Originally posted on The Duck Stops Here  |  Last updated 11/20/11

Maybe it's an ironic measure of how far this program has come that some of the players overlooked the USC Trojans.

Josh Huff said they were celebrating in the hallways of the hotel Friday night after Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, giddy after having number two in the country and a chance at the national championship handed to them by the courage and determination of a 5-4 football team.

They forgot one thing.

(photo left: Oregon joined Boise State as victims of a missed field goal at the end of the game, ending their run at the national championship. Other worthy goals remain. Photo by Thomas Boyd of oregonlive.com)

Losing is the most painful way to be reminded what winning demands of you.

The Ducks missed a kick at the end of the game, but it shouldn't have come down to that. Errors in execution throughout the game, including three costly turnovers, a blocked punt, misfired passes and disastrous one-on-one matchups in the secondary, dug an awful hole that a furious rally didn't quite overcome.

Chip Kelly has elevated the Oregon program to a magnificent level, but he and his staff were outcoached last night. The team wasn't prepared properly in attitude, scheme or execution, and they mismanaged the clock at the end of the game.

Darron Thomas' limitations and failure to grow as a quarterback plagued the Oregon Ducks in this game. He lacks mobility in the pocket, struggles with mechanics and consistency, and becomes erratic under pressure. His long throwing motion becomes an invitation to disaster in a collapsing pocket, and he hasn't developed the awareness or presence to sense when that happens, lacks the instinct or the quickness to take off and create something or salvage a play with a scramble.

Thomas has led Oregon to 22 wins and a conference title, but this was a night they most missed the mobility and improvisational skills of Dennis Dixon and Jeremiah Masoli. The Oregon spread is more dangerous when the quarterback is a dual threat weapon the defense has to account for. Dixon and Masoli could exploit an opponent even on plays they did everything right. Thomas can't. He's a point guard without an outside shot, who can't break down a defender off the dribble. So he has to distribute with keen effectiveness to win. He didn't last night. He missed open guys or threw them passes that merely got them to the foul line.

He has to play better in big games. He has to lead better, and take a leap forward in his maturity and command, or Oregon will be 10-2 again in his senior year. Or Bryan Bennett might take his job.

USC and Matt Barkley played better and they deserved to win. The image of Barkley leading the Trojan band at the end of the game burns the retinas of my imagination. He earned the moment, exploiting matchup advantages against the Oregon secondary.

Losing stinks.

The Ducks still have an opportunity ahead of them to make this a very rewarding season. A win over Oregon State caps a 10-2 regular season and the opportunity to host the first PAC-12 Championship Game. Right now UCLA leads, but the race in the PAC-12 South is a muddle of tiebreakers and what-ifs. Someone will advance, and they'll have to come to Autzen Stadium to face what should be a hungry, focused team bent on finishing strong.

First, though, the Ducks and their coaches have to figure out a way to stop a quarterback with a hot hand. Sean Mannion and his receivers, who carved up Washington for 329 yards and two touchdowns in pacing a 38-21 victory, will save the game of their lives for the Webfoots. The Ducks should be able to get more pressure on Mannion, however, who doesn't enjoy an offensive line like USC's.

Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, the Oregon defense, and the Oregon fans have to reclaim Autzen Stadium. Time to start a new streak, and make six weeks of focused effort to win the school's first Rose Bowl Trophy in nearly a hundred years.

What was lost was never theirs. This isn't the year they'll remake their national reputation or silence the ESPN and SEC dismissals. But they can finish in the Top Ten and win a BCS bowl. Next year, they can contend for all the big prizes, provided they commit themselves. National Championships are won in February, March, June and July. They start with leadership. If the Ducks want to end their remarkable run with the ultimate dream, they'll have to be ready to pay the price to make it come true.

LaMichael James' Heisman campaign ended with a disastrous fumble on the USC ten yard line. But De'Anthony Thomas launched a future run at The Stiff Arm Trophy with another brilliant game.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Mike Trout to undergo MRI after suffering thumb injury

John Wall: Bench was cause of Wizards’ ‘downfall’

Arum says Pacquiao would fight McGregor if Mayweather won't

Aaron Judge hits first grand slam of his career

David Stern: Lakers could have had Chris Paul, GM panicked

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Brandon Jacobs vows to 'expose' Jim Harbaugh, get him fired

Mike Zimmer won’t retire even if right eye goes blind

Kevin Love responds to Draymond Green’s ‘annihilation’ trash talk

Spike Lee deletes Instagram post saying Kaepernick signed with Seattle

Errol Spence is the real deal, takes down Kell Brook

Indians reveal Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field

Meet your Stanley Cup finalists: Nashville Predators

Getaway Day: There's a murderer's row in the NL West

Journey to the Stanley Cup Final: Pittsburgh Penguins

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Box Score 5/26: Bring on the Finals

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Meet your Stanley Cup finalists: Nashville Predators

Getaway Day: There's a murderer's row in the NL West

Journey to the Stanley Cup Final: Pittsburgh Penguins

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Kicking It: East is East, and West is West

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker