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!