If you were to ask the question last week, most Oregon Ducks fans would have given a resounding “No”. I viewed the game against the Cal Golden Bears a little differently, however. I saw an offense rack up 409 yards of offense against a very good Justin Wilcox defense. But when offenses are plagued by turnovers and penalties, you end up with a 17-7 final. That’s a score that hides how good the offense actually was.
A week later, and after hammering the Colorado Buffaloes 45-3, some ease has been brought to the Duck fans’ collective conscience. Though some may point out that the Buffalo defense has played poorly this season, I’d rather focus on the emergence of a more efficient Oregon ground game.
Marcus Arroyo has put together an impressive air game (284 yards per game). That’s no surprise, as Arroyo has combined passing concepts from both his West Coast and Air Raid backgrounds. If we’re being honest, the concern on offense so far this season has been the rushing attack.
Fans have provided a host of reasons as to why the ground game is struggling. Those reasons range from the Ducks’ preferred formation to the play calling. Most of these reasons don’t hold up. In my opinion, the real reason seems to be what the game of football usually comes down to: execution.
I have to take Coach Mario Cristobal at his word when he admits the run game hasn’t been “in sync.” Lack of synchronicity happens for a number of reasons, many tough to pin down. They can range from lack of communication among the offensive line to missed blocking assignments to running backs not seeing the open lanes. All of these reasons are related to execution.
Execution is even more important to a team that utilizes a limited package of run plays. The mentality of, “This is who we are. This is what we’re going to do. Now try to stop it” is, believe it or not, an achievable philosophy. But it’s a philosophy that requires flawless, or near flawless, execution.
I don’t know how many of you ever catch any of the Wisconsin Badgers games, but those guys run the inside and outside zone repeatedly to absolutely demolish opposing defenses. Like the Ducks, they have a variety of run plays that come in here and there, but watching them, it is abundantly clear what their bread and butter is. They are so in sync and near flawless at running their bread-and-butter plays that it doesn’t matter that defenses know it’s coming. If the Ducks can reach that level of run game execution and add it to an already fantastic passing game, goodnight.
After analyzing the last two games, I think Oregon is on its way. In the first four games of the season, the Ducks averaged 160 yards per game on the ground. In the last two they’re averaging 240 yards, an 80 yard per game swing. That number has also been accompanied by an uptick in the number of explosive plays.
All of this really feels like a ground game that’s becoming more in sync. And as the rushing improves, Arroyo’s RPOs become that much more effective.
I really like the direction that Oregon’s offense seems to be going in, and I think the fans will have more appreciation for the offense as it heads there. Is it the style of offense that many are used to at Oregon? No. But I do believe that it is one that can be just as exciting and, more importantly, can get the Ducks where they want to go: the College Football Playoffs and, ultimately, a national championship.
Coach Eric Boles
Newark, OhioTop Photo by Eugene Johnson
Phil Anderson, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.
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