Mario Cristobal notched his first win as the head coach for Oregon, a 58-24 thrashing of the out-manned Bowling Green Falcons. The game was also the end of a nine-game losing streak to teams from Ohio and perhaps the beginning of a streak that might stretch beyond one game.
Quarterback Justin Herbert began to make his case for Heisman consideration, throwing for five touchdowns in 21 attempts. Herbert only completed 10 of his throws which is less than 50% but three drops on long balls in the first half tainted his completion percentage along with two interceptions in the fourth quarter. These two areas are normally strong suits for the strong-armed junior from Eugene.
What escaped notice was that Herbert had the best rushing average (6.8) among the eight players who ran the ball. In the video above, he fakes the ball to his left, and reading the defender responsible for the quarterback (who is absent helping where he shouldn’t), sprints outside, untouched.
Since Herbert broke his collarbone last season against Cal, Duck fans hold their collective breath every time Herbert runs the ball. In this case, with no one to cover him, Herbert sprints 37 yards and then alertly goes out of bounds without a hand laid on him. Upcoming opponents will see this and stress to the defense that the man responsible for the quarterback had better sit on that assignment and not try to be a hero somewhere else.
While at Oregon, Chip Kelly said he wanted the quarterback to “block” a defender in the running game. What he meant was that he would force the defense to assign a man to take the quarterback and this would take one defender from helping on the running back, the one Kelly really wanted to carry the ball. If Cristobal sees the defense neglecting to cover the quarterback, it is an easy call to make, especially for the quarterback to avoid a blind side hit.
Quarterbacks suffer more injuries from hits by pass rushers they don’t see, running out of the pocket when their protection breaks down or receivers can’t get open.
In the video above, you see a dramatic difference in a fourth-down play call between last year’s head coach Willie Taggart, and Marcus Arroyo, this year’s offensive coordinator for the Ducks. Last season, Oregon had a terrible fourth-down conversion rate, often running the ball into an expectant defense overloaded to stop a running play.
On many occasions last season, the Ducks did not even consider throwing on fourth down. But a new season is upon us and in this instance it was a long-yardage pass situation anyway and a field goal, especially with the swirling winds, was outside kicker Zach Emerson’s range.
Herbert did not just go for the first down, he put a rocket into Jaylon Redd’s hands between two defenders who could not stay with him. Despite the first-half drops, Herbert maintained his faith in his receivers and did not allow those drops to interfere with his concentration and passing fundamentals. This tells you a lot about his leadership and why he has become the leader of this football team.
In the video above, you see one reason linebacker Troy Dye was a preseason All-American pick. He drops into pass coverage, and when the quarterback is flushed from the pocket, attempting to throw the ball out of bounds, Dye is on it like a piranha going after fresh meat.
Dye reacts to the quarterback’s running throw and sprints to the sideline where he makes an unbelievable interception, remembering to get a foot down inbounds while catching the ball before going out of bounds. With the dropped passes by the wide receivers, one might think that Dye would make a reliable pass catcher as well as a deadly defender.
There have been many years when an Oregon linebacker would never be seen around a pass; it takes instinct and a natural inclination and fierce desire to be around the football at all times. Dye has also been the Ducks’ leading tackler as a freshman and sophomore. There are not many players who could make this play, but Dye showed why he is among the elite linebackers in the nation.
PORTLAND STATE STAGGERS INTO AUTZEN
Fresh off a 72-19 humiliation at the hands of Nevada, the Portland State Vikings wobble into Eugene for what everyone can expect to be another slaughter. The adjectives are harsh, but clearly define the mess the Vikings are in right now. They did not win a game last season, but had Oregon State on the ropes last year and battled Washington competitively and beat Washington State in recent years.
Portland State is trying to rebuild and it’s difficult in college football, because unlike basketball, you have to bring in a lot more than 2-3 players to turn a team around. Questions to consider: how will the concentration of the Ducks be sustained as this game goes on, how much improvement can you expect against a badly over-matched football team, and who is the backup quarterback?
Coach Ken Woody
Top Photo by Kevin Cline
Mike Bellotti, ESPN analyst and Former-Oregon coach: “Ken Woody’s ability to break down the game with interesting, entertaining insights comes from a career as a college player and coach, influenced by some of the top coaches in football. Woody spells it out in a simple, refreshing, humorous manner.”
Dan Fouts, NFL Hall of Fame, Oregon Ducks quarterback: “Entertaining and easy to understand.”
“Every Oregon fan should have a copy to learn from as I do.” Charles Fischer
Buy the book here to learn from Coach Woody, or give a gift of football, a great gift for the fan who wants to learn and enjoy more of the Duck (or whoever your favorite team is) football experience.
Ken Woody is a former Fox Sports football commentator who played defensive back, receiver and kicker for Oregon from 1966 to 1970. He coached college football for 18 years, including stints as an assistant coach at Oregon, Washington, Washington State and Utah State, and was head coach at Whitman College and Washington University-St. Louis. He writes x’s and o’s, a weekly column in the Register-Guard, RG online coverage of Duck football and is the author of “After Further Review—an inside look at what’s really happening on the football field.” Woody is on KUGN (590 am) 2:45 before kickoff and 30 minutes after each game with coaching and game analysis.
Ken also conducts weekly coaching clinics for fans at Eugene’s Valley River Inn every Thursday during football season at 6:00 PM. The clinics are free and open to the public.
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