The Fish Report: The Nobility of Heroes

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Fish Reports

(This is the last of the Summer Series of Fish Reports with Fall Camp starting next week.  It was an eventful summer as the Fish Report was the first from the web or any media source in the state to identify, describe, and announce the New 3-4 Defense that Oregon transitioned into this last year.  On offense, the Fish Report was also the first to identify and explain in detail the two major running plays that the Oregon Spread Offense is predicated upon.  There are numerous other variations and play-groups in the Oregon Spread Offense, but in five years of running the Spread, we had yet to have anyone show us the differences of these two plays, (the Inside Zone Read and the Outside Zone Read) along with the keys to spotting them until the Fish Report of last week.  This last report is meant to be a “fun” read as it is absent the Xs and Os, and is a tribute to the young men who are quietly….the most important players on the team.  See you on the practice field!    Charles Fischer)

We all know the unsung heroes of everyday life; the company that survives due to the huge efforts of the workers who toil long hours for lower pay.  The single mother who gets her kids through college or the teacher that changes the direction of the life of a youth.  We know they exist on the battlefield….the soldiers who nobody knows about who saved the day while sacrificing for others.  These are the people who drive our progression forward as a nation, whether their impact as heroes is great or small.  The results of these unknown efforts are felt by so many of us in all areas of life, and even in sports.  These honorable people CAN hold their head high….as they know that they are giving to everyone else for a greater purpose.  There is nobility to these people, who do what is right, and what has to be done for others without any recognition or acclaim. Yes, there are some of these sacrificing heroes who step on the field at Autzen doing the difficult tasks for the team without anyone noticing.


Oregon is becoming a fixture in the top ten team rankings, but also in the NCAA rankings for Scoring, as we were in eighth place for the entire season, even with the set-backs at Boise and in the Rose Bowl.  We learned in the last report about the basic running plays that Oregon runs with great success, even while there are other teams who try to experiment with the Zone Read plays.  It is very hard for a team to emulate our offense or parts of it unless they make a total commitment to it.  Coach Kelly has said that, “if your players have not run that play in a critical situation over a thousand times in practice, you will not have a chance to be successful.”  Can teams begin to Zone Read the Defensive Tackle (DT) as described in the last report?  They can try, but how can they get the reps to practice it as well as their usual offense?  At the beginning of the ’06 season…I asked OC Gary Crowton at Oregon Club how we were going to counter defenses putting an extra man in the box against us when we had two RBs in the backfield.  What was his answer?  “We’re working on it.”  (He didn’t know)  Chip has trained our QBs to identify when a safety cheats up into the box, and the result is a bubble pass on the sideline that results in an easy ten yards.  That is the difference between a coach that is “trying” the spread versus a truly Spread Offense Coach.  I’m glad Chip is on our side!



College football can be a quite humorous when you run replays slowly, and Bo Thran gave us a great example of that in the USC game.  Its 12:42 left in the third quarter and we’re lined up in an Inside Zone Read formation that looks to go to the left, because the RB is behind the QB on the right.  (Remember he sweeps in front of the QB right to left with the mesh and goes to the left side of the LOS for an inside hole) We are lined up that way, but Masoli turns and just hands off to LaMike with no mesh or zone reading.  The RB is headed straight for the right side of our line….it’s a POWER PLAY!  Everyone on the right side is double-teaming or taking a Trojan defender on the LOS.  As the USC LB comes up to meet James in the gap….we have Bo Thran meet the LB first!  Bo had pulled from the left guard spot, and zipped down the LOS rightward, and then turned up in the hole and PULVERIZED this LB.  Thran truly knocked him on his butt, as Bo then loomed over him.  As he tried to get up we see Thran shoot his hips and BLAST into this Trojan and send him spinning and somersaulting backwards!  What a riot!  You could do a YouTube of it and insert your own captions…”how DARE you rise before me!”  I would have felt sorry for the poor LB….if he wasn’t from USC.


Our first Touchdown against USC was an example of that innovative play or reading the DT in the Zone Read instead of the DE.  Zone Reading, or optioning a Defensive Tackle is rare in college football, but Oregon is unique in neutralizing a big-boy like the Trojan’s Jurrell Casey. (A good strategy inside the five yard line!)  We had the RB behind and slightly to the left of the QB, which indicates an Inside Zone Read play to the right side of the line.  Masoli turns to do the mesh with LaMichael, while reading the DT, who is coming into the gap after being unblocked.  Carson York at LG turns to help Holmes with a Double-Team block, and then Carson slides off to attack the MLB, Galippo of USC.  Dickson blocks the DE on that side with an OLB coming up to fill the gap, which is now Darion Weems responsibility.  Meanwhile as the RB and QB are doing the mesh—we see the DT take off after the RB as he runs right-ward.  Now the gap where the DT occupied is open and Masoli pulls the ball out of the mesh and goes forward.  Weems has a tough assignment as the LB has speed and space to make the tackle of our QB, so Darion does an “ole” and lets the LB through him a bit, and then Darion makes contact, and pulls him down to the ground like a wrestler’s takedown with Weems on top!  JM now cruises easily in the end zone through the gap that is sealed by Dickson/Weems on one side and York/Holmes on the other.  Sweet!  (Now if I was a Trojan fan…I’d have been screaming at the hold/tackling block, but since it was right in front of an official….it MUST have been legal!)  Fantastic blocking and teamwork by all on the O-Line when USC lined up with EIGHT in the box….and our young men made it look easy.  Wow.


We have a great drive going in the third quarter and want to score from inside the ten yard line.  We come out with an Inside Zone Read formation again with the RB on Masoli’s left, to go to the right side of the Offensive line for the plunge.  USC has eight in the box as their super-hyped safety, Taylor Mayes, who just gave a cheap-shot to JM in the back a little earlier in the game, has crept forward.  The play looks like the Inside Zone Read, but is a Power Play to the left side of the line!  Great job of hats-on-hats on the play-side as everyone has a man to block….and they do it well.  David Paulson does a terrific job on the DE, and Dickson in motion as an H-Back comes through to block the OLB.  Right after Masoli hands off to James we see the stout Mark Asper coming around the mound after pulling from his Right Guard spot.  He turns the corner and DESTROYS Mr. Five-Star Taylor Mayes, and nearly knocks him to the goal line.  A fraction of a second later….Asper felt/heard the ROOSH behind him as LaMichael sped past and into the end zone easily AGAIN.  What a great play…and a great memory for Mark; nice hit and a touchdown for his teammate.  I’ve gotta think that late at night in bed, he has to remember that play and snicker.  I know I would!


What is a ROOSH?  It is when, as an offensive lineman, you make a great block and hear/feel the RB running right behind you, the WHOOSH sound.  Since it’s your Running Back teammate, it’s a ROOSH.  It is a tremendous feeling to make that hit, feel the ROOSH, and as you’re finishing your block….sneak a peek downfield and see your teammate score as the sound of the crowd swallows you up.  You know that due to YOU and your OL teammates…he scored.  Without you….he is stuck for a two yard loss.  Nobody saw the blocks, or understood them, but YOU knew.  It’s been 37 years and I STILL remember some of the great ROOSHES from when I played.  All these years later, and yet those memories are still so satisfying.  I can’t even imagine what it’s like for our beloved Duck Offensive Linemen……


Remember that play against USC where LaMichael James popped out of the pile and ran for another forty yards?  It was a POWER PLAY again as we are lined up in an Inside Zone Read Backfield with the RB on the right side of JM and behind him.  But at the snap we see no zone read, and a simple handoff to James who speeds to the right side of the line.  Everyone is blocking well, and Paulson has the difficult task of blocking a talented USC DE and yet he keeps him out of the play.  Holmes has a tough job of snapping the ball accurately, and shimming his body over to the right to get position on this Trojan NT.  This is all done so fast….snap, step, shimmy, and BLAST.  For someone like me who still trips over slightly elevated parts on the sidewalk…it’s hard to believe the speed, agility, and strength it takes to be a good center like Holmes.  He also calls out the blocking schemes at the LOS….so he has a TON on his mind as the play begins.  Jordan does a great job inside that no one sees due to being in the middle of the “mound.”


So the blocking is good on the LOS, but that USC LB is coming up hard again to fill that gap when CARSON YORK turns the corner (Power Plays usually have a pulling guard) and nails him so hard that the LB is struggling to stay on his feet like a boxer who has been dazed.  You gotta replay it and HEAR the hit.  It is one of the biggest THWACKS I’ve heard from a block, and I must have cranked the stereo up and heard it a half-dozen times.  I don’t know how he doesn’t laugh when thinking of it….I was laughing watching it!  Wow what a hit…..


Sometimes our Offensive Linemen are stuck on an island and have to do their best with a bad matchup for them.  With 3:07 left in the second quarter, we are on our own 20 yard line and we actually run a pass play from the pocket.  Asper and Holmes did a super job containing and guiding the Trojan rush into a mass in the middle, while the receivers took off downfield.  The remaining element was the Five-Star USC Defensive End, elite athlete, Everson Griffin bull-rushing from the outside.  He is known to have a blinding-fast first step, and he is one tremendous player and athlete.  I’m squirming for CE Kaiser who has this almost impossible matchup as the two-star takes on one of the nation’s best five star Defensive players.  To compound the problem—we see Griffin rush HARD to the outside right which effectively leaves Kaiser one-on-one with him.  Masoli is surveying the field while to his right we see Kaiser hand fighting Griffin and taking the rapid small steps that pass-blocking footwork requires. Everson now explodes toward the QB and CE uses that strength to leverage him PAST our QB!  JM sees the massive gap created and takes off for 49 yards—wow.  Play it back and you’ll see that Kaiser took on everybody’s All-American and kept him from our QB for FOUR and a HALF SECONDS while being isolated on the play with NO HELP.  Everyone saw JM run downfield, and NOONE saw the incredible job that Kaiser did on that play.  How can you not LOVE a Duck like that?


It is difficult in college football to hold opponents to fewer than twenty points, thus it is crucial to have a high scoring offense as Oregon does.  To score tons of points, you have to have superb blocking because without it….the Running backs go nowhere, and the QB doesn’t have time to throw no matter how good he or our receivers are.  Chip Kelly states that, “the five offensive linemen are the key to your football team,” yet they do NOT get any statistics such as, Interceptions, Sacks, Receptions, RB yardage, or Touchdowns.  Nobody wears their jersey number, or recounts their amazing efforts, as they truly are ignored or unknown to the fans of our beloved team.  They give it their all because they love the game, and for the good of all of the team, and for the teammates who get the glory.  Their only trophies are memories of the big hits they delivered, the ROOSH past behind them, and the roar of the Autzen crowd as their Running Back scored.  Then much later, these Offensive Linemen smile to themselves as they realize that those memories are the only reward they ever really wanted.


Now THAT, my friends, is the NOBILITY OF HEROES.


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