How Oregon “Stems” into Big Defensive Plays!


How much of our defensive success is from strategy, and how much is from the players and their abilities?  We often hear of Oregon changing up their defense to confuse their opponents, so today we look at two examples in this season’s game against Washington of how we changed, or “Stemmed”, our defense into another to create two big defensive plays.  We are moving up in our study of Oregon football, and we could categorize this article into a Defense 201 series!

We have the Huskies in a third down and ten (Purple Arrow above), and you see Oregon players lining up in a “Times Square” type of Zone Blitz that gave Washington fits last year.  Note that we have six defenders threatening on the LOS with Kiko Alonso at the MLB (Green arrow) in the middle.  The Huskies have five offensive linemen and a RB to block man-on-man if they get everyone lined up correctly.  Note the red circle where the center is telling the right guard to block Kiko, as the center will have his hands full with Isaac Remington.

Just before the ball is snapped we see the center put his head down and look backwards (Purple arrow), and thus he doesn’t see Kiko moving back into Zone Coverage.

Sure enough, the center is occupied blocking Remington (Purple Arrow) but the right guard did not get new instructions, so he doesn’t know who to block since our MLB is not blitzing after all.  Next to the guard we see Wade Keliikipi about to overwhelm a puny RB.

The RB can’t stop #92, and the pressure forces the Washington QB to throw the ball immediately.

The Wide Receiver was going inside or right, and the football (Red Circle) was thrown outside in a hurry due to the “stemming” of our defense to force a punt!  We were threatening an “A-Gap Blitz” and the Huskies were scrambling to adjust, and then we changed out of it.  Can you believe the head games these guys play in fractions of seconds?

In another play we align in a pre-snap appearance (above) of a four-man shell, with two corners up close to the wide receivers, and two safeties deep.  The Husky QB thus identifies our defense as a “Cover-Two” with the corners playing short zones and the safeties picking up deep receivers.

A big advantage of taking the snap under center is how the QB can watch the defense and see changes as the ball is being snapped.  In the Shotgun, he must watch the ball to catch the snap, and for a second cannot watch the defense.  While Price (above) is looking at the ball we are changing, or “Stemming”, into a new defense as we see Brian Jackson drop back deep, and Avery Patterson in the process of coming up to cover the Slot Receiver of Washington.  All of this in split seconds…

The Husky QB is watching our corner (Red arrow above) go deep with the WR. He thinks that if he throws it quickly into the short zone on that side to the slot receiver, the receiver will be open before the corner can release the wide-out to the safety and come up to cover the short zone.  Note the yellow circle of our Drop-End, Dion Jordan, playing Press Coverage on the their huge TE in the flat.  I think these 6’7″ and 6’8″ monsters obstructed Price’s view in that half second that he didn’t see Patterson closing fast.  (Price thought the safety was deep in the “Cover-Two” on the play)

Throwing the ball quickly into the flat (above) is essential for the success of this play for Price, and our Safety, Avery Patterson, KNOWS the QB is going to throw it quick so he sprints up in the split seconds on the Husky doing an out pattern.

We know how this turns out as Patterson anticipates the pass (above) and completes an incredible “Pick-Six” for the second consecutive game!  Avery knew that the QB had focused on the corner and had not recognized the “Cover-One “defense that we “stemmed” into.  The way Patterson jumped it hard was pretty similar to an out pattern called by the Huskies in 1994, and the instincts of Kenny Wheaton then and Avery Patterson now were both rewarded with a Pick-Six!

We are learning more about the strategic moves made between the offensive coordinators versus the defensive coordinators, and how these judgments can so dramatically alter the game. We also get to enjoy the superb defensive calls by Coach Nick Aliotti, and the great coaching that helps players know what the offense’s move will be in reaction to our defensive changes.  There is so much more to learn and appreciate about the Xs and Os and how the players carry them out with their newly learned instincts!

Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!

Charles Fischer  (FishDuck)

The “Grizzled Ole’ Coach” (Mike Morris) and Sean Goodbody served as advisors to this analysis and contributed to this article.  Our thanks to them! 






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Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks for thirty years and has written reports on football boards for over a dozen years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, a daughter, Christine, and their dog (Abbie) reside in Eugene, Oregon, where he has been a financial advisor for 30 years serving clients in seven different states. He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More...

  • Duckn8r

    Fantastic analysis, as always. Thanks FishDuck.

  • dkfnintin

    Great analysis!! I learn so much reading your articles. Thanks Fish and all.

  • giants own the 49ers!! lol

    hey charles, always great to read,, you should be doing the videos still,, all the other sites are still using the videos,,, but i digress,, what i really want to suggest/would also like to see you do,, is the same analysis that you’ve done on this defenseive play, but on a bad play, a blown play, where the other team does well. i think thats maybe even a litle more challenging to decipher, trying to guess what the defenders were thinking when they obviously misread, or misreacted, on a blown play. Look forward to seeing you cover that hopefully soon. Keep up the good works.

    • fishduck


      If other sites are using CURRENT footage for videos….point me to them so I can see how they are doing it. Send links to

      I would have to think about running blown plays on our part, I mean who wants to watch/learn about that? Heck, I used to delete ANY game we lost, let alone a bad play or two and most people are like that. I have to create what the audience wants…and we all want winning plays.

  • duckhutch

    I was pretty small and had a lot of endurance during my high school days in the 70s, so I ran cross country instead of what I really wanted to do, which was play football. I never really gained an understanding of the game other than what I see on TV. This is like football school! I really do enjoy reading the analyses on Oh, truly, how I love to learn about my beloved ducks. (BS ’95, MS ’97)

  • Guest

    Awesome thanks!

  • longtimeduck

    Can you explain the play where kiko sniffs out the screen and totally levels it? How does he know and slide over left to cover and wipe out what could have been a good play for UW? This happened at 11 min left approx in the first quarter. Did Kiko just sense the screen or is this a designed defensive play by our stalworth linebacker? Thanks

    • fishduck

      Hey Longtime, When I know…I say so, and when I’m guessing I’ll state that as well. I guessing that he was following his keys against that particular formation. We scout out favorite plays of the opposition and look for keys to watch for and react to. It appeared that as soon as the RB was moving out of the backfield, that it was Kiko’s key or assigned man to cover. Notice that Alonso was moving in that direction as the play was begun, thus I believe he had a particular key to follow and following it took him to the ball.

      I would love to have coaches input here–any help?

      Thanks for the discussion.

      • longtimeduck

        Well if its his assignment its well drawn out by the defensive coaches. If its his instinct well done Kiko! Actually kinda well done either way!