If you were to wake up on Saturday morning and simply look at the box score from Oregon’s 24-17 win over the Cal Golden Bears, not much would shock you about QB Anthony Brown’s night.
In fact, the numbers he put up were actually pretty impressive — 20-for-28 with 244 yards and 1 TD, plus 59 yards and 1 TD on the ground. However, the reaction from the Ducks fanbase was less than welcoming, with a flurry of boos coming from the student section early in the game, and continuing throughout the night.
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The boos stemmed from frustration over the offense’s inability to be productive. Oregon is a school that is synonymous with putting up egregious numbers on the scoreboard, and making games against middling Pac-12 teams boring to watch in the second half. This Oregon team doesn’t fit under that category. They often put up enough points to win the game, but they don’t make it look easy.
So early in this game, when the Ducks were forced to settle for a field goal after entering the redzone, or when they turned the ball over on downs when Brown threw a three-yard pass on a 4th and 6 situation, the boos started. Later in the game, with Oregon trailing, loud chants of “We want Thompson” came from the crowd, with true freshman QB Ty Thompson eliciting loud cheers as he stayed loose during timeouts.
So what did Brown do in response? Eventually, he led a pair of 60-plus yard scoring drives that tied the game and gave Oregon a lead in the fourth quarter.
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“At the end of the day, it really motivated us,” said center Ryan Walk. “You want to say that you didn’t notice it, but I’m not going to lie to you, we all noticed it. You can’t sit there and be like ‘Oh well I didn’t notice it.’ Yea, you noticed it. It motivated us. The O-line went to AB and said ‘Hey, we’ve got your back, have our back.’ And that’s what we showed on those last two drives. We’ve got each other’s backs. AB is our guy, he’s our leader, and we’re rolling with him regardless.”
Results aside, having your offense booed in front of a home crowd is never a good thing. Fans may think it will encourage change, but it will more quickly have a negative impact with confidence often soaring out the window. Luckily, Brown is a sixth-year senior who is familiar with blocking out the noise and getting back to business on the field.
“I thought he did a good job of handling it,” said safety Verone McKinley III. “Not everybody understands football; not everyone understands what’s going on in the system, or the concepts that are being run and what they’re looking for. So for people to boo, it’s kind of disappointing. But at the same time, we’ve got to worry about us. We can’t let the crowd affect us, and I think Anthony did a good job of getting guys back rallied up and going down and leading that drive at the end to get us a score.”
Brown responded well to the overwhelming criticism on Friday night, but you have to wonder how much the coaching staff and players took note of the uneasiness of the crowd. They can say that AB is their guy, but will disapproval from a fanbase at least force them to look at the shortcomings from the quarterback?
That’s a question that we don’t have an answer to, but one that we’ve been encouraging Mario Cristobal to look at in-depth. For now, though, it’s pretty clear that there is no QB change on the horizon, and the Ducks are going to stick with their sixth-year senior, for better or for worse.
“AB is our guy,” Walk repeated on Friday night. “We’re going to roll with him. He’s our leader.”
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