Win both games, OSU beats Oregon
The Ducks would replace the Beavers in our three-way third-place tie. Each team would have split with the other two, but Oregon went to the Sun Bowl last year, and you would think the Emerald Bowl would lobby hard for the Bay Area Bears so I still think we end up in El Paso.

-Lose to OSU, beat ASU, OSU beats Oregon, Stanford beats Cal
There would be a three-way tie for fourth with Stanford and Cal. USC would get an at-large BCS bid so everyone moves up a slot and I say the Sun Bowl takes us.

-Lose to OSU, beat ASU, OSU beats Oregon, Cal beats Stanford
We would be alone in fifth place but USC to the BCS would bump us up to the Vegas Bowl.

-Lose to OSU, beat ASU, Oregon beats OSU, Cal beats Stanford
We would be alone in fifth place and play in the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

-Lose to OSU, beat ASU, Oregon beats OSU, Stanford beats Cal
We would be in a three-way tie for fourth with Stanford and Cal. Either the Vegas Bowl takes us, or they take 6-6 Stanford over two 7-5 teams and we drop down the Hawaii Bowl.

-Beat OSU, lose to ASU, Cal beats Stanford
The Emerald Bowl would choose between us and ASU. They would have beaten us but we would have a better overall record. The unpicked team goes to Hawaii.

-Beat OSU, lose to ASU, Stanford beats Cal
There would be a four-way tie for fourth between us, ASU, Stanford and Cal. I think the Vegas would take ASU or Stanford, the Emerald would take Stanford or Cal, and we would go to either the Hawaii or Poinsettia Bowls.

-Lose both games, Cal beats Stanford
We would be alone in sixth place and play in the Hawaii Bowl.

-Lose both games, Stanford beats Cal
We drop all the way to sole possession of seventh place, play in the Poinsettia Bowl, and Stoops’ seat goes back to being toasty.

I told you there was nerdery involved. The good news is the Cal/Stanford game is this weekend so, combine that with the UA/OSU result and we’ll be able to narrow things down considerably.

Ah yes, the UA/OSU game. We thought we had blown our chance to beat the best team in the Pac-10. Well, guess what, there’s a really good chance we haven’t played them yet.

That’s right, we get another crack at a nationally-televised, ranked-team-upsetting, field-rushing win.

If we were talking about USC this would be a classic trap game for the Beavers. They just won a huge game against Cal, and in two weeks they have a rivalry game with the Rose Bowl on the line. Oregon ran all over us and OSU happens to feature the Pac-10’s leading rusher. The perfect scenario for overlooking little old Arizona, right?

We are not, however, talking about USC. We’re talking about a team that is never in this position. We’re talking about a fan base that hasn’t celebrated a league championship since 2000 and hasn’t been to the Rose Bowl since 1964. They aren’t going to overlook anybody. We will get a focused, hungry team dying to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It will take a superior effort from our coaches, players and fans to have any chance of beating them.

But least they won’t be wearing feathers.

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