“3 & Out” is an informal, marginally educated, and consistently biased weekly look at the state of the Oregon Ducks Football team and season prospects in a short and simple format.
This weeks’ take: The Colorado Buffaloes
Causes for Concern?:
1. Don’t Look Now
If someone was scrounging around deep enough in the “what-if?” dumpster for a “Colorado can pull off the upset!” angle, odds are, this tired and obvious cliché will come out:
“Could Oregon possibly be complacent after a dominant showing in the ASU game and get caught looking ahead to the highly anticipated showdown with USC instead of focusing on the Buffs????”
The easy and unfortunate answer for Colorado and their 112th ranked defense is: “No.”
It’s nearly impossible to avoid sounding like an over-confident jerk here, but with all due respect (a phrase commonly followed with something disrespectful), from looking at the games played to this point, it appears that Oregon could not only name the score with their starters, but probably could start Dustin Haines, Ayele Forde, and cobble together the rest of the formations from the scout team and likely still win going away…
(*Note: It feels somewhat “mean” to write those words about a conference opponent, but at the same time, it feels honest.)
2. Remember the Cotton Bowl
Remember when the Buffs were good? Duck fans should, even if Oregon is a conference record 45.5 point favorite this week. Since 1949, 16 games have been played between the schools, to an even 8-8 ledger. Historically, the games have stood for something big.
There was the inaugural game in Autzen Stadium in 1967 that the Buffs won, 17-13. Later, in the 1996 Cotton Bowl, a game Colorado won convincingly, featured Rick Neuheisel’s late fake punt that initially drew the resentment of Duck fans. In a rematch with Colorado in the ’98 Aloha Bowl, Oregon lost again (to an increasingly annoying Neuheisel, who after the game proclaimed “scoreboard, baby!”) in a shootout 51-43.
Colorado had been on a roll, winning seven consecutive bowl games in seven years coming into the Fiesta Bowl in 2002. The Ducks blew out Colorado 38-16 and finished the season ranked #2 . The win is still considered among the most monumental in UO history.
But after that epic defeat at the hands of the Ducks a decade ago, the program has lost its way. Bad coaches and bad play has led the Black and Gold to exactly one Bowl win since. Enduring multiple losing seasons has the once proud and extremely vocal Colorado fans now reduced to practically vomiting all over themselves in dismay at how far their team has fallen.
3. What Would You Say You Do Here?
Quick – you get 45 seconds and the use of Google: Describe the Colorado Buffaloes style of play. GO!!
… Still waiting…
Is this a trick question?
From an outsider’s perspective, Colorado has little to no distinctive flavor on either offense or defense. No recognizable identity.
However, one could say this: the Buffalo offense will be a different style of attack than Oregon has faced this season. While the details would best described in lengthy football jargon,(i.e. line up in TE heavy pro-style formations and try to chip away with grinding, power runs, then when defenses gear up to stop the run, Colorado counters with a variety of play action and screen passes designed to catch over aggressive defenders out of position), in simple terms, think of them as a sort of “USC-lite.” All the same formations, without the elite athletes.
Reasons for OOOOOptimism:
1. The Autzen Stadium Advantage
This week, Oregon will likely run their streak to 21 straight games of scoring 30 points or more, one shy of tying an NCAA record. It means 88 consecutive sellouts, and a shot at 30 home wins in the last 31 tries.
Saturday will likely feature another in-conference beatdown, something the Ducks have done with shocking regularity in these past few years. It might be easy for some to start getting complacent, to expect similar results “forever.” But, old-school Duck fans will remind you to soak it all in on Saturday, and enjoy the current level of success while it lasts - the dominance, the accolades, the coach on the sidelines. Things will eventually change, and the Ducks won’t always be blowing out conference opponents by 30 points every season.
2. Passing Game Optional
The Ducks showed off a big strength of this team against the Sun Devils: the nation’s fourth-rated rushing offense. The Ducks offensive line parted the ASU black sea for 406 rushing yards. Senior Kenjon Barner led the way, averaging 8.9 yards on each carry. Bennett, DAT, and Marshall combined for 109 more rushing yards.
And then there’s the quarterback, Marcus Mariota, who ran for 135 yards, including that QB record 86 yard touchdown. He was also efficient passing the ball, completing 9-12 passes for 46 yards, but Oregon had little need to attack through the air.
The Ducks’ running game was so dominant, there was little reason to go away from it last Thursday. Oregon showed again that if need be, they can line it up against a top-ten defense and pound away on the ground again and again. So far, they really haven’t found anyone who can stop it.
3. Michael Clay and the Ducks’ D
The Oregon defense showed its nasty teeth again, this time on the road against the top-rated passer and #2 offense in the conference before kickoff. ASU QB Taylor Kelly entered the game third in the nation in pass efficiency, but looked extremely average against the Ducks. It was so bad for Kelly that before being benched, he ended up having a better night as a pooch-punter, pinning two inside the 20.
What are the keys to the unit’s success? You can point to veteran coaching and player personnel starting upfront with Dion Jordan, and Taylor Hart with 10 combined sacks. Or the numerous big hits and timely interceptions by Kiko Alonso, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, and Boseko Lokombo. And it’s been nearly impossible to ignore the play of Avery Patterson, who simply has been lights-out in relief of John Boyett.
However, after being sidelined since the second half against the Cougs, his familiar swarming presence against ASU showed just how big a boost Michael Clay provides. Described as a “glue guy” and a ”coach on the field” by Chip Kelly, there might be no more valuable Duck on defense this year (or last year) than #46.
Opponent quote of the week:
“This (Colorado) is the worst team I’ve seen in my lifetime. They have no breakaway threat, they don’t have a solid quarterback and their secondary is just getting lit up. It’s an absolute mess…” – Denver post beat writer John Henderson
Precious gem from last week:
“We had a poor plan and had some things happen that we didn’t react very well to, so I want people to understand that. You find out what you are made of when you are hit in the mouth. We got hit by a hammer tonight.” – ASU coach Todd Graham
That’s all for now, check back next week as we will look at the USC game!