Is Oregon Soft or Is the National Media Lazy?

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My head is going to explode from the old, but new national narrative about Oregon being “soft.” Yes, I know I am supposed to provide you and a couple of hundred coaches an analysis article each Tuesday, but we have 51 other weeks for that. We have to slay this dragon once and for all while providing you a link to refer to when you hear the banal nonsense being uttered by the ignorant, the stupid, the drunk, or some of the lazy national media.

“Oregon isn’t fashioned to compete with big, strong, physical opponents. At least, not at the highest levels.”

                                                George Schroeder, USA Today

Is Oregon “soft” due to the decline in rushing yardage?

Oregon used to be one of the nations perennial leaders in rushing yards, but declined this year to a final rank of only 20th in the nation in rushing, despite being the Pac-12 rushing champion for an incredible NINTH straight year (237 yards per game). Why has this happened? It is due to the ostensible shift in the Oregon offense by Coach Mark Helfrich toward being a more balanced — and hence more dangerous – attack, in a move I personally applaud. I never thought I’d see the day when Oregon would be 10th in the nation for passing yards (312 per game average), yet utilizing Mariota’s strengths is the mark of a good coach.

The Ducks finished the season ranked No. 3 in total offense, and No. 4 in scoring offense so there was no decline in the usual high overall offensive production unless you are from the 1950’s and view the passing game as soft. Some people actually do, so when we see that the Oklahoma Sooners are moving to the “Air Raid” offense next season — does that make them soft? What about the NFL? They are a passing league, so does that make them a soft league? Let’s push this nonsense aside …

Is Oregon “soft” due to an easy schedule?    

Winston is down...

Craig Strobeck

Winston is down…

Perhaps this could have been true in the distant past, but Oregon finished the season with the No. 5 Strength of Schedule in the nation, one notch above Ohio State. The Pac-12 conference finished with half of the league in the final top 25, according to the newly formed Playoff Selection Committee, including a bevy of teams that the Ducks faced recognized as “physical.”

Check this out:

  • Oregon put 46 (Forty-Six) points on Michigan State; are they physical enough?
  • Oregon scored 45 (Forty-Five) points on the conference defensive scoring champion, the Stanford Cardinal. The Ducks nemesis?
  • Oregon blistered Utah in Salt Lake City with 51 points (Fifty-One) as the intense toughness of the Utes created many season ending injuries on both sides.
  • Oregon torched Florida State for 59 (Fifty-Nine) points for a Rose Bowl record and the first loss delivered to the Seminoles in two years.

As Kirk Herbstreit and David Pollack of ESPN reported going into the National Championship game, “Oregon has passed the physical test.”

Did Ohio State do this only to Oregon?

It is interesting how a lie told often enough gains traction. The impression given by many of the lazy national journalists is how the Buckeyes tore apart the Ducks because Oregon was not physical enough. Let’s give Ohio State credit where it is due, as its march to the National Championship was littered with the carcasses of proven “physical” teams.

Ifo brings down a Spartan.

Kevin Cline

Ifo brings down a Spartan.

To wit:

  • Ohio State smacked Michigan State with 49 points in East Lansing … has the national narrative changed for the Spartans? Are they soft now?
  • The Buckeyes embarrassed a historically physical Wisconsin team with a 59-point face-plant; does this change the label placed on the Badgers?
  • Alabama had 42 points stuck on its four- and five-star defensive roster by Ohio State. Would anyone call a Nick Saban team soft with the same number of points scored on them as the Oregon Ducks?
  • Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliott averaged an impressive 6.8 yards per carry against Oregon, but destroyed Wisconsin and Alabama with more than 11 yards per carry in Championship/Playoff games.
  • Why is the narrative for Oregon different when the same or more points were scored on these other nationally respected teams?

Oregon is still looking for its first national championship, the Pac-12 Conference has again been scolded and sent to its room to beef up … ”

                                                                       Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times  

Were perceptions changed by the ending of the National Championship?  

Urban win the lottery?  No-he scored with 28 seconds left.

From Video

Urban win the lottery? No –he scored with 28 seconds left.

Absolutely, as a 35-20 final score is a victory for the Buckeyes, while a 42-20 win is viewed as a pasting. Oregon had one drive end earlier in the game on the Buckeye six-inch line with no score, thus a 35-20 loss would have been viewed differently with that final result.

The Ducks, however, turned it over on downs from their own 14-yard line with only 1:32 lef,t and the game was secured by the Buckeyes as they made a first down to assure the clock running out in their possession. But then they rushed in a garbage touchdown with 28 seconds remaining in the game?

It was poor sportsmanship and a perception-changing act by the Buckeyes. Did everyone but some journalists see that?

Next time you hear how Oregon is soft, or not physical … you will know that the party stating it is one of the ignorant, the stupid, the drunk, or a lazy national journalist.  

Charles Fischer  (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst for CFF Network/FishDuck.com
Eugene, Oregon

Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

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Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks for thirty years and has written reports on football boards for over a dozen years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, a daughter, Christine, and their dog (Abbie) reside in Eugene, Oregon, where he has been a financial advisor for 30 years serving clients in seven different states. He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More...

  • Dfb

    Been a Duck fan forever, but the Ducks are their own worst enemy for this. It wouldn’t have mattered if OSU takes a knee at the end, it wasn’t the score but the way Oregon was dominated up front as the game progressed. At the end of the FSU game Herbstreit went out of his way to say that Oregon isn’t soft so it isn’t laziness by the media. Until Oregon wins a national championship by stopping the run when a team wants to run and running when the other team knows it’s going to run they will continue to hear this.
    If you want to play in the most elite circles you have to be willing to pay the price if you don’t make it.

    • SeattleDuck

      By your logic, every team in the country is soft except for Ohio State. That makes no sense whatsoever.

      • Dfb

        No, because the Ducks have an established identity. To be sure there are other teams that probably would have a similar narrative if they were in this spot, but they aren’t the Ducks are. It’s similar to the Big Ten narrative that they are big and slow. The only way to get rid of it is to dominate by being as fast a Oregon was, and they were. If Oregon had dominated by being faster OSU would have perpetuated the big, slow narrative. The only way to get rid of a reputation is be good enough to change it. Oregon almost did it by beating FSU, but instead reaffirmed it by how they lost.

        • SeattleDuck

          Perhaps I’m getting this wrong, but your initial response seemed to refute the point of the article. Your latter appears more to say, “it is what it is.”

          Based upon that, I’m going to perpetuate that Alabama is slow and dumb. Until they prove to me by winning a national championship via speed and intelligence, it shall be true.

          (All in jest. The point is that Oregon likely had one of the top 10 offensive lines in college football this year, and the same could be said of the 3-man defensive front, illustrated by the fact that I bet no one can name me 10 groups they’d trade Oregon’s for. Only one part of what you’ve said is something I completely disagree with, that Oregon “is it’s own worst enemy.” As you’ve shown, it’s a bogus slant developed years ago and held onto by media and insecure fans, and no longer true, if it ever was.)

          • Dfb

            Reputations are always a bit of a simplification but they are also somewhat based in truth. Sure Oregon had a top ten Oline but the scale is no longer that big in a national title game. The fact is the Ducks lost so writers are going to look for the reason and the reason was the Ducks got beat on the line of scrimmage, which perpetuates an already existing narrative. Until they win it all they will have that narrative as part of their identity. They may not be soft but until they impose their will upfront in a title and win it will always be there. It’s not national writers fault, even long term Duck fans like me (I watched Dan Fouts play as a Duck) can see it.

          • SeattleDuck

            I feel like you’re actually only strengthening the argument of it being a narrative we can just ignore. I actually disagree with the game being lost in the trenches. The linebackers were terrible, which is no fault of the D-line. The offensive line did their job as well as could be expected, but the wide receivers didn’t get open, allowing tOSU to play ever-closer to the line as the game went on. But I understand “Oregon’s linebackers aren’t very good, which is a shame because they put 4 of them on the field at once, and the wide receivers struggled without 3 significant contributors” is not a narrative that rolls off the tongue.

  • The Guest

    I’m not sure about ALL of this. But, I admit that it certainly seems to have been well intentioned. .

    There are more than two ways to read a book!

    Thanks

  • johnfairplay

    When you have 290 pound defensive linemen being run over by guys 60 pounds lighter, you are either “soft,” don’t have the desire or are being taught incorrect tackling technique. Pick one, but none of them are good or acceptable in an elite program.

  • MAITAIDUCK

    We need or excuse me the Duck’s need LB’S as in kids who have played the position for their HS careers. This has been a weakness since Kiko and the other guy as in why I cannot remember his name but they were good LB’s! Oregon does need to get stronger again on both sides of the ball but maybe they should go to a 4-3 as in 4 DL 3 LB’s so they can get pressure on the QB if they are not into making the LB Position a strength. Either way the Ducks blew this game and they really lost because of 8 starters being out with injury’s. 9 in a row against OS is UGLY! I still don’t like Urban Meyer and if you haven’t read about him and when he coached at Florida. There was a lot of players that did not like him. What really sucks is having to listen to this crap all over again in how Oregon cannot finish the job. They were not motivated enough for this game as well as players dropping balls when they hit them right in the hands. I thought they were finally over with BAD Tackling and that never should happen that’s why its called Tackle Football!

  • Howard the Duck

    Good job Charles. Couldn’t agree with you more. The POINT ladies is that this was Ohio State’s year; they beat the crap out of their last three opponents, the last being the Ducks. None of them were any stronger than the Ducks. Nobody thinks they’re weaklings.

    If the Ducks’ offense could stay on the frickin field for longer than three plays at a time, the defense would’ve done better. I think they really missed Carrington and Allen, and I think they had to overcome some championship game jitters at first. Should’ve had a better call on that 4th down and goal to go – should’ve had more mis-direction instead of just trying to run power up the gut. If we score the whole game changes. Because OS got out on top, they stuck with their run game and wore the Ducks down. That last TD by OS was BS for sure.

  • ifitwalkslikeaduck

    Maybe it’s the flamboyant uniforms that suggest they are more interesred in preening rather than playing football?

  • Taylor

    You won the turnover battle 4-0 (mariota hail Mary int notwithstanding) and still lost by several TD’s

    • SeattleDuck

      That’s not exactly an aberration. Oregon won the turnover battle in every game of 2014-15.

  • David Bennett

    I kept hearing during the game that Oregon players were motivated by the fact that it is a “60 minute game”. The Buckeyes played the game for 60 minutes. It wasn’t running up the score, it was playing to the end.

  • Alan Yousey

    I’m a buckeye and yes we were more physical than the ducks and yes we didn’t run out of gas at the end of the game. We pride our self on being more physical and tougher. There strength and conditioning coach preachs this day1 until you graduate never give never stop and do it for your brothers stand next to you. So easy not so takes dedication and commitment from all 85 ,player. All my be at morning workout by 5 no exceptions and if your god help your soul because everybody is on your all teammates and coach and staff. All in or see you later. Go Buckeyes

  • Realist

    The Ducks definitely have justifiable national aspirations every year, and I don’t think anyone can argue that. I too think the “soft” narrative is too harsh and off point. OSU won the battle in the trenches in all three of their last games. Great point by the autor: are MSU, Alabama, and Wisconsin soft? However, I disagree with the notion that a 15-point loss would only have been a loss and 22 is a pasting. Maybe I’m wrong, but I seem to remember everyone castigating OSU for years for losing by 14 to LSU in the NGC.

    • Gary

      Part of the perception that Oregon has, is perpetuated by the media and national pundants, but brought on by Oregon’s failure in 3 out of last 5 years, after they (pundants)jump on your spread offense’s bandwagon! In 2010 we heard how OSU was going to have a hard time stopping the unstoppable, fast-paced Duck offense and went out and held your offense 20 plus points under their scoring average, in a Buckeye win in the Rose Bowl. 2011 rolls around and same thing; not sure Auburn is going to be able to keep pace with that Duck offense. Again 20 some odd points under their average in a loss to Auburn in NCG. 2014 NCG, again, no one (except Buckeye fans)believe OSU would be able to slow down that vaunted Duck offense…..similar results! Do you beat Alabama this year if they made it to NCG? maybe, maybe not, but am pretty confident they would have run all over your D as well……..in fact I believe Lane Kiffen’s play calling was questionable not running more against my Buckeyes…..but I’ll take it!

      • Gary

        ……..and Rose Bowl win against Wisconsin wasn’t even against the B1G’s best that year as 12-0 Ohio State was ineligible, possibly leaving the Ducks with 4 losses in last 5 big games!!

  • SeattleDuck

    I agree with the article nearly word-for-word and find the whole thing funny. Put Alabama’s players in Ducks jerseys and they would have been called soft after their effort. It’s just a reversion to the old story line.

    As far as should Oregon switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 as has come up often after the NCG, who knows. Oregon has historically had better LBs than DL so it’s made sense, especially in a spread-’em-out league like the Pac-12. However, the talent at the LB spots is so bad right now that it might be worth trading Terrodney Prevot — a glorified DE until he gets more rounded in his skillset — with a TJ Daniel.

    I have immense faith in Helfrich. Multiple reports stated that he spent a lot more time with the defense following the Arizona loss, and as spectators we saw the defense improve every week from then on. The guy is smarter than everyone commenting on this article, especially me, and so I don’t see any way Oregon doesn’t continue to get the most out of the talent they are able to bring to Eugene.

  • Nate Beers

    I would call the Oregon nose tackle getting plowed by the OSU qb soft. Very soft.

    • Howard the Duck

      I disagree. Do you know anything about momentum? The NT was bent over and not balanced to take a hit from a 250 lb QB running at him head on. If he kicks one leg behind him it’s a stop.

      • Nate Beers

        He was leaning forward trying to meet the qb head on and got pushed back then eventually fell forward flat on his face as the qb brushed him aside. He put 100 percent into that tackle and just got manhandled. Go watch the tape, it’s blatantly obvious. Your bias must be clouding your vision.

        • Howard the Duck

          I’ve seen the game. Your bias obviously affects your view. He certainly DID NOT put 100% into the tackle. You should join the knotheaded press corp; you’d fit right in.

          • Nate Beers

            So, if he’s not putting 100% into the tackle, then I’m going to call him soft. If he thought he could make the tackle then he would’ve put 100 into it, but he obviously knew he was weak, or soft. Thanks for proving my point.

          • Howard the Duck

            OMGOSH! There’s weak/soft and there’s poor technique. They’re not the same. My opinion.
            Oregon held Ohio State to fewer yards/carry than Alabama and Wisconsin. That’s not soft. Call a spade a spade; not a club

  • Ohio State Fans….take note. We encourage disagreement and discussion, but I will not tolerate name-calling and insults for a moment. I have already deleted many of your posts and have blacklisted a couple besides.

    Keep it civil and your post will stay…..although I think it is funny that so many of you object to my article because I did not lick your boots enough. I gave you guys great credit where due, and called the classless act for what it was.

    And you think I’m sensitive!

    • Dennis

      So you will NOT tolerate name-calling and insults for a moment …. from OSU fans, but you are OK with others slinging insults and calling the OSU coach names (see Belem and jackhole comment).
      I enjoyed your article the facts your provided regarding your reasoning that Oregon should not be labeled “soft”. Not that I ever agreed with that perception, but your article gave me additional ammunition for not strengthen my believe. You did lose me when you attempted to argue that the a final score of 42-20 helped build that perception. I would argue that it was the 10 points from 4 turnovers, or Mariotta having a good passing game and Oregon still lost by 15 or 22. Maybe it was how easily Elliott (and Samuel) could gain a minimum of 5-10 yards every time they ran the ball in the 4th qtr. How about this reason for the perception? Oregon is 0 for 9 against OSU.
      Blaming Oregon’s “soft” perception on a late touchdown in one game is like blaming the policeman for pulling you over for speeding and then citing you for not wearing your seat belt.
      Oregon didn’t lose because they were soft. They got beat by team that played better and a team that continually overcame adversity to win a championship. This years CF championship is not about Oregon losing, it’s about OSU winning.

      • Yeah…it’s not fair, so too bad. I wrote the article for Oregon fans and could care less what Buckeye fans think. I gave you guys credit…and it is just not enough.

        Again…I am sad for the wonderful Ohio State fans that I know and care about; this is all very embarrassing for you with what these fans assert.

        Dennis, I left a TON of questionable posts up by OSU fans….go cry somewhere else. Enjoy your championship as you have a great team, a coach who is a jerk, and fans who get their skirt blown up over nothing.

        If you don’t like it–start your own site. This is for OREGON fans, and I did not promote this article on any OSU sites. You guys found it and can leave anytime as I am tired of removing all the horrendous posts that never got to the site. You are not as bad as LSU fans…but you’re in sight!

  • Brad Tate

    Football is a tough sport, it’s physically taxing to play 13 games over the course of a season, especially when you play tough opponents. I think that’s the key here, the real question is “Is Oregon tough ENOUGH to play the regular season schedule they played AND beat the Seminoles AND the Buckeyes back to back?”. Then ask the same about Ohio State, are they tough enough to best the Crimson Tide and the Ducks back to back?

    I’m the only one out of me and my buddies who picked Ohio State to beat Oregon because I felt like I could answer yes more easily to them on the previous question than I could Oregon.

    Full disclosure, I am not a Buckeyes fan or a Big 10 fan, I’m a Louisville Cardinals fan. #L1C4

    Nonetheless, good read. You mentioned some stats about Oregon that I wasn’t aware of before reading.

  • Gary

    How was Ohio States last score any different than Oregon’s last score against Michigan State? Oregon up by 12, about same time remaining, 4th and 7, Oregon going for FG, MSU jumps off sides making it 4 and 2 and you bring your starting offense back on the field and score on a 15 yard run! Not sure what all the complaining is about when you’ve seen the team that you root for do the same thing!

    • Mike Merrell

      Yes, the situations were practically twins — other than the fact that one situation involved a 2-touchdown plus lead on the the last play of the last game of the season, while the other was a less-than-two touchdown lead with a minute and a half to go in the second game of the season. Other than that, yes, pretty much the same thing, because we all know that the possibility of three touchdowns with no time remaining is the same as the possibility of two touchdowns in 90 seconds.

      • Gary

        so why didn’t Oregon kick the 32 yard field goal and make it a 15 point insurmountable lead just like the Ohio State situation,….game over……..so what your saying is that because it was the second game of the season Oregon had to “make a statement” about a win over a quality opponent, and that justified them running up the score?

        Maybe Meyers decision was based soley on getting Elliott the fourth rushing touchdown to set an Ohio State bowl record, along with an Ohio State bowl game rushing yard record,

        Its funny that the next morning after the NCG I heard 3 national sports talk show hosts, who all played in college and or NFL, discussing the topic and none of them had a problem with the decision…..in fact Mike Golic stated that it never even crossed his mind at the time until the subject was brought up that morning……and he was a D-lineman!

  • Belem

    OSU went for the last TD because Meyer is a jackhole. Always has been. He didn’t get called out because ESPN had already decided that FSU was the heel this year.
    Oregon gets called soft because they look fantastic all season but have yet to won the big one. Until you do, you will wear the badge. Deal with it. Could be worse, could have he “Clemsoning” identity. Lastly, and you’ll like this the least, your fans could dial back the smack a bit until you get one of those tropheys. They’re damned hard to get and don’t always go to the team that has the best guy or scores the most points …or has the flashiest UNIS.

    • Gary

      Not sure what team you root for, but am pretty confident you’d change your tune if Meyer showed up on your door step!

      • Belem

        Negative. Sure, he’ll win games, but he’ll also bring along Arron Hernandez type situations with him wherever he goes. Maybe not another serial killer, but then again…if he’s a Gronk type….

        • Gary

          ……..your right, ND, Bowling Green and Utah all had their share of thugs that he recruited while with them.

          So, I didn’t catch the name of the pope that coaches the team that you root for…..

    • Mark Gilbert

      Or has the most 4 /5 star recruits,, like everyone in the playofs but Oregon

      • Brad Tate

        I heard an interesting fact the other day about 5 star recruits out of high school. Do you know how many of them are playing in the Super Bowl this year? 0. It would be interesting to see the # of 5 star recruits out of high school that play in the Super Bowl each year since they started tracking that stuff.

  • Anfronie

    Oregon fans complaining about OSU “running up the score” is hilarious.

  • islanchief

    As an FSU fan I assure you that journalists are lazy.

  • Mark Gilbert

    Great article, very imformative for Ducks fans and others alike,, can’t argue with the truth of everything you stated and backed it up with proof,, Oregon soft? No way,, but they are lacking depth and this is the major issue I see at this time,, but is getting better every year.

  • Luke

    102nd ranking in overall national defense, that’s kind of soft.

  • George

    Four turnovers for The Ohio State Buckeyes, if these turovers don’t happen the Ducks (quack, quack) get blown out. Are the Ducks soft? In the National Championship Game, yes, they where physically DOMINATED! O-H

  • WOLF

    Did you watch the simulcast? All coaches in a round table watching the game. They said you go for the touchdown in that situation. Mike and Mike? Called it embarrassing that duck fans would complain about that final touchdown. Only people who have never coached or played football would complain about that.

  • David Maynard

    I know I missed the boat on this one as the thread appears to have died off a month ago, but I have some advice for the Oregon fans here. Ignore the talking heads. After dropping two NC games we know how it feels for you. We were big slow farmers from the midwest that couldn’t compete with SEC speed, remember? That was our cross to bear, Oregon getting hung with the soft label is yours. Is it deserved? Of course not.

    I don’t have time to build the numbers, but seems to me that teams reliant upon fast strike spread offenses and no huddle tempo just need to resign themselves to their defenses being constantly under the gun. And when you have two offenses with those abilities like tOSU and Oregon, defenses will be tested beyond reason. The Bucks converted critical third downs while the Ducks had some drops. Flip that stat and nobody questions the Ducks toughness and the game has a much tighter ending I expect. And to be fair, some of our catches were amazing and the two glaring drops by the Ducks were catches those kids probably make the next 100 times.

    As to that last touchdown, come on man, the Ducks are the master of hanging big scores on anyone they can. If we had been on the receiving end I’d probably be pissed too, But that is the game these days. Remember the Bucks were not supposed to be there. Just ask Mark May or Clay Travis. And Art Briles was puking venom from one orifice or the other (I never could tell which end as they seem interchangeable) every time a camera pointed his way. Perception changing? Damn right! But if you think for a minute that that touchdown was meant to demean Oregon you are wrong. That was for pride, it was for tatgate, it was for Mark May to wallow in for eternity. So next time you are in a big game, and your current Kelly clone puts up an extra touchdown with seconds to play then lines up for two remember it’s for your kids not to belittle the others.