Coach’s Comments After Nebraska: “What a Mess … “


In keeping with our announcement of shifting the site toward more total analysis (including the bad plays to learn from), I offer a brutal assessment of the Oregon football team from Mike Morris (the Grizzled Ol’ Coach).  Charles Fischer 

What I saw:

GOC was stunned at what he saw....

Charles Fischer

GOC was stunned at what he saw …

Probably like most of you, the Ducks defense surprised me only in the number of points [not] allowed, and the offense surprised me – too many times – in its ineffectiveness.  Let’s look at:


What a mess.  What the hell happened to un-confused players “wreaking havoc” in opponents’ backfields? The final score was deceptive because the Ducks‘ offense never turned the ball over, and because of that Nebraska lateral turnover to the Ducks. And the Ducks defenders seemed to give great “effort” - “they’re just not very good.”

But – I repeat –

“The Ducks’ defense was a mess.”

After 3 games, I see only Arrion Springs as [possibly] worthy of “Pac-12 Honorable Mention.” There’s just no one who’s good. Well, maybe Tyree Robinson at corner, NOT as a safety. My morning milk carton had a picture of Troy Dye. NOBODY can defeat blockers effectively, and/or tackle with any power. “Puny” and “soft” weren’t the words Brady Hoke was thinking would describe his defense.

Are they well-coached? Shit … WHAT DO THEY DO AT THEIR PRACTICES? The players are OFTEN confused about their assignments; the coaches are confused about which players to play; (Charles thinks they are “throwing mud against the wall to see who sticks/can play) and Hoke is confused about which schemes to use. They have no defensive “identity” – except hoping that the offense makes a mistake.

Arrion Springs

From Video

Arrion Springs

Hoke is smart enough to know he must put some pressure on the passer, but he doesn’t know how/is unable to do it. He sure can’t do it with just four, so he brings five – or even six – nope. No – vitally needed – QB sacks!

Meanwhile, the pass coverage is weakened while blitzing. The Ducks seem to have tried every conceivable blitz and coverage, with every player they have, and, unless Springs makes a great play, it is all ineffective.

Was Nebraska good? Damn straight. Isn’t everybody else in the Pac-12 [except the Beavers] similarly as good? Will Oregon get better, good enough to stop those other guys? I don’t see how. There’s just no “there” (substance) there. The return of Dye? And playing Dye and Jonah Moi together? Keeping Robinson at corner? Brenden Schooler and Drayton Carlberg provided glimmers of hope, but I, unfortunately, feel sure the Ducks defense is destined for a lot of painful Pac-12 games.


As painful as the Ducks defense was for me to watch, I was more disappointed by their offense. An “embarrassment of riches?” All that talent always seemed to shoot itself in the foot. Borrowing from above, I didn’t sense an offensive “identity” from Oregon.

Coach Riley had seen this scenario before...

From Video

Coach Riley had seen this scenario before …

You realize that the Ducks’ last drive was almost identical to the drive in Mike Riley‘s last Civil War? Just like the Beavers. Nebraska scored, but there was enough time for Marcus Mariota to lead the Ducks to a winning TD [pass to Josh Huff]. Dakota Prukop could have done the same this time, but I “knew” he wouldn’t. (Yeah, it’s unfair to compare a third-game QB with a third year starter, Mariota)

And as pessimistic as I am about the Ducks’ defense, I’m very optimistic about the Ducks’ offense (even with the possible losses of Royce Freeman and Devon Allen). As incredibly great as Freeman is and potentially great as Allen is, I think the Ducks can still find their identity and have a great offensive season.

But if Oregon’s offense isn’t “great,” there are going to be a lot of painful losses waiting down the road.

Mike Morris
College Football Analyst for
Pleasant Hill, Oregon

Top Photo from Video

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Coach Morris

Coach Morris

Coach Mike Morris spent 30 years coaching at seven different high schools throughout Southern California. He coached many players who went on to Pac-12 programs including Oregon, such as Saladin McCullough. He is a writer, Football analyst and a good friend of the Principal of the site.

  • Michael Oaks

    I couldn’t agree with you more coach! I told myself that I was going to remain calm and accept whatever transpired on the football field, but the more I watched the more pissed off I became! How did our fortunes go south so quickly?? It’s not that coach Helfrich has such a terrible record, (yet!) but all I’m seeing from his teams since Mariota left for the pro’s is, undecidedness, poor play calls, lack of discipline, poor tackling, Uggggh! Talk about your ugly ducklings! I think Helfrich is over his head big time! We can’t seem to recruit to our weaknesses! Sorry! but I believe we are going to be hearing “It’s on me” for the remainder of this football season.

  • Ed P – TN

    Thanks Coach for your observations. How about some tips on what we fans should look when we evaluate the team. Also, maybe a commentary on what some possible fixes might be?

  • Platypus

    Coach Mike…give me 3 things you did like about the Ducks effort. Even with all the Doom and Gloom the game came down to the last possession. If Prukop hits those 3 open receivers the Ducks win big, so i just don’t see that they are that far away from putting it together.

    • The over-riding concern that GOC and I had was…Nebraska was un-ranked for a reason. They are a good team, but not a great one. They would be about like the middle-of-road in the Pac-12, hence Oregon is not as good as we hoped.

      Can the offense improve enough to overcome the weakness on defense? That is what we are looking /hoping for…

      • Platypus

        If everyone had been healthy and played in this game I believe the Ducks win. You have to take that into consideration. Outside Autzen I don’t know of any stadium that might be harder to win in then the Huskers, it has to be one of the top 5 in the nation. For a young team i thought they did ok despite some iffy coaching.

      • Littleduckie

        Fisch, To say that Nebraska is a middle of the road pac12 equiv team after week 3 is a little bit of exaggeration don’t you think? #1 they have a fifth year senior at QB. #2 they have a legit experienced D. #3 they are undefeated. #4 They play at home and that home far exceeds the home field advantage almost ALL pac12 teams enjoy. An added issue in this game was the Refs. They were extremely horrible in the final quarter to both teams. They ended and extended many strong drives for both the Ducks and Huskers. Refs should not be a deciding factor in an otherwise enjoyable and hard fought football game!

      • Jon Sousa

        They were unranked just because of their record last year… a record you know would have been drastically different if they were just 50/50 on all the games they lost by 3 or less. They were a much better team than anyone thought and they were picked to win by 3. How much did they win by? They were picked to beat a 22 ranked team as an unranked team. Does that make sense? Don’t talk to me about home field. As poorly as you think they played they coulda, shoulda, woulda won. They just didn’t. I expect the Ducks to continue to improve and I would NOT be surprised if they went to the Rose Bowl this year. That young offensive line is going to be great by middle of the season and will continue to improve through the end of it.

  • DuckNV

    I agree there are definite concerns on both sides of the ball. It seemed to me, especially in the first half, that if pass protection broke down that Prukop would just run. He was better in the second half stepping up and resetting to look for receivers. To me that is a big difference from the past few years with Mariota and Adams. He also seemed to be throwing late which allowed the defense to close the coverage gap on the receivers. I’m not being critical of Prukop b/c he’s a tough son-of-a-gun and very athletic. I am hoping he grows in his ability to spot the open receiver quickly and deliver the ball.

    Regarding Troy Dye, unless I’m mistaken he did not play due to undisclosed reasons, though Helfrich said his absence was not due to conduct issues. I think that’s how they let us know someone is injured and don’t disclose that they’re hurt.


    Honestly speaking we should be 3-0 and Helfrich is an absolute idiot! Did this Man learn anything from Chip Kelly while he was here for 6 years? Apparently not. Chip always took what the Defense gave his offense and if that meant kicking he usually did that after a successful 2 point try. If Helfrich just kicks the points were 3-0 instead of 2-1 and people wondering after game 3 what the hell is going on. I’ll tell you he can’t seem to pull head out of ASS! He blew it in the TCU as a Coach. He blew it again against the Huskers clearly. I did’nt wait all freaking year for this season to start to have him show he’s not capable of running this Oregon ” FRANCHISE or Uncle Phils Ducks ” because we cannot go 3 steps backwards because of stupid play calling. Sorry That I’m being negative here but what the hell was that?

    • Boggs

      I agree with you about Helfrich, but you are mis-remembering what Chip was like as a play-caller. Exhibit A is the national championship game against Auburn. Good defense I know, but if you go back and watch that game, you’ll see Chip stubbornly sticking to his offensive script to the detriment of the team. He’s even admitted as much.


    OH yeah one more thing does Prukop haver the ability to make this offencse good? I cannot imagine why he wasn’t finding more open receivers pretty much all game he was missing the mark. Maybe Hebert should be given the reps to see what he can do. Defensively HOKE needs to do a whole lot better with that RUN D. I’m out but still quite pissed off right now and expect no less than a total beat down of the Buff’s next saturday.

  • douglas fur

    “It’s on me.” May get old but you can’t blame the kids. Responsibility has to fall to coaching to figure out what you’ve got for talent and how to utilize it.
    If they can’t beat .500 on two points and you’ve got a good kicker…”the decision’s made on the field.” is BS. A decision to send players out to run a play they can succeed at must be made on Monday not game day. The same with an “attacking defense”. If you get burned by plays taking advantage of the weakened midfield back off to a basic 3 page playbook. Then when that succeeds add a few more plays.
    Both sides seemed stuck on idealized schemes not related to what the players can do.
    This is a coaching problem. If you teach players X and they can’t do X your teaching is the problem. You’ve misjudged your players and must adjust. If you send them out to fail next week you break their spirit and defeat snowballs.


  • George Nash Khier

    It comes down to the head coach. Oregon has been on a slow decline since last year and I put a lot of that on the poor decisions by Helffich. Why was Jeff Lockie are backup QB last year, he was worst backup QB in the Pac-12 last year and it cost Oregon loses to Washington State and the Alamo Bowl. Now this year Helfrich did what no other head coach would do is go for more 2 point conversions after being successful on the first one and being up by 8 points on the road in a hostile environment. How dumb is that, then Helfrich has the nerve to blame in the players involved in the 2 point attempts. We clutched defeat from victory due to Helfich’s stupidity and arrogance. How can a team have confidence with a fool for a head coach.

    • FishDuck

      Hello George,

      I will be doing an article on the QB recruiting in the past…but the bottom line is that he DID recruit four QBs, two 3-Star, and two 4-Star and NONE worked out. I, you, and the coaching staff would have thought that ONE would work out, but they did not.

      Sometimes you have bad luck in recruiting at a position and it has happened before at other positions years back. To compound the difficulty of it all–both Mariota AND Herbert were 3-Star rated, so this recruiting business is harder than it looks.

      I love him, but Chuck Nelson blew two the conversions as he made the wrong decision TWICE to take the ball and charge the adverse numbers against him. Meanwhile we had 3-on-2 on the other side of the swinging gate.


      • Boggs


        First, Charles Nelson is overrated.

        Second, I wouldn’t let the coaches off that easy. When four quarterback recruits don’t “work out,” we should question the coaches’ abilities to develop players.

        • Well, I am not as perfect to expect such perfection from them. And developing players might be a subject with Scott Frost. NOBODY knows why Mahalak was not even given a shot….and the rumor I heard was that at least one assistant coach told Morgan that “you should have been playing.’

          Mysteries abound! But the fact remains that ONE out of four should have worked out when everyone thought the players, when recruited were almost “can’t miss.”

          • Boggs

            Agreed. I met Mahalak’s dad after the CFP Rose Bowl game and he seemed to be high on the prospect of Morgan taking the next step with the Ducks. I also agree that it could have been Frost’s fault, though I appreciated how Scott gave Vernon deserved credit for his play even when Helfrich wouldn’t.

  • duckusucker

    Well, we don’t have a lot of experience on either line. These are young guys making lots of mistakes. And they made them in an extremely tough venue— among the toughest in the sport in Lincoln. So, I hate to say it, but give these young inexperienced guys a bit of slack. No reason for the amount of penalties, however. It’s time for Helf to instill some discipline— and soon. Completely inexcusable to have your most senior players commit these game-killing errors.
    The loss squarely is on Helfrich’s shoulders. His glibness about that is wearing thin and shows a neurotic inability to face up to it and own it. Not only the two point decisions were ridiculous: what the heck was Allen doing on the most dangerous assignment? NO way should a guy with his injury history and short practice time be on a kick coverage team. NO way.
    The problems with Helfrich’s decision making go back some time, but I’ll restrict myself to another glaring one in the last game: Nelson mishandled the ball three times but wasn’t benched. Is that the message a good coach sends his players?
    Lastly, Prukop has no picks, yet, but he also has shown little ability to make critical and big plays: is he perhaps TOO worried about making mistakes, fearing Herbert will then get his spot? Though picks are among the most devastating mistakes a player can make, being scared of making a mistake is worse.

    • FishDuck

      The two point conversions are like so many plays–if they work we cheer and think nothing of it; when they don’t–the coach is an idiot. It is hard for us fans to call the plays in advance and KNOW what will work. You operate on percentages and sometimes it goes against you.

      I am in complete agreement with your thoughts about Prukop, as he needs to let it loose a little more.

      Good stuff, and thanks for commenting…ALL of you!