The Oregon Ducks are coming off a monumentally disappointing loss at the hands of the Michigan State Spartans in Week 3 in which the Oregon offense had an opportunity to take the lead late in the game. Vernon Adams, making his second start for Oregon, looked shaky at times and could be seen flexing his hand on the sideline. Now we know that Adams is nursing a broken finger suffered in Week 1 that seemed to affect him last week as well. With that in mind, Oregon should make the smart decision to bench their new QB for their Week 3 game against the Georgia State Panthers.
Talking with reporters this week, Adams confirmed that he had broken his finger in the season opener against FCS Eastern Washington on the late hit that ended his night. He felt good heading into the game against Michigan State before injuring it again as he tried to solve the Spartans defense. The broadcast showed numerous shots of Adams on the sideline flexing his hand trying to loosen the hand back up and he played valiantly through the pain, though the team ultimately fell short.
And knowing what we know now about the health of his hand, some of the late miscues offensively start to make sense. On the final drive, Adams had a wide open Byron Marshall for a touchdown but couldn’t connect with him, overthrowing the team’s leading returning receiver by a couple of yards. When trying to extend the drive on 4th down, Adams was on the move and had an open receiver in Bralon Addison on the sideline but couldn’t get enough on the throw and uncharacteristically short-hopped the pass, ending the game.
Overall, Adams completed 22 of 39 passes for 309 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, which was a very un-Adams-like stat line for those who saw him play at EWU (averaged over 500 yards per game with 11 touchdowns and 0 INTs in two games against Pac-12 opponents). Something just seemed off, though it initially seemed like it was just the Michigan State defense making an impact (which undoubtedly was part of it).
Now we know that he was playing hurt and while that’s admirable, it doesn’t do Oregon’s long-term goals any good. The Ducks still have every opportunity to make a run to the Pac-12 title and the College Football Playoff and they need the dynamic playmaking of a healthy Vernon Adams to get there. While he is still building a rapport with his new teammates, it would be in the best interest of everyone if Adams took a seat this week to give his hand some rest.
No offense to Georgia State, but Oregon has enough playmakers on their roster to handle this game without Adams. Jeff Lockie is an excellent facilitator of the offense, getting the ball into the hands of the Ducks’ offensive stars and allowing them to do their thing. The Panthers, fresh off a 2-point victory over the New Mexico State Aggies (losers of 12 straight games now), simply don’t have the athletes to keep up with Oregon in Autzen Stadium after traveling across the country.
Vernon Adams is a tough competitor who showed a lot of heart playing at the level that he did with the injury that he has. But if Oregon wants to reach the great heights they are shooting for in 2015, they’d be best served letting Adams handle a clipboard this weekend rather than the Ducks offense.