Feeling the Juice: Offensive Line Awakens in Autzen

Coach Eric Boles Analysis

Dominant. If the performance of Oregon’s offensive line against California had to be summed up in one word, it would be dominant. We saw flashes from the offensive line early this season and then witnessed the hiccup against Arizona State. On Saturday night at Autzen Stadium, everything came together for the guys in the trenches.

Mario Cristobal has done a fantastic job with this unit. Due to the loss of signal caller Justin Herbert, Oregon consistently pushed Cal’s defensive front backward – even on a night when the play calls were skewed in favor of the running game. In other words, the Golden Bears knew what was coming and still could not stop it.

The offensive line creating gaping holes for Oregon’s running backs

Willie Taggart and the rest of the offensive staff deserve a ton of praise for what the offensive line is doing. It has been easy for some to ridicule play-calling and ask why we would continue to run it up the gut with mediocre yardage. To me, that’s a teaching method. Oregon’s offensive line had to grow a specific attitude towards physical, downhill run blocking.

That takes repetition, and if Saturday night is any indication, it seems to be working.

In the video above, Oregon’s offensive line brilliantly executes an inside zone play, completely washing Cal’s defensive front to the right. Shane Lemieux (No. 68) is able to get to the second level of the defense and get a solid block on the middle linebacker, pushing him back another four yards. This allows Royce Freeman to bend the run to the backside C-gap, gaining 19 yards and moving the chains.

Above is a fantastic 68-yard touchdown run by Kani Benoit on another inside zone call. Pay special attention to the double team block performed by Jake Pisarcik (No. 76) and Calvin Throckmorton (No. 54) on the right side of the offensive line. This is textbook zone-blocking. The double team lasts long enough for Pisarcik to take control of the Golden Bear defensive end, allowing Throckmorton to peel off to block the outside linebacker and push him outside.

What is really impressive though, is what Pisarcik does next. He gets to the outside shoulder of the defensive end and completely seals the seemingly helpless defender inside. This is what really blew a hole in the defensive front, allowing Benoit to hit the B-gap with ease. This is great offensive line technique and tenacity (from easily our smallest offensive lineman, by the way).

Above is a power play that Oregon ran from a 3×1 set with Darrian Felix at running back. There’s not a whole lot to say about this play; Cal’s defense never really had a chance to stop it. The center and right guard both down block, the left side of the line zone blocks, and the right tackle pulls through the A-gap. The 3×1 set helped clear the box; it moves a linebacker out of the box and over the inside receiver to the trips side of the formation.

The pulling right tackle (Throckmorton) gets to the inside linebacker and pushes him back five yards, allowing Felix to go in completely untouched.

In this final clip, I’m not all that worried about the distance the ball was carried. I want us to pay attention to the concept of “creating a new line of scrimmage.” We all understand that the line of scrimmage is where the ball starts. But a “new” line of scrimmage occurs based on the amount of push that either the offensive or defensive line gets. Watch the push that Oregon’s offensive line gets, effectively resetting the line of scrimmage on the Cal side of the ball.

By the time Darrian Felix hits his hole, there is not a single Cal player in the defensive front that has not been driven at least three yards off of the line of scrimmage. That is a physical, downhill offensive line play, and it is super fun to watch from our Ducks.

Taggart and company have been preaching a mentality, or identity, for the Oregon offense. The goal has been to make the Ducks a more physical team, specifically in the rushing attack. It has been repetitive at times. It has been less than innovative at times. But it’s starting to work, and physicality is becoming the norm at Oregon.

The Juice is pumping through the veins of the Oregon Ducks.

Coach Eric Boles
Newark, Ohio

Top photo credit: Scott Kelly 

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