UCLA in wrong place at wrong time
Bruins get caught in the middle as Oregon makes a national statement, 60-13
EUGENE, Ore. -- Don't fret, UCLA, this could have happened to anyone.
And it probably would have.
Oregon clearly wanted a coming-out party and the Ducks didn't care who or what was in their way when they took the national stage and turned it into a showcase for their breakneck brand of relentless offense.
Oregon's merciless 60-13 pounding of the Bruins at Autzen Stadium wasn't so much about running up the score on UCLA as it was about Oregon's showing a national prime-time television audience that it is, indeed, a national title contender and that it had no intentions of becoming the third team in as many weeks to lose when ranked atop the Associated Press poll.
And with the offensive display Oregon put on, there should be little doubt that this is a team deserving of its top spot in the AP and the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings.
The fast-break style produced eight touchdown drives, none of which took more than 3 minutes, 37 seconds. The Ducks had 23 plays of 10 yards or more, including nine that went for 20 or more.
Quarterback Darron Thomas threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns and didn't even play in the fourth quarter. The Ducks had 582 yards in total offense despite losing the time-of-possession battle, 38:31-21:29.
That's 582 yards in a game when LaMichael James, the nation's leading rusher, had only 123 yards rushing -- 46 below his season average. Five different players scored for Oregon.
"It was an overwhelming performance by them, especially offensively," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "They were dominant."
The Ducks wasted little time in showing that they were out to make a statement, going for a two-point conversion in the first quarter to go up 15-0, running a trick play on a punt return in the second quarter with a 22-3 lead, and calling a timeout with 24 seconds left in the first half when UCLA had the ball on third-and-10 and Oregon had a 32-3 lead.
The sentiment was clear: Oregon would be unyielding in its effort to make an impression in this game, and that became even more obvious when, after taking a 32-3 halftime lead, Oregon ran an end-around shuffle pass on the first play of the second half and continued throwing deep passes well into the third quarter even with a 39-3 lead.
Up 39-6, Oregon went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
"They were aggressive," Neuheisel said. "I'll leave it at that."
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UCLA now must find a way to regroup from the disheartening loss. Neuheisel's goal is to get the Bruins back to competing for conference and national championships, and the Bruins got an up-close look at the blueprint for what a top-tier team looks like.
The lesson is clear: UCLA is still in a lower class than the elite.
"A team like that, they're sound," UCLA safety Tony Dye said. "They make teams pay when you make errors, and we made errors. We need to take a good look at ourselves and figure out how to get to that level."
Neuheisel acknowledged he had to point the finger at himself first.
"We've got to look hard to see if schematically we're sound, given our personnel," Neuheisel said. "Those are questions that always have to be asked. A coach's first job is to be critical of themselves."
As to how UCLA can rebound from this with tough games coming up against Arizona and Oregon State, UCLA has no choice but to, Neuheisel said.
"I know one thing, you can't give up," he said. "You keep fighting. The sun will come up tomorrow and so will UCLA. We're going to find a way to get off the mat and make something of the rest of our season."
And, meanwhile, Oregon will be trying to make the BCS championship game.
Peter Yoon covers UCLA for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.