The strength of the Oregon football has always been the offense, and under Coach Bellotti it was primarily the passing game.¬† Under Chip it has been primarily the running game scoring the high number of points, yet our ground attack has shown some vulnerability in recent games.¬† I asked my friend, Gageac, ‚Äúare we really the second best team in the nation?¬† Can we really win out our schedule depending so much upon the offense?‚ÄĚ¬† He smiled and answered, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not putting money it‚Ä¶‚Ä¶but I‚Äôm along for the ride!‚ÄĚ¬† Amen!¬† Count me in as well, as we savor and smell the roses along the way.
Is our running game stagnating?¬† Most would call me a loon for suggesting it when the numbers are quite impressive, yet I cannot help but feel some concern with aspects of our offense being curtailed.¬† The Outside Zone Read was absolutely stuffed at Arizona State, and I explained it away as the unusually fast defenders the ‚ÄėDevils have.¬† Then I watched Washington State shut the play down 90% of the time with‚Ä¶..young defenders. Hmmm.¬† Are we relying too much on a selected group of plays?¬† We have not opened the play-book much at all halfway through the season; would this account for the closed practices this week?¬† Like others, I have been dismayed seeing our Offensive Line being manhandled at times.¬† Is this due to talent, or are we becoming a bit too predictable in our play selection?¬† These are interesting questions to ask and ponder because at Oregon‚Ä¶..the offense is everything.¬† If the offense should ever slow down‚Ä¶‚Ä¶Holy Crap.
Hubba Hubba!¬† Our first offensive play was a new one‚Ä¶a reverse!¬† Recall how we ran one years ago with Cam Colvin going for a TD in the Palouse?¬† We ran that one out of the Outside Zone Read backfield formation, yet this one was done out of the triple option.¬† We attacked the right side with the Inside Zone Read option, then flowed to attack the outside on the left side‚ÄĒwhich would bring fast pursuit.¬† Then we flip it to the WR going back to the right?¬† We love it!¬† While I like Huff‚Äôs speed‚Ä¶.I would like to see how Seastrunk‚Äôs speed might turn the corner a smidgeon faster.¬† Perhaps later?¬† This was an important new play‚ÄĒbut why add it at WSU?¬† Why did we hold plays back against ASU‚Ä¶to use them now versus the Cougs?¬† Are we trying to set up other teams running a play now with a counter to follow?¬† Interesting, interesting stuff to watch for in future games‚Ä¶‚Ä¶
Barner made some long gains in the Rose Bowl running a fly sweep from his TAZR position.¬† We actually started the play by taking the snap from center directly and then turning to hand-off to Barner as he ‚Äúflew‚ÄĚ by, similar to how we did it back in 2000-2001 with Joey.¬† Yet in the WSU game we saw the ‚ÄúSun Bowl‚ÄĚ version of the fly sweep!¬† We disguised the play by beginning in the Outside Zone Read backfield formation and shortly after the QB caught the center shotgun snap‚Ä¶.he pitched it inside to the ‚Äúfly‚ÄĚ going by.¬† Roper did this with Maehl as the fly-back in that memorable bowl game, and we were impressed with timing required and the superb execution.¬† Later in the WSU game we did a ‚Äúfake‚ÄĚ fly sweep and handed off to the RB by the QB for an inside play!¬† Make them conscious of the outside and stretch their alignments‚Ä¶and then power it back inside.¬† Now that‚Äôs good stuff!
Like you, I was delighted to see Thomas keep the ball in the first touchdown drive and make a huge gain.¬† This was so notable because if you go back and watch it (11:45 in the 1st Qtr) you will see that the Defensive End did stay home as he was supposed to in order to prevent the QB backside run.¬† Yet Darron sensed what I wrote of before‚Ä¶that JM knew he could beat some of those DEs when they cheated a little too much inside, and now DT decided the same thing on that play.¬† Technically‚Ä¶the Zone Read was to hand off, but Darron pulled the ball, and caught the DE flatfooted and too far inside to stop his run upfield.¬† Good!¬† He‚Äôs learning his abilities and the extent of how far he can push the Zone Read!
I groaned later as I watched him run the Zone Read in the first two plays of the second quarter.¬† The DE crashed down/or over-leaned inside, thus DT could have pulled the ball.¬† It was especially frustrating on the second play as he would have gone for big yardage outside had he pulled it.¬† Instead it was a minor two yard gain for LMJ.¬† He‚Äôs learning and I‚Äôm sure the coaches are going through the replays with him‚Ä¶.and it‚Äôs pretty easy for me to nit-pick in slow-motion while he has to make those decisions in microseconds.¬† He‚Äôll get better at it because we‚Äôve seen him do it once, and he will get his confidence.
I‚Äôm still shaking my head of the relief performance of ‚ÄúGreat Nate‚ÄĚ.¬† He ran the offense like he was a couple year starter, and I only saw him make ONE mistake on the Zone Read.¬† Really?¬† A QB who hasn‚Äôt been in the game-runs for 38 yards once, another time for an 18 yard TD‚Ä¶.is inexperienced running the Zone Read at game speed, yet plays an almost flawless game?¬† Nate is the Anti-Matter that we‚Äôve always coveted.¬† This is the Nate that, if healthy, would have helped us go to the NC game in 2007.¬† I knew he was sneaky-fast‚Ä¶that is his trademark with his thick thighs and bowed legs as he gets to the corner faster than DBs anticipate.¬† His stiff arm after nine yards turned into a big play from heady running.¬† I noticed he did it again on the TD run; this guy is a dream coming into the game, so smart, so talented, and a leader.
Baby he can pass so very accurately‚Ä¶.perhaps better than the starter?¬† He wasn‚Äôt perfect passing though as he missed a potential TD with 50 seconds left in the second quarter.¬† It was third and long and he honed in on Maehl who was short of the first down.¬† Meanwhile LMJ ran another wheel route down the right sideline and was wide open‚Ä¶‚Ä¶¬† He‚Äôll see it next time, but the overall passing performance was astonishing.
Now THAT is the key component for winning the Pac-10‚Ä¶the rest of our games‚Ä¶..a potential NC‚Ä¶¬ The passing game.¬† That is the balance we had in 2007 (before the injury) that made our offense unstoppable.¬† Our massive point totals now include a lot of defensive and Special Teams scoring, and a ton more passing than last year at this time.¬† If¬† I was an opposing DC‚Ä¶.I would continue to plug our favorite running plays‚ÄĒkeep eight in the box and force Oregon to beat them through the air.¬† The Ducks have shown that they‚Äôre good passing the ball, but not great.¬† How do we beat the bigger linemen in the trenches in BCS games?¬† Pass over and around them.¬† The passing game we possess now would have been enough to win last year‚Äôs Rose Bowl, but a potential National Championship Game?¬† We win scoring a ton of points, and if we do it with a better passing game‚Ä¶that will subsequently open more running lanes.¬† We are Oregon‚Ä¶we are OFFENSE.¬† It is simple; refine the passing game and we beat everybody.¬† Wow.
I‚Äôm watching the coaches show and rolling my eyes as I hear Joe Gigantemouth do his usual ‚Äúblah-blah-blah‚ÄĚ but then something the coach did REALLY caught my attention.¬† There is a show on TV where they examine the minute-tiny facial expressions to learn of the true feelings and intention of the subject.¬† I played back the spot on the show‚Ä¶.I replayed in slow motion watching Chip Kelly slowly.¬† Through the ‚Äúblah-blah‚ÄĚ it was said that Oregon was 6-0‚Ä¶.and congratulations on being #2 in the nation. ¬†Play it back and watch CK look down, away, and grimace.¬† He quickly recovers and answers a question‚Ä¶..but it is an interesting internal read of the guy.¬† He doesn‚Äôt just say what Zoomer propounded years back as a ‚Äúno sugar‚ÄĚ philosophy,‚Ä¶..he believes it, lives it, and it clearly resides in his soul.¬† Fascinating.
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