EUGENE, Ore. -- A to-do list hangs in Oregon's locker room. Stuff like "Have fun" and "Eliminate distractions." Whatever. But No. 4 on the list, coach Chip Kelly said, is "Flip the switch."
Hmm. The Ducks' locker room is closed post game, so we do not know exactly where this switch is located. Nor do we know the nature of said switch. Witchcraft? Is it something cosmic? Is Kelly close with Harry Potter. Or perhaps Lord Voldemort? Should the NCAA drop all this agent, pay-for-play stuff and fly to Eugene to investigate this switch? Because it's becoming clear that switch is pretty powerful when it gets flipped.
"We're pretty good at flipping the switch," Kelly said cryptically.
You won't have to convince Arizona of that. The No. 21 Wildcats led the No. 1 Ducks at halftime and then -- click -- they got steamrolled 48-29. It was over early in the fourth quarter after the Ducks scored five touchdowns, a flurry amid which the Wildcats countered with a mere field goal.
"Slowly, but surely, their spirits started to dwindle," Oregon center Jordan Holmes said.
Spirits were high in Autzen Stadium and among the Ducks players. But there sure weren't many roses around for a team that just clinched the Pac-10 championship, which comes with a Rose Bowl berth.
The Ducks haven't won a Rose Bowl since 1917, but they've got bigger prizes within their grasp. Beat rival Oregon State on Dec. 4 and they will bypass the Rose Bowl and go directly to Glendale, Ariz., where they would play for the program's first national title.
Oregon wasn't celebrating much. "I'm giddy," said Kelly, who appeared to be exaggerating his mood a tad.
But back to this switch. It seems to be most frequently used at halftime. Oregon has outscored foes 256-64 in the second half this season. It's yielded just 14 points in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats led 19-14 at the break. Then "flip."
How did it happen?
The Wildcats took the opening kickoff of the second half and went three-and-out. The Ducks took over and, on second down, true freshman receiver Josh Huff took a pitch 85 yards for a touchdown. That made it 20-19 when the 2-point conversion failed.
Another defensive stop and the Ducks took over -- on their 1-yard line. A 19-play, 99-yard drive later and it was 27-19. That drive got a big hand when the Wildcats jumped offsides on a 42-yard field goal attempt, which was missed. You can't give Oregon's offense breaks.
The Wildcats answered with a field goal! The Ducks went 75 yards for a TD in 2:10. Another Oregon stop, the Wildcats shank a punt 25 yards, another quick Ducks TD.
And just like that it's 48-22 with 12:15 left in the fourth. A game that was close no longer was. And it was hard not to ask, "What just happened?" even if you watched the whole thing.
Of course, we've seen this before: Tennessee, Stanford and USC previously thought it had the Ducks figured out before the switch was flipped and they ended up confused by how they ended up losing by three or four touchdowns.
There is this: Why not flip the switch before the game? Do the Ducks take it for granted that they can eventually overwhelm foes in the second half?
"I don't believe our players take it for granted," Kelly said. "Trust me, it's not by design that we are down at halftime."
That approach might not always work, either. You might have noticed that Auburn, a potential opponent in a national title game, seemed pretty good in the second half at Alabama.
But that's getting ahead of things. That's a distraction. Oregon won't be perfect until it closes the deal in Corvallis against the rival Beavers. As Kelly has said repeatedly, often drawing titters from media folk: Every game is a Super Bowl.
"We've been that way all year long. It's just about the next game," he said. "This time, you guys will believe me."