Wazzu Waterloo: Building Block or Warning Sign?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials

In just over half of the first Mario Cristobal season, we have already experienced some extreme highs (Washington), lows, such as the underwhelming win against San Jose State, the choke versus Stanford, and the fiasco that was the trip to Pullman. These are clues about where we truly are, and give us signs as to what to look for in the future. In addition, these games give us indications of what is occurring off the field for us to extrapolate forward and to begin to make judgments about this new era of Oregon football.

I am not a football sage like so many of you — members of this readership and coaches have more of the Xs and Os wisdom than I do. Yet many of you are of Greybeard age, and, thus, we have seen a lot of things play out before. This means we can draw more accurate conclusions about Oregon football better than the majority of fans can. As I wrote before: When I am wrong, I will own up to it, apologize and make corrections. But when I’m right?

You will have to tolerate me being another type of fowl, as this Duck will do a bit of crowing.

Jacob Breeland dropped a key third down pass, like so many other passes by WRs.

You have all commented quite well about a number of disappointing and surprising performances by players and coaches against Washington State. Most of us felt that Oregon had progressed beyond the mistakes that occurred and were stunned by how these were still happening. We thought the coaching staff could side-step these errors, especially since Cristobal already had a year of coaching experience in the Pac-12, and most of the staff could rely on their previous experience coaching either for or against the Cougars.

You know when you can’t remember how to drive to a particular location? You’ve been there a hundred times, but in previous trips you weren’t the driver, your spouse was? And how we just don’t pay attention like we would if we were actually engaged in getting there ourselves? How could this coaching staff not have the team ready for the Cougars when we’ve had our butts kicked by them three times in a row? Certainly coaches know about the pitfalls of an over-confident young team after a big win.

“These coaches weren’t doing the driving before …”

Chill Charles, as this was an Important Building Block …

Let’s go make a list of all the good things happening with this staff. I ask for your help in adding to this inventory of what we like about the progress under Coach Mario Cristobal, and how this game was a building block for the future.

  • The emphasis upon NFL-type offense and defense helps the superior players develop for the next level, and helps the recruiting of those higher level players.
  • The recruiting is out-of-this-world for Oregon, and we pray that it holds through the February LOI day.
  • The culture of accountability and hard work is admirable and showing up in many areas for this team.
  • These players and coaches have not experienced the winning and losing of an elite program, and need these times to build the correct attitudes that come with the growth. It is a natural evolution that will truly take years, and we need to be patient.
  • Coach Cristobal is someone we all naturally like and want to succeed; he’s doing it the right way.
  • The off-season S&C training program is part of a new culture and team success. So far, it’s been extraordinary.
  • Concerning penalties? Oregon has gone from worst-to-first in the conference, displaying the discipline from the Cristobal staff.
  • The commitment to these young men and their families and the caring for them beyond the football field is something they feel, but even a distant fan like I can sense it. These are good people.
  • Mike Leach has been at WSU for seven years, but this Oregon staff is young. We have to allow for some learning curve and experience to occur.
  • This Oregon team did not fold and came out fighting in the second half.

There is a lot to like about the base being built for Oregon football, and it especially felt good in the glow of the win over the bastard Huskies last week. When I look at the list above, it reinforces my belief in this coaching staff and the direction of my beloved Ducks.

However I do think it is unwise to ignore warning signs, the clues of potential issues in the future …

Disconcerting Elements of the Bigger Oregon Football Picture …

  • Washington and Washington State? These are not great teams in bigger picture of college football.

    Jevon Holland on the huge fourth quarter play where he was out-wrestled for the ball.

    The Pac-12 is weak and Oregon struggles with the upper end of them? Good grief, the Ducks are so far behind …

  • WSU receivers were so much better than Oregon’s that it was recruiting embarrassment. This cannot be blamed on the current staff, but it is the current state of reality.
  • The defensive strategy of stemming? Why were we not prepared for it, and … why aren’t we doing that with even big D-Linemen, as we did with Jerry Azzinaro?
  • We gotta hope that incoming defensive back recruits are up to the Pac-12 task …
  • If Justin Herbert is struggling to score more than 24 and 20 points in regulation in the last two Pac-12 games (in a weak conference), how will a RS Freshman or true freshman QB later fare?
  • So we have a trip to Salt Lake City, where the Utes just manhandled USC, who gave WSU their only loss …
  • What happened to the punch-up technique for defensive backs taught by Charles Clark (who is now at Mississippi)? We could have used that on the third down play pictured to the right …
  • The concept of ball control can happen with the passing game, too, as WSU had the ball 23 minutes to Oregon’s 7 in the first half. Way too much emphasis was placed on the running game (time of possession), an idea which Chip Kelly obliterated at Oregon before.
  • Oregon had a total of 58 rushing yards against a smaller defensive line?
  • From 2010 through 2016, the Ducks rushed for an average of 273 yards per game, and so far this year, including the first three patsies, the Ducks are averaging 188 yards per game. I shudder to check the rushing yards during conference play …
  • Oregon runs no trick plays to keep defenses off-guard, and no plays from the past like the prior coaching staffs did.
  • Explosion plays destroy the confidence of a defense and are a mark of a superior scoring offense. The new offense has been the death of the explosion plays at Oregon.

FishDuck … Let the Old Offense GO!

Look, I recognize that you can’t teach two different blocking techniques at the same time. Former offensive line coach Steve Greatwood had very precise steps the linemen took and the timing of when to take them. He had highly specific hand placement on defensive linemen, and I know this as I have his DVD on Oregon Zone Blocking. You cannot have these techniques and the smash-mouth version of Coach Cristobal going on at the same time. It creates confusion in technique and in culture.

Darron Thomas will not be mistaken for Justin Herbert anytime soon, but he was more than adequate to score a boatload of points.

I get that, and understand it is going to take a while for the new culture, the way of running the offense, to settle in. And you have remember that few people have been so emotionally and financially invested with thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of work into the old offense as yours truly.

We do have to acknowledge some facts along the way, such as how from 2010 through 2015 the Ducks scored an average of 46 points per game. People howled at Mark Helfrich in 2016, because the average scoring dropped to 35 points per game when he had primarily RS freshmen offensive linemen and the worst defense in UO history, which provided no turnovers or as many possessions as prior teams.

If you look at Oregon’s scoring in regulation during Pac-12 play so far this year, and remove the two defensive touchdowns scored against Cal, you have an average 26 points per game being scored by the Oregon offense. Is that a big enough warning sign for you?

We can’t win consistently in the Pac-12 with that kind of scoring, and some kind of reckoning will have to occur with this offensive coaching staff during the season or after.

I am not right every time and have had my comeuppance many times in the past, but sounding the alarm on Friday about mental preparedness and, now, the offensive output are concerns that are hard to dispute.

I want all opinions here and insist that everyone abide by the rules in commenting; do not claim that a fan is “disloyal” because he/she disagrees with you. Let’s use this unique platform as Oregon fans to learn from each other and enjoy our beloved Ducks that much more.

Charles Fischer   (FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon

Top Photo by Tom Corno

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