Here are some interesting numbers about the Mighty Oregon Ducks, which explains their early successes and also addresses their challenges.
0: So far, the Ducks have taken care of the ball as if it was a sacred jewel. In their first three games, they have not turned over the ball. Not even once. In order to continue with this success, in what is turning out to be a very competitive Pac-12 conference, the Ducks must continue protect the ball.
59.8%: Quarterback Marcus Mariota has already propelled himself to the front of the Heisman trophy race with his performance in the first three games – yet he STILL has room for improvement. Unexpectedly, Mariota’s pass completion percentage of 59.8 ranks 11th out 12 Pac-12 quarterbacks. Hopefully, it’s just a matter of time until Mariota regains his 68.5%-pass-completion form he had last year. A quarter of the way through this season, Mariota has sometimes looked uncomfortable in the pocket, which has led to throws into tight coverage. This was especially evident in the first two opening drives of the Tennessee game, where he went 2-7 passing.
4: While Mariota struggles with his passing game, he is having no trouble running. With four rushing touchdowns this year already, Mariota is only one shy of equaling last season’s total of five. He is averaging an exceptional 17.5 yards per rush attempts this season, so do not be surprised if he breaks double digits in rushing touchdowns this season.
42: The average number of times the Ducks have run the ball per game this year. That is ten times fewer than last season, while under head coach Chip Kelly. One explanation for this is new passing coordinator, Matt Lubick, who last year at Duke conducted a pass-first offense.
This season we are seeing a much more balanced attack on offense. This could explain Mariota’s struggles throwing the football – this is the first year he will be throwing a relatively higher number of passes.
With three top-35 rush defenses (Colorado 7th; Utah 14th; Arizona 33rd) on the Ducks schedule, Mariota will be asked to throw even more. Hopefully, Marcus will settle down in the pocket to help increase his passing completion percentage.