After Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert was 10-of-15 in the first quarter against Colorado, passing aficionados were giddy at the prospect of their Beloved Duck having the opportunity of throwing 50 or 60 times in one game. Unfortunately, Herbert cooled, hitting only 8-of-17 in the final three quarters, but that was plenty because the defense absolutely ate the Buffaloes up, defending their end zone as if it was the motherland.
When the feathers cleared, Oregon was up 45-3 and the running game emerged, totaling 288 yards on 36 carries. Soberly, it must be noted that Colorado’s defense is more than leaky, and the Ducks are headed for heavy sledding the next phase of the schedule. Nevertheless, aspects of coach Mario Cristobal’s team play sparkled, except for penalties: 10 for 119 yards — potential death, especially on the road. But let’s focus on what was working last Friday.
Herbert (above) fakes to his running back, which holds the middle and outside linebacker, just a step. Jaylon Redd (No. 30), aligned in the slot, runs a corner route behind the clearing route of Johnny Johnson III (No. 3). The outside linebacker is too slow to get underneath Redd, who makes the 22-yard catch.
Colorado shows its lack of speed on defense on this play, which is another example of why Herbert, given time, is so able to plunder zone coverage.
On this play, Herbert (above) sees the blitz coming from his left, as the Colorado safety does a poor job of disguising it. Redd recognizes it too, and releases “hot,” under control, in the spot the defender vacated. The Ducks have five wide receivers in this formation and the Buffaloes have only four defenders to cover; in this case leaving Redd totally uncovered.
This is a good example of Cristobal choosing a difficult formation for the defense to blitz in a passing situation. It further revealed the inexperience of the Buffalo secondary that should have checked out of the blitz or moved some defender out of the blitz to cover Redd. It’s easy for Herbert — he knows what to do before the snap.
Here is another example (above) of the CU secondary not having enough defenders to cover the Ducks’ formation when they blitz. This was a lesson for the Colorado coaches to learn on Oregon’s first drive of the game, and a disappointment to realize they were not going to be able to successfully blitz Herbert.
Juwan Johnson (No. 6), finally back in action after an injury, fakes a quick screen. Tight end Jacob Breeland (No. 27) nonchalantly runs a seam route and looks for the ball as he clears the linebacker in the open area just as Redd did on a previous play. Breeland makes the catch and adds more for a 24-yard gain. Running back CJ Verdell (No. 7) does an excellent job of checking and adjusting his blocking assignment on a linebacker to keep the throwing lane clear for Herbert.
Steven Montez, the Buffalo quarterback who torched Oregon four years ago in Autzen Stadium, was under tremendous pressure the entire game by the Duck front seven. On this play (above) he tries to scramble to his right outside the pocket. The pocket comes back at him as Austin Faoliu (No. 99) does a loop stunt to his left, gets off a block and maintains the defensive edge. He actually should have looped a bit wider, as he runs into his own defensive end before getting free to chase Montez.
Montez has to throw the ball to avoid the sack by Bryson Young (No. 56), but he throws into excellent coverage; there are five Duck defenders around the ball. The Colorado quarterback was taking a risk throwing the ball across his body toward the middle of the field. Oregon’s greedy defenders took advantage of this, intercepting four passes and limiting Montez to only 131 yards on 34 attempts.
Above, Montez is again chased out of the pocket under severe pressure and puts the ball up for grabs. A great athletic effort by both Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 5) and Troy Dye (No. 35) forces a desperate throw. Haki Woods (No. 14) is in excellent position to defend the receiver in the end zone. Both tip the ball up and the Buff bobbles the ball against his chest.
Verone McKinley III (No. 23) is hustling to the scene and grabs the ball on the rebound. Originally ruled out of bounds, a video replay revealed that McKinley was in control of the ball in the end zone before going out. Oregon’s entire defensive unit was like a swarm of yellow bees the entire game, totally overwhelming Colorado’s young squad.
Next week: Washington in Husky Stadium; a game worth winning for a lot of reasons for both teams. The Huskies are slipping a bit, having been overrated when the season started but now in desperation mode. Being overrated early might also be said for the Ducks, except now they are improving by the week. Washington is the best team Oregon will have played to date; more so than Auburn because of where this game is going to be played.
Cristobal’s recipe is simple: crisp tackling, no drops, no turnovers, no major penalties, calm nerves and steely resolve. It looks simple when you type it — much tougher to show up and do it before a hostile crowd that is fueled by hatred and contempt.
Coach Ken Woody
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo by Eugene Johnson
Want to learn from Coach Woody in person? He will be analyzing the prior game each week this season at the 6th Street Grill in Eugene on Wednesdays from 6:00 to 7:30 PM with video analysis and opening it up for questions. Join him and learn more football! Charles Fischer
Spencer Thomas, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, is an attorney for the Social Security Administration in Atlanta, Georgia, and coaches football at Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, GA.
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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.
“I learned football working under many great coaches, among them Len Casanova, Jerry Frei, John Robinson, Bruce Snyder, George Seifert,and Ron Stratten at the University of Oregon, Jim Owens at the University of Washington and Jim Walden at Washington State University. Most of my coaching experience was on the offensive side of the ball with quarterbacks, receivers and kickers although as a head coach I coached defensive backs, linebackers and offensive line.
I achieved my first goal of being the youngest head coach in college football at the age of 26 and throughout my career in coaching and outside of it, as a journalist and broadcaster, have experienced how exciting and gratifying it is teaching the game to others.”
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