5 takeaways from Oregon’s 41-19 victory over the Arizona Wildcats

·7 min read

Heading into Week 5 of the college football season, the Oregon Ducks are ranked No. 3 in the country with an undefeated record and one of the best turnover ratios in the nation.

So why is it completely understandable that fans of the Ducks may still have a number of questions about how good this squad really is?

Through four games, there has really only been one victory that Oregon fans have left with complete satisfaction, and that understandably came in Week 2 against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Aside from that, contested victories against Fresno State, Stony Brook, and now Arizona have all left us with questions and concerns about the Ducks’ ability to pull away from lesser teams.

While the end results have been what we desired, the way that Oregon gets there has left us with many concerns. Here are some of our biggest takeaways from yet another peculiar Ducks win on Saturday night.

Oregon has a lot to clean up

(Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

The Ducks ran just 55 offensive plays on Saturday, compared to Arizona’s 88. The Ducks had the ball for only 22 minutes, compared to Arizona’s 37. Oregon had just 17 first downs, compared to the Wildcats’ 31. The Ducks also had 9 penalties on the night.

These are all numbers that are extremely concerning for Oregon, but also very fixable going forward. The defense wasn’t great on Saturday night, and they were unable to get off of the field throughout the game, allowing Arizona to go 7-for-15 on 3rd down conversions, and an embarrassing 4-for-4 on 4th down conversions. On the plus side, they did grab 5 interceptions on the day to balance things out.

“We had a lot of turnovers – we were plus-five there – but we countered that with nine penalties, which is something that is out of character for us, and we know that’s not good enough,” Cristobal said. “I think a couple of them were out of aggressive play but a couple of the other ones you’ve got to be able to avoid. One of them was selfish. We’re going to have to teach it better and demand more from our guys and get better results.”

The Ducks are still in a great position going forward, with an inside track towards the College Football Playoff and a real reason to believe that they can make it back to the Pac-12 Championship. However, through these four weeks it’s not unreasonable to believe that this team is flawed. Whether or not that will come up and bite them at some point this season is unknown, but it’s definitely a possibility unless they clean things up.

Turnover ratio remains elite

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Oregon’s secondary has been incredible this season.

They were able to pull down 5 interceptions on Saturday night, and have a total of 13 forced turnovers on the season. What makes that even more impressive is the fact that the offense has only one turnover, which resulted form a screen pass that turned into a fumble early in the season.

This gives the Ducks a +12 turnover margin, which is the best single margin in the nation.

Verone McKinley leads the team with 4 interceptions on the season, and Bennett Williams has 3, two of which came on Saturday night and one of which went 63-yards for a touchdown. We also saw an impressive toe-tap from Mykael Wright, and a great late-game pick from Nate Heaukulani.

It’s clear that the Ducks’ have this part of the team in the right spot. Grabbing turnovers is one of the best ways to flip the game and build a lead while giving up the ball will handicap you in an instant. Once again on Saturday, we saw the Ducks dominate the turnover battle, which is arguably the main reason why they are one of the top-ranked teams in the nation.

Ducks defense needs a more stable identity

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I can’t put it any more succinctly than GoDucks reporter Rob Moseley did on Saturday night…

The Ducks gave up 435 total yards of offense to the Wildcats. Multiple times they relyed on the defense to get a pick in the end zone to bail them out of long drives and keep points off of the board. They gave up 7 third-down conversions, and 4 fourth-down conversions. The only sack of the night came late in the 4th quarter.

That may be what their defensive identity is in the end, but it shouldn’t be what they desire it to be. It seems like game after game, Oregon is getting by on the skin of their teeth, and finding a way late to pull out a victory. That is not the formula of a championship team.

Can a WR1 please stand up?

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Johnny Johnson III led the Ducks with three catches. Seven other receivers had one catch. Nobody — other than Jaylon Redd — had more than 35 yards receiving, and Redd’s total all came on the third play of the game, where he took a pass 63-yards for a touchdown.

Again, we are still left wondering who the leading receiver is going to be for the Ducks. It has been one of our questions entering every single game this season, and it doesn’t feel like an answer is going to come any time soon. Fortunately, the Ducks have been proficient when running the ball, but at some point in the season, they will need to rely on the pass. When that happens, it’s hard to feel confident that we know who they will go to.

An emotional roller coaster

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Mario Cristobal was asked a question following the game on Saturday about whether or not he felt his team played too much based on emotions, and if the highs were really high, but the lows had a potential to be too low.

His answer wasn’t very detailed.

“No, I don’t think so,” Cristobal responded. “I am not quite sure in terms of understanding a question like that. In terms of being emotional. That is not really – I don’t think so. I respect your question, I just don’t think so.”

It’s a fair question to ask, though. The Ducks have had a problem with playing down to opponents this season, but the one time where they were punching up against Ohio State, they played a nearly perfect game and were able to leave Columbus with a huge upset.

Saturday’s game was a microcosm of that theory as well. On the third play of the game, Oregon scored a 63-yard touchdown to go up 7-0. On the first defensive play, they got an interception and gave the offense the ball back in prime position. The highs were incredibly high.

On the end of the spectrum, the Ducks were seemingly unable to get out of their own way at other points in the game. Stupid penalties stalled drives and an inability to get off of the field on defense was frustrating for fans to watch. The lows had this team looking like they don’t belong in a conversation for the CFP.

In a perfect world, this team would be even-keeled, playing with the same intensity on every snap of the game. That isn’t always the case, though, and there are going to be swings in the game. Unfortunately, it seems that the swings with Oregon are drastic, and we may just have to ride that wave throughout the rest of the season.

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