The Oregon Ducks looked much better than they have in the last two weeks despite a 31-14 loss at UCLA on Saturday. There are things to build on from this performance, but there is still too much bad that isn’t allowing the Ducks to be competitive in the conference games that matter most.
Having lost three in a row and four of its last five, Oregon finds itself on the verge of missing a bowl in the first season of the Willie Taggart era.
Here is how the Ducks graded out in the loss:
Braxton Burmeister showed much more confidence than in previous weeks. The numbers still don’t look great, and too often he failed to stay in the pocket and look for receivers to get open. But he took some shots downfield, even completing a pass to Dillon Mitchell that was overturned but was a great effort. Royce Freeman was the man again, pounding out 160 yards. There is work to do, but the offense looked much improved over the last two weeks.
Again, there was much better effort than last week, but the defense eventually got tired as UCLA kept coming and coming and coming in the second half. The Ducks held Josh Rosen in check for the most part, limiting him to 266 yards passing and 2 scores, and sacking him twice. As the game wore on, the defense had nothing left. The Bruins consistently picked up chunk yardage on the ground. The Ducks also failed to get a turnover.
Special Teams: C
The Ducks missed a field goal in the fourth quarter in an attempt to turn it into a two-possession game. Otherwise, there was not much to report. Oregon had a punt-return attempt for minus-7 yards, and Adam Stack put 2 of his 4 punts inside the 20.
This is tough to gauge. Do you credit the coach for getting his team more prepared and playing with far more energy than last week? Do you give him a pass that he essentially is handcuffed on offense with a quarterback who is nowhere close to being able to perform like the injured starter? Or do you continue to fault the coaching staff for not being able to make proper in-game adjustments that help the team win? I’m going to lean toward the former in this case. Had Oregon come out and gotten blown out of the Rose Bowl, then you definitely could make the case that Taggart’s system isn’t working. Pac-12 games are important, and Taggart has lost four of his first five. The effort was there, and most of the Oregon mistakes on Saturday came down to poor execution. Guys were open, but Burmeister didn’t hit them. Tackles were there to be made, and the defense didn’t respond. The improvement is more telling to me than the results.
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