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Oregon vs. Arizona State Was the Bad Kind of Pac-12 After Dark

Chris Coduto/Icon Sportswire

It was Pac-12 after dark at its finest. Or was it?

Ever since the conference created the Pac-12 Network, it has coined the phrase “Pac-12 After Dark” to signify that crazy and weird things seem to happen in the late games. And for the most part, purposely or not, the teams have cooperated.

Arizona State was perhaps the first team to truly go dark in 2014 when quarterback Mike Bercovici found wideout Jaelen Strong on a Hail Mary to upset the Trojans in the Coliseum. That was the good after dark.

But in Thursday night’s Pac-12 “After Dark special”, there was nothing good. Even for Oregon, the team that happened to win the game 61-55 in triple overtime. It was a thrilling contest to be sure, but it was also ugly and featured things that shouldn’t have happened, or ever have been seen…even after dark.

The win put Oregon at 5-3, 3-2 in conference play and the Ducks are going to say all the right things about still being in the hunt for the North Division championship. To a certain extent, they are right. But, the win is going to gloss over the fact that the Duck defense looks terrible. It was only Arizona State’s questionable play-calling that allowed Oregon to even be in the game, let alone win it in three extra periods.

This may be one of the few times that a loss would have been more beneficial to the program in the long run than a victory. Oregon gave up 741 total yards, that is near a half a mile of offense. A loss might have put a glaring spotlight on that fact and perhaps forced some change.

Defensive coordinator Don Pellum has been with the Ducks in some capacity for over 30 years, and the last two as the DC. Oregon is loyal to its coaches, possibly to a fault, but Pellum’s defense could have allowed a full mile of offense and the Ducks still wouldn’t have fired him. It’s just not going to happen.

A loss, however, might have triggered something with the administration to force change, whether it’s a change in the overall scheme or a shuffling of lower level assistant coaches. It’s one thing to get torched on the Pac-12 Network, but this was on nationally telivised ESPN where, even though it was late, the whole country saw the Oregon defense give up yards like it was going out of style.

Beyond the poor defense, this game showed the Oregon sideline so paranoid that its play signals were going to get stolen, that the Ducks put up what looked like shower curtains to hide the signals. It was not a good look. It wouldn’t have been a good look if the Ducks were 8-0 and in the Top 5. It’s really not a good look for a team that is barely above average.

We haven’t even touched on the  Pac-12 referee crew, yet. This conference has had the bad reputation, and rightfully so, of having the worst officials in the country; and now it’s spilled over to the replay booth. The Pac-12 has been known for going to the booth as often as possible, but the replay booth just flat-out got two calls wrong Thursday night. The replay booth giveth and the booth taketh away. Oregon seemingly had an interception, but that was somehow reverse. Oregon’s touchdown in the third and final overtime looked to be no good as well.

Receiver Bralon Addison’s front foot looked to be out-of-bounds, but there wasn’t conclusive evidence to say otherwise, and the score stood. Neither coach was happy with the officiating for the entire night and neither was shy about letting them know exactly how they felt.

On the other sideline, Arizona State once again showed that it wants to be the conference underachievers over and over again. The Sun Devils had the game won on several occasions, but refused to take it. They were up 31-20 and playing against an exhausted and bad defense, but then they let Charles Nelson return a kickoff 100 yards and allowed the third string back go for 62 yards and another score to quickly give the lead back in the span of three minutes.

Arizona State burned timeouts and it ultimately cost them. The Sun Devils spent a timeout late in the first half. and then when it was time kick a field goal they were indecisive and had to rush the kicker on the field. Of course he missed it.

What they might want to do, both teams and the conference itself, is burn the game film and pretend it never happened. Let this Pac-12 After Dark episode never see the light of day again.

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