The shot across the bow of the college football world has been delivered by our beloved Oregon Ducks. The question of balance concerning the Oregon offense was answered against Tennessee when Marcus Mariota threw for more than an incredible 450 yards passing. The Ducks are known for a powerful running game that, due to execution, is difficult to stop — even when you know what is coming. However, the challenges of beating the elite teams . . . of the Stanfords, the Ohio States and the Alabamas in the sphere of college football . . . are in overcoming a defense manned by elite athletes who CAN defeat blocks and slow the Oregon running game. They will force Oregon to beat them with the passing attack, and let’s look at how that will happen.
The play above is the beginning of your typical Outside Zone Read as the green arrows show our linemen, a moment after they have taken a kick step to the left. Bryon Marshall (orange arrow) is moving to the QB for the mesh, and all appears as usual to us to the Vols defense.
Mariota is not reading anyone, but pulling the ball (above) to run the ”Naked Bootleg!” This play is the bane of all defensive coordinators, as the “Grizzled Ole’ Coach” spoke often of the difficulty of defending this play when you have a fast, mobile QB like Marcus. Note how the TE in the green circle is NOT blocking, but appearing to come to a stop!
The Tight End above, Johnny Mundt, is putting his weight on his right foot, planting and spinning the other direction. This true freshmen has nailed a new pass pattern in a game!
Mariota has rolled out (above) and is throwing the pass to Johnny, (green circle) but notice No. 32 in the background (red arrow) as another TE, redshirt freshman Evan Baylis is also open on a deeper route. The future looks bright at the Tight End position for Oregon.
Oregon is known for legendary blocking by our receivers and beating the block is vital for the defense to keep the gain small. Note up to the right as the Tennessee corner fought hard to beat the block of Daryle Hawkins, (No. 16, above) but even with that the Ducks got an excellent eight-yard gain.
It is common for opponents to run a “Cover 4” defense, or sometimes called “Quarters.” You see how (above) the Vols have their defensive backs spread out to cover their quarter of the field, both short and deep. Coach Brian Flinn of Villanova University explained to me that the benefit of this defense against the spread, is how you can have pass coverage while retaining the safeties up close to the LOS for stopping the run. Notice how at the moment of doing the mesh — all eyes of the Tennessee defense are on the QB and RB.
The corner sees Bralon Addison flaring out for another Bubble screen, and we must remember how these Tennessee defenders have been lectured and drilled in coming up and defeating the blocks, to stop the Bubble Read process. The corner is coming up hard because he KNOWS that Hawkins (green arrow) is going to whack him hard with a block for Addison, and he must explode into the block and eject Hawkins to make the tackle.
Daryle approached the corner and then blew right past him! (above) The corner tried to turn to catch him, but to no avail as the touchdown was quite easy since each DB had their quarter of the field, thus there was no backside or over-the-top help from a safety. It was an astonishing play call by our coaching staff as it took advantage of the defensive coverage; they knew that once Hawkins cleared the corner — it was six points. Note also that it was NOT a busted coverage, as reported on the television broadcast, but instead a dedication to beat a block by the Vols corner that was turned against him. Wow.
Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the defense alignment as Tennessee could be in a Cover 4 again (orange circles above) with LBs in the short zones, (red arrows) or they could be in Man defense.
Oregon had three WRs at the bottom of the screen and the defender of the middle WR, (Huff) is focused on stopping the run as his eyes are locked on the mesh in the Duck backfield above. Note how Hawkins (green dotted arrow above) is driving his safety very deep down the field and opening up the middle, as the safety on the other side is shallow and is also zeroed in to stopping De’Anthony up the middle.
The mesh distracts the Tennessee DB a half second too long, as Josh Huff cuts to the inside and across an open field. Here is another pass play where the patterns are designed to take advantage of the determination by the defense to stop Oregon’s running attack. It only takes a moment of hesitation by the defense to free up our Wide Receivers!
Josh hauling in yet another touchdown for the Ducks got me to thinking about the differences between Chip and Mark Helfrich in our attack. I always had the impression that Chip was stubborn in sticking to a game plan and that trait usually won games for us in the second half. Yet I always wondered how flexible Coach Helfrich would be when faced with a formidable defensive line.
The players in the trenches for Tennessee were some of the biggest that I, and Oregon players, have ever seen; that one defensive tackle was a lean-and-mean 351 lbs? If we had tried to stubbornly run Inside Zone Read plays all day — this game could have been completely different. Instead this was the biggest passing day since BEFORE Chip’s time at Oregon? It goes back to 2005, when Gary Crowton was the Offensive Coordinator, thus this flexibility, this balance of the offense where we truly take what the defense is giving us, is becoming a reality under Coaches Helfrich and Frost.
This is a significant new step for the Oregon offense, and I can’t wait for more of the season to confirm it!
“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst for FishDuck.com
Top Photo from FishDuck.com Video