In Sunday retrospect, the “tune up” game that everyone was expecting, did, in fact, come to pass. The Nicholls Colonels proved to be the kind of opponent the Ducks expected, with solid line play and a very good running back. But with apologies to Lee Corso, not so fast my fine-feathered friends.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the Ducks could have beaten the Colonels quite handily with our 3s against their 1s, but I think the scoreboard reflected a much different game than the reality.
This Ducks fan was expecting to see a lot more from Oregon at a number of different positions.
First and foremost was the quarterback: Overall, Marcus Mariota had a decent day, with some great running stats. But early on, he was throwing off-target on a number of fairly simple routes. Even when connecting with his receivers, if the ball had been more on target, there would have been lots more yardage piled up after the catch. How many times did we see Josh Huff have to go down to the ground after making a catch? If MM hits Josh in stride, Huff houses it on a couple of those plays. Marcus’ first half stats in the air were definitely not what we would expect from him.
The defensive line: There were a number of great plays and Tony Washington seems poised to have a really big year. Great effort too, from Taylor Hart, Ricky Havili-Heimuli, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. Although I still think there was room for improvement in the D line’s gap integrity. On a related note, did you see the size of the Colonels’ offensive line? They must average in the 310 pound range.
On to the linebackers: Boseko Lokombo was a complete stud. Making big tackles, covering tons of ground and showing us why he is so hyped. We saw some really encouraging things, as well, from Derrick Malone and Rodney Hardrick. I loved seeing Joe Walker and the rest of the linebacking corps doing some solid work. But I did see some susceptibility to the screens and quarterback bootlegs that went for long gains. This shouldn’t be happening against an FCS team.
With respect to the defensive backs: I thought they did a nice job, the targeting ejection for Terrance Mitchell notwithstanding. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was his usual textbook self. Lots of good run support with only a few mistakes.
Kickers: I was encouraged by the kicking of Alejandro Maldonado but was expecting more touchbacks from Matt Wogan’s reported “big leg” on kickoffs.
Now to the good news at running back: How great was it to see De’Anthony Thomas as the featured back, getting tough yards up the middle? Despite Nicholls being an FCS opponent, they were pretty stout in the middle on both the defensive and offensive lines. For such a small frame, DAT is tough to bring down. And Byron Marshall showed the kind of success we have been hearing about all during fall camp. Plus, who didn’t enjoy seeing Colt Lyerla and Josh Huff line up in the backfield and tote the rock? Getting Thomas Tyner healthy and having that many weapons at running back is going to scare the bejeezus out of our opponents.
Despite applying a tough love approach to Oregon’s overall performance in the season opener, I am really excited for what this season can hold for our Ducks.
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