Ducks Success Hangs in the Balance

Alex Towne FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm, and harmony.” – Thomas Merton

After attending college for three years now and absorbing as much enlightening knowledge as a naive 21-year-old is capable of, I feel that I can say one thing for sure. Life is about balance. Balance of work and play. Health and vices. Pleasure and pain. Our lives are built around the fundamental idea that we must make sacrifices in order to live how we want and to achieve that balance.

I won’t go too deep into a philosophical binge but with that said, the Ducks this season appear to be one of the most balanced teams in recent memory. Throughout the first five games I have noticed that the Ducks are a remarkably symmetric team. While Marcus Mariota is an indisputable standout, the rest of the team plays at a very high level. I took a look at statistics for the year so far and found that my assertions were not unfounded.

Devon Allen securing one of his two TDs against WSU

Gary Breedlove

Devon Allen securing one of his two TDs against WSU.

On offense, the Ducks’ rushing and receiving core is deep, yet well distributed talent-wise. At wideout, Devon Allen leads the team in yards with 377 yards this year to go along with 6 touchdowns. But close behind is Byron Marshall with 299 yards, and just behind them are Keanon Lowe and Darren Carrington with 266 and 172 yards respectively.

Mariota’s ability to spread the field has led the Ducks to a whopping 324 yards per game through the air. With a handful of other threats at receiver including 6′ 5″ Dwayne Stanford and tight end Pharaoh Brown, the Ducks’ passing game is one of the most balanced in the nation.

But let’s not rush to conclusions … or shall we? The rushing game is even more balanced! Royce Freeman sits atop the ground game with 353 yards. Not far behind are Mariota with 286 yards, and Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall with 225 and 215, respectively.

Mark Helfrich and Scott Frost have done a nice job substituting running backs all season. They use a powerful back like Freeman in short yardage situations and a more elusive back such as Marshall or Tyner for longer runs. Unlike in previous seasons where we had a clear No. 1 and 2 back  (i.e Kenjon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas, LaMichael James), this season’s Ducks have a consistent three-headed monster at RB capable of adapting to a wide range of situations. The balanced running attack has kept defenses on their heels, for the most part.

Looking at the statistics, the Ducks defense is as equally spread as the offense. The leading tackler so far has been Reggie Daniels, with 35 total tackles. But right behind him is are Derrick Malone, Joe Walker, and Deforest Buckner with 31. The Oregon defense has 7 players with more than 25 tackles through five games. If that’s not a team effort, then I don’t know what is!

Royce Freeman balancing his 230 lb frame

Gary Breedlove

Royce Freeman balancing his 230-lb frame.

While the Ducks do a good job of getting everybody involved on defense, they need to step it up. After a grinding win against WSU in Pullman and a heartbreaking loss to Arizona on Thursday, the Ducks need to rise to the occasion now more than ever. It is Don Pellum’s first year as defensive coordinator after a 14 year tenure by Nick Aliotti, so you have to cut him some slack. But the Ducks are giving up 363 total yards per game. Pair that with missed tackles, a defensive line that rarely gets pressure and blown coverages, and not even the Ducks will be able to scrape out wins.

I  don’t think it’s a coincidence that the offense is led by the most balanced man in college football, Mariota. His cool, collected, and poised attitude on and off the field may be boring to some, but as long as he keeps playing well, it works for me. Mariota leads the team in an unusual way. When one thinks of team leader, the archetype is a loud, powerful, charismatic player who can control the room and the field. Mariota commands with a steely, calm attitude, letting his play on the field do the talking. He is the epitome of balance and composure. Heck, he’s even taking yoga this term! Namaste to that.

This could be a reason why the Ducks aren’t dealing with as many distractions off the field either. Last year, Thomas voiced his opinion on his postseason hopes saying, “It’s not a big deal at all, we already won a Rose Bowl, so I feel like it’s whatever.” Josh Huff was asked about the Rose Bowl and also said, “I don’t want to play in a Rose Bowl unless I’m playing for a National Championship.” That kind of unappreciative attitude is detrimental to a team’s chemistry.

Mariota embracing opposing QB Anu Solomon

Kevin Cline

Mariota embracing Arizona QB Anu Solomon.

With Mariota leading the team and now in his senior year, there haven’t been offseason behavioral problems, so far as we know. Perhaps there’s no need to act out when a team can let their swagger on the turf do the talking. A newly balanced team on and off the field could be just what the Ducks need to get into that BCS playoff.

If the Ducks can continue to play a balanced game on both sides of the ball, they can make the BCS playoffs. Even after the tragic loss to Arizona on Thursday night, if the Oregon can run the table they will still have a good chance at a BCS bowl game, or better. We need to stay focused and take the season one game at a time.

Now excuse me for a minute while I go meditate.


Top Photo by Alex Towne


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