Deeper Dive: Freshmen and Offensive Line Improve Against Cal

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Analysis

There was much to wring our hands about in the Cal game, but there is also improvement on this team that doesn’t always get noticed. Although yesterday’s article was the primary discussion piece for the Cal game, I thought I would touch on a few other points that time and space did not allow for. There are many more aspects to discuss when considering the results of the game near Strawberry Canyon.

From Video

The running lane created for Dye …

On the touchdown run by Travis Dye, the combo blocking common in a zone approach was superb in creating the running lane for the freshman. Above, you see two tight ends and a tackle (green arrows) in the process of being hat-on-hat to produce a hole much wider than Dye needed. (Ryan Bay, No. 87 has really stepped up and is making key blocks for the running game in the absence of Cam McCormick).

Note (video above) how a double-team begins at the top, and then one blocker peels off to get the linebacker at the precise moment when he is needed. Great blocking makes every play look easy, and the Ducks had many plays get stoned for short gains, especially in the second half. But the play above is worth admiring and celebrating.

From Video

We will take the other team’s blunders …

Look closely again at the video above and note what I’ve pointed out in the screenshot directly above. The center (Jake Hanson) is over the ball, and the Nose Tackle of Cal is directly in front of him, called a zero technique. Look at how many Oregon blockers there are to the right of the center (four green arrows) and how many Cal defenders there are! (blue arrows above) Then, look at the players below, or to the left of the center and you see two Duck offensive linemen and four Cal defenders.

My friends … Cal lined up wrong, and that mistake was probably the major factor in how that play succeeded. An extra blocker on the playside is an Offensive Coordinator’s dream and it does not happen like this very often. While mistakes are a part of the game, Cal made many more than the good teams remaining on the schedule will offer the Ducks. Nonetheless, it is important to note that Oregon made the Bears pay dearly for something as simple as lining up incorrectly.

From Video

He had not developed the vision yet …

In the screenshot above, you see that Dye has received the ball and thar there is a clear path to bounce to the outside (yellow arrow) with  No. 87, Bay, blocking in front of him against San Jose State.

However,  in the video above, it is evident that he did not see the lane, and his vision had not been developed yet at this level. You can’t blame him too badly, as both LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner admitted it took them a full season to learn how to run the Inside Zone between the options I cover in this article of being able to “bang, bend or bounce” as a running back.

From Video

Travis Dye bending vs. Cal

Against Cal, we see Travis receiving the handoff again and approaching the line-of-scrimmage just as the Cal linebackers (blue lines above) have filled their gaps. There is a running lane away from Dye’s path, a “bend” running lane. Will he see it in time?

Above, we note the improvement of the freshman running back in just two games. Part of it is coaching, and part is simply putting in the time in game-speed repetitions. The lack of this vision was a big factor that went unreported in analysis of the San Jose State game, and certainly the improvement bodes well for Oregon’s running attack going forward. Now let’s get game reps for Cyrus Habibi-Likio to improve his skills as well!

From Video

Do not underestimate the will to win by Coach Mario Cristobal.

One of the many coaches I’ve worked with over time spoke of how he could point out an error on nearly every single play in terms of play-call, strategy, lining up and, especially, the mistakes in technique on both sides of the ball.

He felt that games were lost as often as won, and I believe that the past two games were effectively lost by Oregon (versus Stanford) and by Cal (versus Oregon) due to mistakes.

It is quite possible that the wins may not have happened after all, but such massive errors in consecutive games really illustrated that principle to me. However, seeing players learning from mistakes, such as the example of Travis Dye, indicates the upside of this Oregon football program over the long term.

“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer   (FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon

Top Photo by Asan Awan

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