The Ingredients of an Oregon Defensive Masterpiece

How do you create a shutout of an Arizona team that averaged 46 points a game?  What are some of the subtle coaching points utilized by our Defensive Staff?  This game was subject-rich on the offensive side of the ball, and we saw the “Bennett and the Beast” backfield, we defeated the “30 Stack” defense, and yet we may never witness a defensive performance again that compares to this one.  There is so much to appreciate about our defenders, and this is the ideal opportunity to celebrate their amazing performance and learn from it, which will enhance our enjoyment of the rest of the season!

In my first Defensive Video Tutorial I described the differences between the One-Gap and Two-Gap techniques of our Hybrid 3-4 Defense.  Yet on Saturday it appeared that we played a Two-Gap attack nearly the entire time.  In the picture above we see our nose tackle and defensive ends actively engaging the offensive lineman in front of them instead of shooting through a gap as you would do with a One-Gap attack.  The strategy is to strike inside the shoulders of the offensive linemen and drive them back a bit, and then determine the direction of the play.  They then quickly discard the blockers, and run to the ball.  They are showing us excellent technique, and it is great fun to see freshman Arik Armstead implementing Coach Azz’s advice so well.

Arik Armstead has driven his man backwards and is ready to bolt to either gap side of the offensive lineman he has engaged above.   (Yellow Arrow)  This is why they call it  “Two-Gap.”

The picture above makes my heart sing!  Armstead has ejected the blocker and has plunged into the running back coming through the gap.  Arik has held the running play to a very short gain!

Arizona has driven deep into our territory with a fourth down and barely two feet to go.  (You can see the LOS black line above and the lime green first down line)  Look how Wade Keliikipi is driving his man back with superb Two-Gap technique.  The trick is to have your hands INSIDE your opponents; whoever has his arms inside has leverage and controls the other.  Note how Wade has his arms inside the Wildcat center and uses that advantage to move him.

It is a thrill to see both Keliikipi and Isaac Remington to the left both (Above) discarding their blockers at the same time.  Defensive linemen strike inside the shoulders of the offensive linemen, find the ball carrier, discard the blockers, and make the tackle!  This is textbook stuff that coaches everywhere teach…

Wade Keliikipi (Above) hit the ball carrier low and made him spin right into the wheelhouse of Remington.  Isaac drives his legs and feet to keep the RB’s forward momentum from passing the first down mark.  The question is whether Isaac can keep it up, or if the RB is going to make a last second lunge forward!

How about that for a thousand-word picture?  (Above)  The ball is clearly on the ground and short of the first down mark! Oregon gets the ball on downs!  What an incredible stop, and it does not happen casually or by accident; these young men have practiced their techniques and developed their strength for these big plays that make Autzen Stadium roar!

Arizona was annoying us (Above) with the now-common strategy of throwing short passes against our Cover-One or Cover-Three defenses.  We want to stop the run and the explosion plays, and because you cannot be everywhere on defense our Achilles heel is the short pass.

Arizona QB Matt Scott is about to release the ball, (Above) and he believes Oregon is in a coverage that will give up the short pass again.  (A Cover-One or Cover-Three)  His Wide Receiver (Red Arrow) has realized that Oregon is in a Cover-Two defense, which will have a defender in the short zone where the pass would be delivered.

The Arizona WR (Above) has correctly identified our defense, knowing that the short pass is covered by Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, and moves to the open area as a target.  (Red dotted arrow)  He did not know that the QB had already thrown the ball, and Ifo dives to makes the interception to stop another drive!

All the Wildcat WR can do is watch the pick by Ekpre-Olomu (Above) and know that HE made the right read of the Oregon defense and the QB did not.  Yet kudos to the Oregon defensive coaching staff for taking advantage of Arizona’s tendencies to throw the short pass so often, and disguising our coverage to initiate the turnover.  So much strategy on the field that we fans rarely know of!  (Thanks again to the Grizzled Ole’ Coach who advises me and pointed out this extraordinary play.  Like everyone else—I love learning all this too!) 

As so many of my Oregon friends know—I can no longer make analysis videos due to the new Pac-12 rules, and this week’s segment would have been a terrific video with more information than I can provide in a short article.  It has been a little disheartening to turn away from video, but it has been thrilling to learn more about our beloved Ducks no matter what form in which it is presented.  I had as many Oregon fans learning from the last written article with screenshots and diagrams as I would have had viewing a video.  That confirms that is it not about being entertained, but that Oregon fans want to UNDERSTAND more about our team, as I do.

We have a wonderful two months of absorbing Oregon football ahead of us!

“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer  (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst for FishDuck.com
Eugene, Oregon

Top Photo from Video

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