Canzano: Oregon Ducks uprising; Pac-12 officiating under fire
Fallout from Saturday's games
Winning on the road in college football is difficult. Between the travel, the hostile environment, the disruption of schedule, and the opponent, getting out of town with a victory is a daunting task.
Oregon pulled it off on Saturday.
The Ducks scored 29 points in the fourth quarter, and skipped out of Pullman, Wash. with a 44-41 victory over Washington State.
Oregon turned a 12-point deficit with 3:48 left in fourth quarter into 10-point lead with one minute left.
UO’s 626 total yards were the most in a game since the Ducks posted 703 vs Southern Utah in 2017.
Oregon has now posted multiple games of 600 yards of offense in the same season for the first time since 2015. Offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, take a bow.
Credit to Dan Lanning, too, who emerged from the Palouse looking like a guy who had been dancing in a mosh pit for a couple of hours. Tip of the cap to Bo Nix, who had 428 passing yards. And a nod to the Ducks defense, which came up with two interceptions in the fourth quarter.
“Eggs, breakfast and go whoop ass,” Lanning said earlier in the week.
It felt a wee bit more complicated on Saturday, no? More like: eggs, breakfast, fall behind by multiple scores, whoop ass in the fourth quarter, and get on the plane home.
None of us liked what we saw from Oregon in Week 1 against Georgia. But the last couple of outings have made me wonder if the Ducks might be able to get back to Las Vegas and play for the Pac-12 championship in December.
They’re not particularly dominant on either side of the ball right now. They don’t pile drive you off the field. But they’re incredibly resilient, don’t stop playing, are situationally aware, protect the quarterback well, and have enough talent to win.
The next five games for Oregon: vs. Stanford, at Arizona, vs. UCLA, at Cal, and at Colorado. Aside from maybe Stanford, at Cal, and the Bruins, I don’t see a lot of tests for the Ducks. It’s not inconceivable that we’d see Oregon sitting on an 8-1 record headed to the final three weeks of the season.
Those final three games, however, are dicey.
The Ducks are home vs. Washington and Utah. Then, they play at Oregon State in the regular-season finale. Really, what we have here in the next month or so is an opportunity for Lanning’s team to eliminate mistakes, improve, refine and try to play more complete games. If finishing the regular-season with one loss is the goal, the Ducks will need to be better.
OFFICIATING BLUNDERS: There was some highly entertaining football played on Saturday by the Pac-12 Conference. I just wish the officiating were better.
The conference officials struggled in a few games, but especially in Pullman, Wash. where they committed a cardinal sin. The officials lost track of downs in the second quarter of Oregon’s thrilling 44-41 win over Washington State.
During the sequence, the Cougars had the ball. On first down, WSU quarterback Cameron Ward was flagged for intentional grounding. The officials spotted the ball, announced the penalty, and then set up for what was announced as third-down and 17.
What happened to second down?
Washington State called a run play that resulted in a one-yard gain on “third” down. Then, it punted the ball to Oregon on “fourth” down. During the ensuing television-commercial break, the officials realized their error and spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what to do about it.
Any kid who has ever played a pick-up game on a playground knows the right thing in that situation is an old fashioned do-over. One that should have reverted to the exact circumstance of the original error itself — that missing second down.
It should have been second down. And the Cougars could have then called an appropriate second-down and long play. But that’s not what happened.
After some deliberation and consultation with the Pac-12 Command Center, the officials picked up the ball and time traveled back to the previous series. Except, they didn’t go back far enough. The officials decided the “do-over” would go back to third down and 17.
Again, what happened to second down?
The officials might argue that WSU ran a play there. But they ran a play while thinking it was third and long — not second and long. They were at an obvious disadvantage caused by the officiating error.
I’m not saying the mistake caused WSU’s loss. It didn’t. In the fourth quarter, Oregon scored at will and the Cougars turned the ball over. But losing track of downs is a bad look. I’m told the Pac-12 Conference will make an announcement of some kind by the end of business on Sunday.
I also saw a ton of unflagged holding in the USC-OSU game. At one point, Trojans’ QB Caleb Williams was scrambling and one of his offensive lineman literally tackled an OSU defensive player who was in hot pursuit. No flag. A former NFL offensive lineman who didn’t attend either university happened to be watching the game and shot me a note in disgust afterward.
He wrote: “The officiating was so f**king bad dude. They just closed their eyes for most of the Beavers game.”
The Stanford-Washington game had a couple of shaky moments, too. So did some others. The Utah-ASU game featured a fourth-and-1 at the 6-yard line. Someone jumped. The officials granted a timeout vs. flagging the offender. Said one veteran reporter on site in Salt Lake City: “We all looked at each other in the press box in disbelief.”
I typically give most of that in-game, judgment-call bellyaching the benefit of the doubt. Officiating can be very difficult. But when the Pac-12 loses track of downs, heightened scrutiny is justified.
Some other stuff:
• I hired Iain Crimmins to shoot the Oregon vs. Washington State game on Saturday. His work is just terrific. The Ducks-Cougars photo gallery is a real treat if you haven’t seen it. He’ll make you feel like you were there.
• I wrote a column off Oregon State’s 17-14 loss to USC on Saturday at Reser Stadium. The Beavers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and are going to be kicking themselves when they watch film.
• There were 27,000-plus in attendance, but I couldn’t help but notice how loud it was inside the stadium. Best atmosphere for an OSU home game since the mid-Mike Riley era?
• Washington is at UCLA on Friday night. I can’t wait to see this game. I’m not sold on the Bruins, and think the Huskies are lethal. Am I right? Or is UCLA really a contender? Early line: UW -3 points.
• The gifted and talented Serena Morones was on the scene at Reser Stadium on Saturday night, shooting photos for JohnCanzano.com. Her photo gallery of the USC-OSU game is special. Give it a look.
• Oregon State has a big bounce-back opportunity at Utah on Saturday. The Utes are playing really well, and appear focused, but will likely be without star tight end Brant Kuithe. He suffered a knee injury in the 34-13 win over ASU and was on the sideline on crutches during the second half. Kuithe and OSU’s Luke Musgrave are arguably the best two TEs in the conference. Both may be out on Saturday.
I appreciate all who have supported, subscribed and shared my new, independent, endeavor with friends and families. If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing. Your support allows me to go where the stories take us.
This is an independent reader-supported project, with both free and paid subscriptions. Those who opt for the paid edition are providing vital assistance to bolster my independent coverage. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber to have full access to all of my posts.
I’ve had several seniors and others on a fixed budget write to tell me they’d love to enjoy a paid subscription, but can’t afford it. I’ve had others inquire as to whether they might be able to donate a “paid” subscription to a stranger. I’m pleased to announce, you can now do that here:
Shame on the officials but what was the WSU during the missed down. Their failure here is as bad as the refs blunder.
I watched the Oregon-Washington State game yesterday, but unfortunately did not see any other PAC 12 action. But as you know John, I have been to and watched a ton of PAC 12 games and have for years. I’ve also officiated football, but not at the collegiate level, as well as basketball and 37 years of professional baseball.
Losing track of the down is embarrassing and just shouldn’t happen. You have eight officials on the field, plus the replay official, who if sees a down being skipped or added, can alert the on field officials. ￼
And as a side note...I’m not sure if, by rule, the officials yesterday could go back to 2nd down. The rule may limit the “do over” to where they went, 3rd down. I’m not a college football rule expert and may be wrong.
The PAC 12 conference has taken its shots in recent years over officiating. Some is justified, some is piling on.
But I take extreme exception with any thoughts that officials cheat to make sure conference “big boys” win games, or that executives from the league office tell officials to “help out“ certain teams. ￼
You can call holding practically every play. To call a foul, you not only need an illegal action, but the judgment of the official concerning advantage/disadvantage. An infraction away from the ball, having nothing to do with the point of attack, will usually be ignored (unless a personal foul, unsportsmanlike conduct, or a safety issue).
The operative term above is “judgement of the official.” All of us have judgement, but not all of us have good officiating judgment. As we always said at umpire school, you can teach mechanics, rules, positioning, angles, but you can’t teach judgment. Either you have good judgment, or you don’t. ￼
In general, fans have questionable if not poor judgment, especially concerning their team. And that’s ok, fans should be a bit illogical and watch with rose colored glasses. I and my fellow officials wouldn’t want it any other way!
However, allegations that officials are cheating (and that’s what someone is accusing when they say calls are made or ignored to favor a team, or that the conference instructs officials to favor a school), not only crosses a line, but chips away the integrity of the entire sport.
You may think an official is incompetent or has poor judgement. You may feel your team never gets a break. But contrary to what seems to be in vogue these days, not everything is a conspiracy.