“Oh what could’ve been.”
That has to be the mantra — well, that and “that escalated quickly” — of the Oregon football program and its fan base this evening after watching the Ducks jump out to a huge lead and then hang on against in-state rival Oregon State in a wild 52-42 Civil War win Friday. The Ducks had sprinted to what appeared to be a comfortable 31-7 halftime lead before the Beavers scored 35 of the next 45 points to pull within three points at 45-42 with 7:05 remaining.
A Vernon Adams touchdown pass two and a half minutes later, his third of the game, essentially iced the game for the Ducks.
And, speaking of Adams, that’s where the what-ifs come in.
The FCS All-American transfer from Eastern Washington was viewed as a more-than-capable replacement for Heisman winner Marcus Mariota entering the season. However, he was injured early on as the Ducks stumbled to a 3-3 start that included a three-point loss to Michigan State and seven-point loss to Washington State. Adams finally overcame the health issues in mid-October and the Ducks have rolled ever since, ripping off six straight wins to close out the regular season.
During this six-game streak, Adams has thrown 21 touchdown passes; in the first six games of the season, three of which he missed, Adams threw four. Throw in the fact that he’s completed nearly 80 percent of his passes the past three weeks — 77.3 to be precise — Adams is one of the hottest quarterbacks in the country entering the final weeks of his one and only season in Eugene.
If Adams had been healthy the first-half of the season, could it have changed the direction of the season? It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty, although the odds seem pretty good that UO wouldn’t be sitting at 9-3 and looking at a middle(ish)-tier bowl bid if he had been his late-season self.