Southern Utah should be an easy win for the Ducks. A practice game really. The Ducks have questions, and let’s say guys step up and address these questions in a positive way. Does it really mean anything against such an inferior opponent? Being a star against Southern Utah and then getting shutdown a week later against Nebraska would mean that nothing’s been answered.
Having said that, it’s still a chance for guys to gain valuable experience and for the team to sharpen up before week 2.
Here are 3 things the Ducks need to do this Saturday:
1) They need to play defense
When playing a completely outmatched opponent, the defense should give up no more than two touchdowns, 17 points max. One somewhat lucky touchdown against the starters — maybe when given a short field after a turnover — and one touchdown in garbage time. But long, grind it out, 80-yard touchdown drives are not acceptable.
Let’s look at the cream-puff scores from 2013 and 2014, the final two years the Oregon football program actually played defense:
2013: Nicholls State 66-3, Virginia 59-10 (Poor Virginia, Power 5 lightweight, kinda how the Beavers are looking this year.)
2014: South Dakota 62-13, Wyoming 48-14 (Unlike this year, Wyoming was pretty bad in 2014.)
Now the laughable 2015 and 2016 Oregon “defensive” units:
2015: Georgia State 61-28, Eastern Washington 61-42 (EWU is an exception to the 17-point rule, a top-notch, high-powered sub-division program, so maybe something in the 20’s is ok, but not 42, no way.)
2016: UC Davis 53-28, Virginia 44-26 (Keep in mind that Virginia had lost at home to Richmond — yes the mighty Richmond Spiders — the week before, 37-20. The Ducks gave up more points than Richmond, at Autzen. Yikes.)
As you can see, the past two seasons show the horrible Oregon “defense” giving up about twice as many points against the lightweights when compared to the 2013 and 2014 squads. Check out other scores this Saturday; rarely do the big boys give up more than 17 against a heavily outmatched opponent.
Goal for this game: Hold Southern Utah to 14 points or less.
2) They need to establish something at wide receiver
The Ducks should throw, and throw a lot considering they have nothing to prove from the running back position. Sure, the offensive line wants to physically dominate their opponent in the new power-spread scheme, and this shouldn’t be a problem against an over-matched foe. But, the Ducks do have everything to prove at wide receiver. There are many questions, for sure.
Can Brenden Schooler transition from safety and make some plays? Can Charles Nelson step up and be the go-to guy? Can Jacob Breeland be a reliable safety net at tight end? Can any of the young guys establish themselves as potential starters?
Again, kicking butt against lesser competition doesn’t mean much. So …
The Goal for this Game: Have one or two of the unproven guys gain the momentum and confidence needed to go out against Nebraska and establish themselves as solid pass catchers with a little “Hell yeah, I got this $#%t!” kind of attitude. And Charles Nelson doing the same in the role of go-to guy.
3) They need to be coached up and execute
The Ducks need to go out, dominate, take care of business, and leave Duck fans amped up to play Nebraska. They need to make the transition to the Willie Taggart era look like the right call. They cannot be in disarray while implementing new schemes, looking lost, finger-pointing, leaving fans sighing a collective, “uh oh.” Something mediocre with lots of shoulder shrugging won’t cut it either. The Ducks need to be complete and decisive in victory this Saturday.
The Goal for this Game: The Ducks are a cohesive, well-oiled machine. The new schemes are well executed, they fly around, play relatively mistake free, and take care of business … while, of course, answering questions at wide receiver and holding Southern Utah to no more than 14 points.
Spot on prediction: 52-13.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove