Oregon’s Strategies and Plays to Watch For Against Utah

This week we put the two football analysts doing the Tuesday analysis, (Charles Fischer), and the Thursday Opponent Analysis, (Rory Davidson), together to talk about what the Oregon fans should watch for in the upcoming game against Utah Saturday night.

Charles: The loss for the year of their go-to receiver in Dres Andersen has slowed the Ute passing game to under sixty yards this past week in their game against Arizona State. The other WRs don’t seem to have the ability to get open as easily and if there was ever a time to watch for Oregon to stick their corners out on an island, this would be it. Look for the Ducks to place Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Troy Hill in man coverage and place one of the safeties (Erick Dargan or Reggie Daniels) in the box to help stop the powerful Utah running game. Their premier running back Devontae Booker has been a one man show and Rory has a nice clip of him in the opponent analysis up right now.

Rory is young, but he knows football!

Rory Davidson

Rory is young, but he knows football!

Rory: I would agree since Utah runs their offense out of a pistol, which makes it much easier for a talented back like Booker to cut back on runs for good yardage. The Oregon linebackers need to stay home with their assignments and not over-pursue, thus having an extra linebacker or safety in the box, helping the Duck defense significantly.

Charles: Let’s switch to when Oregon is on offense — Utah has a stout front seven that has held many opponents to lower scoring, like the Sun Devils last Saturday with only 19 points. Oregon faced tough run defenses in Michigan State and Stanford and yet ran for over 200 yards in each case. Against the Ute defense I’m thinking that Oregon fans should watch for Oregon’s Sweep Read play as the Ducks pin the defenders in the box and run outside. It is particularly effective against the 4-3 defense that Utah employs, and I believe running inside is going to be tough sledding. Rory, what kind of pass coverage to you expect from the Utes?

Rory: Utah runs almost exclusively zone coverage, with numerous variants of Cover-2 and Cover-3, as they do blitz a fair amount. So Mariota and the Duck WRs are going to have to be on the same page during these blitzes, reading the same open zones in the Ute defense with their “hot” routes. The safeties and defensive backs of the Men in Red always keep everything in front of them, so they are not going to allow anyone to beat them deep. Expect Oregon to have to be patient with longer drives where the only big plays come from a Duck receiver occasionally making a tackler miss.

Charles: Their four man rush is fierce, as Nate Orchard is sensational coming off the edge for the Utes, thus the left tackle for the Ducks, Jake Fisher, is going to have his biggest challenge of the season. I was pondering about our counters to their pass rush and couldn’t help but wonder if the QB draw might not come out of the playbook for this game as the speed of Marcus can slow down the number of blitzes called by the Utah coaching staff.

Marcus will need to throw it quick....

Craig Strobeck

Marcus will need to throw it quick …

Rory: I see Oregon implementing a number of tactics to deal with the Utah speed rush; first, I expect our bigger backs in Tyner and Freeman to be kept in the backfield for blocking more often as they have proven to be effective doing so in the past. This sets up the screen pass that has been used sparingly, but successfully this season at UCLA and last week against Stanford. The roll-out pass to Charles Nelson for Oregon’s first touchdown last week is an example of running away from the speed of Orchard and yet protecting the coveted Oregon QB. Complementing the roll-outs would be some misdirection with a reverse (speaking of Mr. Nelson), or a throw-back to the other side of the field to one of Oregon’s many tight ends.

Charles: Well, our conversation brought out many more ideas and possibilities for Oregon fans to watch for than I anticipated when I contacted you, Rory. Your Opponent Analyses this season have been superb and I look forward to you adding your expertise in the offseason to our ongoing study of our beloved Ducks!

Rory: It would be my pleasure to contribute to the #1 media source for Oregon Football analysis – FishDuck.com!  

Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

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