During this summer hiatus and before fall camp bursts into view, let’s explore our first vital intersectional football game.
The Ducks’ early matchup against the Auburn Tigers offers a huge opportunity to launch Oregon into the limelight of prominence — with a win. Lose, and here we go again … hype happens! While one game a season does not make, this one is crucial to the program. Here are some ponder points to consider as keys to the game.
How We Win
Superior QB play. The Tigers will start a new QB, never having a played game. This factor is simply enormous to the outcome. How many times have we seen a cagey field general prove to be the difference in a big game, often defeating good defenses? Time and again! Harken back to Joey Harrington vs. Texas, Darron Thomas vs. Wisconsin, Jeremiah Masoli vs. Okie State or even Justin Herbert vs, Utah in “Sack Lake City” in 2016. Herbert needs a breakout game to define his high-upside skill set. This is the time and place (in Dallas) to do so!
Coaching. Gus and his Gang have repeatedly been outfoxed and defeated with schemes that are effective against them. Indeed, the heat is on with limited Tiger success in that state. Jumping on them early and often with scores and TOs can break wills, cohesion and effort. Will our staff out-coach them? It is there for the taking. Talk gets us only so far. Oregon coaches must create a fear factor by merely out-foxing these guys with creative schemes!
Multi-dimensional defense. Our new scheme should wreak havoc on an inexperienced, neophyte playcaller. We must stuff the run and make them beat us with the pass. Even crummy QBs can simply hand it off for big runs. Eye discipline, controlling gaps and disguising our fronts can confuse and create doubt. If our strength guru has us stronger, now is the time to demonstrate it.
Offensive line play. The Ducks need to create enough time and creases for throws and runs that gash “War Eagle” with balanced plays and field management. This test defines whether our line is top-notch or merely mediocre going forward. In a battle of strength, who prevails? Our O-line doesn’t need to win the game, but it needs to not lose it by being dominated by their bigs. Oregon needs to rush north of 100 yards and pass for more than 200 yards to ensure a victory.
Discipline. There should be no stupid penalties, or brain dead assignments and busted coverage, or third down and long conversions. Inculcation will garner results in any game. (See coaching, above.) The coaches need to keep the game in front of the green and yellow, limiting explosive Auburn plays.
On field seniors need to lead. Underclassmen also need to exhibit true leadership to complement upperclassmen and our newbies by example. Showing how we do it on the big stage sends an inspiring message, and it defines the growth of a college program. This could and should be Mario Cristobal’s signature win we’re craving.
Luck. The pigskin takes funny bounces. If it is close, this factor becomes big and can change outcomes. To quote Lee Trevino, however, “The more I practice, the luckier I get!” May lady luck be ever in our favor, as practice makes perfect.
How We Lose
Auburn’s athletes, particularly on the D-line, are far superior to ours. Playing tit for tat in the trenches will simply get us mauled and mangled at the line of scrimmage. We cannot play in the proverbial phone both and hope for a victory. This will enable them to wear us down in the fourth quarter and control the final outcome.
See last year’s Auburn opener against Canis Domesticus (the team that shall not be named). This is the key metric. Another Michigan State result of inability to run and pass effectively spells doom for the Ducks in Dallas!
We get out-coached with inept, uninspired playcalling. It is high time our OC earns his lofty salary. Boring, uninspired playcalling is a recipe for ruin. Drops may rear their ugly heads again, stifling execution and momentum — a genuine concern until proven otherwise.
Multiple three and outs and TOs will kill our will and inspire the blue and orange. The Ducks must not give them momentum and confidence.
Being ‘a deer in the headlights’ on the big stage is a real concern with such a young team in a faraway venue.
Stupid penalties and miscues can sap morale. This instills confidence and gets the enemy rolling — pounding us into submission. This game could get away from Oregon quickly.
Whoever muffs this game is going to feel some serious heat. Yes, the HYPERS will say it is early and only one game, but the reality will be far different. We have far more to gain with a win compared to Auburn. They, unlike us, do not have a lil’ brother, but have been relegated to such inferior status with Saban’s Tide. The Tigers feel far more pressure bearing down on them to win as the “Tip of the Spear” in SEC land.
The Ducks need to exploit this situational game. A “W” makes a statement nationwide and sends a clarion call to conference combatants. Fear and loathing may very well be in our opponents’ futures. Has Oregon arrived on the big stage, or are we pretenders, yet again? This game will be a huge tell of our players, coaches, program and ultimately the conference. Thirty points wins this contest, and it needs to be Ducks getting there first to dust these ESPN acolytes off.
No “War Eagle” cry, please! A loss on this big stage pushes a statement win farther over the event horizon and truly dulls excitement and excellence in Webfoot football.
While not an all-inclusive list, what factors do you see as keys to victory? Can and will the Ducks prevail?
Steven E Smith
Powell Butte, Oregon Top Photo by Kevin Cline
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.
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