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    Canzano: Oregon Ducks go in search of identity after overtime loss to Stanford – OregonLive

    STANFORD — The Ducks didn’t bring their “A-game” again on Saturday. In the second half, University of Oregon president Michael Schill emerged on the third-floor stairwell balcony of Stanford Stadium holding a napkin and an ice cream bar.

    Schill leaned on the railing alongside longtime UO ambassador Herb Yamanaka, who stood there in the sunshine all game, binoculars in hand, observing. Yamanaka, who has been with the Ducks for six decades, was wearing Len Casanova’s 1958 Rose Bowl ring.

    Schill said between bites: “Herb’s seen it all.”

    Turns out, he hadn’t.

    Oregon worked hard to lose on Saturday. It was without center Alex Forsyth. Play caller Joe Moorhead was out sick. The Ducks called passes when they should have rushed and UO had two players ejected for targeting. Oregon also blew a line of assignments, missed a bunch of tackles, and mismanaged the clock.

    Stanford beat Oregon 31-24 in overtime.

    What’s the Ducks’ identity? Anyone know? We’re five games into the season. I don’t see one. Mostly because the players have shuffled in and out of the lineup due to injuries and suspensions. Week to week we can’t be certain who is going to be on the field, in uniform, healthy.

    Up by seven with two minutes to go? The No. 3 team in America? All those four and five-star players? Oregon blew the lead and left with a 4-1 record while a bunch of giddy Stanford engineering and computer science majors jumped the railing and hopped around on the field in front of them.

    Put this 2021 Stanford game on the very top of the pile of a bunch of painful defeats to the Cardinal. Right up there with the losses in 2001, 2009, 2012 and 2013. Saturday, in fact, marked the fifth time in the last 20 years that the Cardinal beat a Ducks team ranked in the Top 10.

    “Quack… Quack… Quack… Quack…,” the Stanford band members mocked and cried out as the stadium emptied. “Duck… Duck… goose!”

    I didn’t see the scene in the visiting locker room after the game. Schill and Yamanaka did. It was the first time in two seasons that non-team personnel were allowed in after a game. But the hope here is that Oregon will emerge with some sort of new-found identity.

    Blame the Pac-12 refs?

    I can’t go there today, folks.

    Not while quarterback Anthony Brown Jr. was so shaky with his reads. Not with the defense wilting down the stretch. Not with so many points left on the field and so many questions unanswered. Credit to the Cardinal for the win, but let’s be real — they’re just OK, aren’t they?

    Oregon was a terrible, sloppy, uneven mess. With 1:51 left, ESPN’s “Win Probability Model” gave Stanford a 0.1 percent chance to beat Oregon. Which is to say the game was essentially 99.9 percent blown.

    “We were one first down away from taking the air out of the ball,” Cristobal said.

    We know.

    “We just didn’t execute,” he added.

    Yup, we saw it.

    “Excuse my language,” said Brown, “but I played like (expletive).”

    I appreciate the simplicity of that. If had Oregon somehow won this game, as it did in escaping against Arizona, Stony Brook and Fresno State, we’d still all be sailing along, ignorant about the obvious shortcomings. Truth is, the Ducks lived off the Ohio State win and fooled AP voters for weeks.

    Saturday’s sobering lesson turns into a challenge for Oregon. It must go find its lost identity. Because the defeat didn’t just remove the pressure of being a top-four team in the rankings, it also exposed them.

    Tough? Resilient?

    Run-first? Pass-first?

    The upcoming bye week should be spent soul searching and figuring out how the same unit that played inspired at Ohio State has looked so flat since. Cristobal is terrific in a living room. He’s a magnet for blue-chip players. There isn’t a better recruiter in the conference and maybe the planet. But his mission now is to redirect his team, coach better, and turn this loss into a wonderful opportunity.

    “Our team has to get better,” Cristobal said after. “Our team has to make sure at times like this we stick together and have each other’s back.”

    The overtime sting has the potential to end up a pivot point for Oregon. The Ducks can still win the North Division and capture another conference title. They officially weren’t eliminated from playoff contention, either. They got slapped in the face by Stanford and lost a shot to go undefeated.

    Now what?

    Answer that, Oregon.

    Schill was cheering from that third-floor balcony. He’s become a bonafide sports fan. He had Yamanaka alongside, who was clock watching in the final couple of minutes.

    “We just need one more first down,” Yamanaka kept repeating.

    You were probably saying the same thing in your living room.

    The Ducks players are going to get sick when they watch the film and observe all the ways in which they gave away what should have easily been a road win. What they decide to do about it in the next 13 days is going to tell us a lot about the long-term trajectory of Cristobal’s program.

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went from 7-5 to Super Bowl champs last season. In the 2009 season opener Chip Kelly’s Ducks got embarrassed by Boise State but recovered and went to the Rose Bowl. Saturday’s loss was troubling, but a football season is a journey, isn’t it?

    Pack up and figure out who you are, Oregon.

    ♦♦♦

    Email: John@JohnCanzano.com

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    Tweet me: @JohnCanzanoBFT and find me on Facebook: BaldFacedTruth

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