Analysis: UO Sack Monsters Mondeaux, Balducci, and Buckner

Keeping with the Halloween theme that always accompanies late October, this analysis reviews the marvelous, monstrous sacks by Oregon Duck defensive linemen that took place during the Washington game. Oregon’s improvement pressuring the QB in its last contest was certainly a welcome sight. Here’s to hoping this keeps up Thursday night, and that the remaining season reveals the true sack monsters of Oregon.

Mondeaux readying for the chop

From Video

Mondeaux readying for the chop.

Late in the first quarter against the Huskies, Henry Mondeaux (No. 92) executed an exemplary chop” move during a pass rush (see photo above). Mondeaux is in the green circle, closing the gap with the right tackle (RT). He has begun to swing his right arm at the left arm of the RT as seen in the orange oval. Also, his left arm is moving across his chest to execute the next progression of the chop move.

Mondeaux making contact

From Video

Mondeaux making contact

Mondeaux made contact with the RT by swatting the RT’s left arm inward (orange oval above), and has brought his left hand over to further control the RT’s left arm. Controlling the blocker’s arm on the rush side is important in a chop rush because the objective is to get one’s hips past the blocker’s. If the blocker maintains control using his arm on the side the rusher wants to work, the move will not be successful.

Mondeaux...improvising?

From Video

Mondeaux … improvising?

In the photo above, Mondeaux has succeeded at reaching the inside shoulder of the RT. As is important in a chop, Mondeaux appears to be letting the RT’s left arm thrust deplete its energy by rotating his torso counterclockwise in deflection. It also looks like Mondeaux has added an extra wrinkle by pulling on the RT’s right hand to enhance his own torso twist!

Mondeaux charging unhindered

From Video

Mondeaux charging unhindered to the QB.

Mondeaux then blasts past the RT for an open shot at the QB (see green circle above). This was a wonderfully executed chop rush, and taking the move inside may have added to the chop’s effectiveness.

Enjoy the entirety of the play in the video above. What a sweet move (Mondeaux has the makings of a terrifying defensive end)!

Three man rush (orange box)

From Video

Oregon showing a three man rush.

But the Ducks kept the pressure on the Washington front. Late in the second quarter with the Huskies facing third-and-long, a pass play was likely. Time to dial up another good pass rush, which the Ducks do with only three men (orange rectangle in the photo above).

End-zone view to observe Balducci at work

From Video

End-zone view to observe Balducci at work.

The progression of this pass rush play is best seen from the end zone (photo above). Both Tui Talia (No. 55) and DeForest Buckner (No. 44) are getting double-teamed on this play. But Alex Balducci’s (No. 56) productive rush still flushes the Husky QB.

As Balducci makes contact with the center, he has his body tilted left. He is keeping his hands in close (red circles), suggestive of a bull rush where the rusher gets his hands up under the blocker’s armpits and drives with his legs through the blocker.

Is Balducci setting up the center?

From Video

Is Balducci setting up the Husky center?

As the play progresses, Balducci’s hand placement is still typical of a bull rush (see photo above). Curiously, Balducci’s body lean has changed from going left to going right (see red centerline). Meanwhile, Talia and Buckner have their hands full with the guards and tackles.

Is this a bull rush turned swim?

From Video

Is this a bull rush turned swim?

Suddenly, Balducci makes a move indicating either the initial pass rush technique was a ruse, or he’s changed his mind. As you can see in the photo above (red oval), Balducci has his left hand pushing/pulling the center’s right shoulder, while his right arm also pulls the center forward and then swings over the center’s body.

Essentially, Balducci drove the center back, and then using the center’s own momentum, pulled the rug out from under him, allowing Balducci to execute a brilliant “swim” move. One can only wonder whether the initial bull rush was an attempt to get the center’s weight going forward to set up the swim, or if Balducci just found the bull rush wasn’t working.


Video (above) shows Balducci’s actions more clearly. He engaged with arms in close on the center’s torso, but his hands are up high, too high for a good bull rush. Maybe this was a setup for a swim move all along?

Balducci flushing QB while Buckner and Talia work to contain

From Video

Balducci flushing QB while Buckner and Talia work to contain.

As Balducci breaks free from the center and makes contact with the QB, Buckner and Talia have positioned themselves to provide containment (green circles in photo above). With the QB flushed, Buckner is close and moving, while Talia has shed one blocker and the other is trying to change direction.

Collision course as the pocket is gone

From Video

Collision course as the pocket is gone.

In the photo above, Buckner has thwarted the QB’s path downfield and Talia is a blur of a surprise from the backside.

To see this play in all its glory, the end-zone view provides the best angle (video above). And we aren’t done; there is still the second half!

Rodney Hardrick ready to blitz?

From Video

Rodney Hardrick ready to blitz?

Above we have another great sack in the making. Rodney Hardrick, an inside linebacker, is up close to the line. This is a typical place for a blitzing linebacker to start, and I wonder if it helped lead to the outcome of this play.

With the snap, the pass rush is on

From Video

With the snap, Hardrick bails and the four-man rush is on!

The blitz look was a fake, and may have led to the left guard working outside on the defensive end. The Oregon D-line makes a furious four-man pass rush favoring the side away from Hardrick’s false blitz (see photo, green oval).

A crucial moment for the QB to decide where to throw

From Video

A crucial moment for the QB to decide where to throw.

The QB has two open receivers (left wideout at top and running back below), but he seems to be focused on the inside wideout from the left who is running into coverage. The ‘pocket’ looks more like a line. In a static image like this, appearances can be deceiving.

The 'pocket' breaking down

From Video

The ‘pocket’ breaking down.

The QB waited too long for his first progression to get open. The rush has arrived (green oval in photo above). The question is … how did the D-line get there so fast? A replay by the broadcaster provides the answers.

Look at Balducci and Buckner's hands

From Video

Look at Balducci and Buckner’s hands.

Buckner made the first significant contact. He skillfully placed his left hand beneath the right guard’s elbow (lower red circle above). Balducci is also setting up the center with a move of his own (upper red circle).

Buckner has the guard right where he wants him, and the RT is holding Torrodney Prevot's arm.

From Video

Buckner has the guard right where he wants him.

In the photo above, we see Buckner lifting his left hand to control the guard’s arm. This is an essential step in executing a rip rush.

Now we're talking, look at that hand placement

From Video

Now we’re talking, look at that hand placement!

Buckner has the guard firmly by the upper arm and is twisting him away, toward the center (see middle red circle above). Buckner is deep into his rip move at this point. Now he just needs to get his hips past the guard.

Simultaneously, Balducci has started to get the best of the center. He appears to be making a chop rush, swatting the arm of the center inward (upper red circle above) and trying to free up his left arm to finish the chop.

In the lower red circle, Torrodney Prevot (No. 86) is pushing up near the RT’s armpit (pseudo-bull rush, Torrodney?) after freeing the RT’s grip on his left arm.

As the pocket collapses...

From Video

The pocket collapses …

The image above shows Buckner has succeeded in getting his hips past the guard. Balducci has turned the center and is being held. Prevot provides contain after pushing the RT all the way back to the QB.

Looking at the video above, frankly this play looks more like a simple overpowering of the O-line than execution of good technique. However, good technique laid the foundation for what became good old physical domination. Let’s take a better look at the action below.

Thanks to the television network, we have a close-up shot for us to see the Duck’s maul the Husky offensive line on this play. I am excited to see more of these plays, and given the depth of skill on the Oregon defensive front, odds are good we’ll see a lot more of these type of plays this season.

Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!

Jay MacPherson
Oregon Football Analyst for CFF Network/FishDuck.com
Eugene, Oregon

Top Photo by John Sperry

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Jay MacPherson

Jay MacPherson

I told my wife I might spin some yarn for FishDuck. She replied "You know nothing, Jay Mac." She is probably correct, but since her name isn't Ygritte, I'm jumping in. First off, you should know that I know almost nothing about football. Not the terminology, the techniques, the standards, the...wait for it...tradition. So I'm figuring at least I've got 1/4 of this covered from Duck perspective. Until two years ago at the age of 55, I played sports regularly. Much of it was Ultimate (that disc game, which is now officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee). So what? Well, in Ultimate, every player is a receiver, a cornerback/linebacker, and (to varying extents per play) a quarterback. The skills at getting open, at covering, at throwing (successfully) all apply to football. The object simply behaves differently while in flight. Oh, and there are the plays: getting people open, keeping opponents from getting open, etc. Thus, after playing a somewhat similar game for 33 years, and being a coach much of that time, I might know a little bit about player heart, techniques, and teamwork. I hope I can illuminate something new in Duck sports for you once in a while.

  • MAITAIDUCK

    Just glad this is Hardricks last year as he has clearly shown to be one of the worst ILBs the Ducks have ever had. Anyways good stuff Jay and hope the Ducks D Line is starving Thursday night for QB.

    • Bruce

      At least all his hits are clean, and not snarky cheap shots! You can still be a good player and not be nearly as good as a Kiko Alonso or Casey Matthews.

  • TennesseeDuck

    This looks like the hidden bear defense that FishDuck introduced us to last year. Jay, is that what we’re seeing here? Is Don Pellum and company still implementing this hidden bear defense in 2015?