The Fish Report: The Key Component

The strength of the Oregon football has always been the offense, and under Coach Bellotti it was primarily the passing game.  Under Chip it has been primarily the running game scoring the high number of points, yet our ground attack has shown some vulnerability in recent games.  I asked my friend, Gageac, “are we really the second best team in the nation?  Can we really win out our schedule depending so much upon the offense?”  He smiled and answered, “I’m not putting money it……but I’m along for the ride!”  Amen!  Count me in as well, as we savor and smell the roses along the way.


Is our running game stagnating?  Most would call me a loon for suggesting it when the numbers are quite impressive, yet I cannot help but feel some concern with aspects of our offense being curtailed.  The Outside Zone Read was absolutely stuffed at Arizona State, and I explained it away as the unusually fast defenders the ‘Devils have.  Then I watched Washington State shut the play down 90% of the time with…..young defenders. Hmmm.  Are we relying too much on a selected group of plays?  We have not opened the play-book much at all halfway through the season; would this account for the closed practices this week?  Like others, I have been dismayed seeing our Offensive Line being manhandled at times.  Is this due to talent, or are we becoming a bit too predictable in our play selection?  These are interesting questions to ask and ponder because at Oregon…..the offense is everything.  If the offense should ever slow down……Holy Crap.


Hubba Hubba!  Our first offensive play was a new one…a reverse!  Recall how we ran one years ago with Cam Colvin going for a TD in the Palouse?  We ran that one out of the Outside Zone Read backfield formation, yet this one was done out of the triple option.  We attacked the right side with the Inside Zone Read option, then flowed to attack the outside on the left side—which would bring fast pursuit.  Then we flip it to the WR going back to the right?  We love it!  While I like Huff’s speed….I would like to see how Seastrunk’s speed might turn the corner a smidgeon faster.  Perhaps later?  This was an important new play—but why add it at WSU?  Why did we hold plays back against ASU…to use them now versus the Cougs?  Are we trying to set up other teams running a play now with a counter to follow?  Interesting, interesting stuff to watch for in future games……


Barner made some long gains in the Rose Bowl running a fly sweep from his TAZR position.  We actually started the play by taking the snap from center directly and then turning to hand-off to Barner as he “flew” by, similar to how we did it back in 2000-2001 with Joey.  Yet in the WSU game we saw the “Sun Bowl” version of the fly sweep!  We disguised the play by beginning in the Outside Zone Read backfield formation and shortly after the QB caught the center shotgun snap….he pitched it inside to the “fly” going by.  Roper did this with Maehl as the fly-back in that memorable bowl game, and we were impressed with timing required and the superb execution.  Later in the WSU game we did a “fake” fly sweep and handed off to the RB by the QB for an inside play!  Make them conscious of the outside and stretch their alignments…and then power it back inside.  Now that’s good stuff!


Like you, I was delighted to see Thomas keep the ball in the first touchdown drive and make a huge gain.  This was so notable because if you go back and watch it (11:45 in the 1st Qtr) you will see that the Defensive End did stay home as he was supposed to in order to prevent the QB backside run.  Yet Darron sensed what I wrote of before…that JM knew he could beat some of those DEs when they cheated a little too much inside, and now DT decided the same thing on that play.  Technically…the Zone Read was to hand off, but Darron pulled the ball, and caught the DE flatfooted and too far inside to stop his run upfield.  Good!  He’s learning his abilities and the extent of how far he can push the Zone Read!


I groaned later as I watched him run the Zone Read in the first two plays of the second quarter.  The DE crashed down/or over-leaned inside, thus DT could have pulled the ball.  It was especially frustrating on the second play as he would have gone for big yardage outside had he pulled it.  Instead it was a minor two yard gain for LMJ.  He’s learning and I’m sure the coaches are going through the replays with him….and it’s pretty easy for me to nit-pick in slow-motion while he has to make those decisions in microseconds.  He’ll get better at it because we’ve seen him do it once, and he will get his confidence.


I’m still shaking my head of the relief performance of “Great Nate”.  He ran the offense like he was a couple year starter, and I only saw him make ONE mistake on the Zone Read.  Really?  A QB who hasn’t been in the game-runs for 38 yards once, another time for an 18 yard TD….is inexperienced running the Zone Read at game speed, yet plays an almost flawless game?  Nate is the Anti-Matter that we’ve always coveted.  This is the Nate that, if healthy, would have helped us go to the NC game in 2007.  I knew he was sneaky-fast…that is his trademark with his thick thighs and bowed legs as he gets to the corner faster than DBs anticipate.  His stiff arm after nine yards turned into a big play from heady running.  I noticed he did it again on the TD run; this guy is a dream coming into the game, so smart, so talented, and a leader.


Baby he can pass so very accurately….perhaps better than the starter?  He wasn’t perfect passing though as he missed a potential TD with 50 seconds left in the second quarter.  It was third and long and he honed in on Maehl who was short of the first down.  Meanwhile LMJ ran another wheel route down the right sideline and was wide open……  He’ll see it next time, but the overall passing performance was astonishing.


Now THAT is the key component for winning the Pac-10…the rest of our games…..a potential NC…  The passing game.  That is the balance we had in 2007 (before the injury) that made our offense unstoppable.  Our massive point totals now include a lot of defensive and Special Teams scoring, and a ton more passing than last year at this time.  If  I was an opposing DC….I would continue to plug our favorite running plays—keep eight in the box and force Oregon to beat them through the air.  The Ducks have shown that they’re good passing the ball, but not great.  How do we beat the bigger linemen in the trenches in BCS games?  Pass over and around them.  The passing game we possess now would have been enough to win last year’s Rose Bowl, but a potential National Championship Game?  We win scoring a ton of points, and if we do it with a better passing game…that will subsequently open more running lanes.  We are Oregon…we are OFFENSE.  It is simple; refine the passing game and we beat everybody.  Wow.


I’m watching the coaches show and rolling my eyes as I hear Joe Gigantemouth do his usual “blah-blah-blah” but then something the coach did REALLY caught my attention.  There is a show on TV where they examine the minute-tiny facial expressions to learn of the true feelings and intention of the subject.  I played back the spot on the show….I replayed in slow motion watching Chip Kelly slowly.  Through the “blah-blah” it was said that Oregon was 6-0….and congratulations on being #2 in the nation.  Play it back and watch CK look down, away, and grimace.  He quickly recovers and answers a question…..but it is an interesting internal read of the guy.  He doesn’t just say what Zoomer propounded years back as a “no sugar” philosophy,…..he believes it, lives it, and it clearly resides in his soul.  Fascinating.


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