Oregon won the Pac-12 Championship game over Utah for a variety of reasons on both sides of the ball, but the most noted tactical change in this game was the running of Justin Herbert in the Outside Zone Read plays out of the Shotgun formation. Coach Ken Woody pointed it out in his analysis article, as did Eric Boles in his recent analysis, and he demonstrated the profound impact on the rest of the game. But the question to FishDuck is .. .Did Justin Herbert truly follow his “Read-Keys”? Let’s take a look …
The video above shows Oregon’s second play from scrimmage, where Herbert pulls the ball on the “read” due to what appears to be nobody in the outside lane either “sitting” in the gap or chasing the running back inside. Note how the five yard gain was easy … when nobody is there on defense to stop Herbert!
Yet if we look closer and watch the video again (above the screenshot) — as we note in the screenshot directly above — it’s apparent that Herbert was watching the Ute inside linebacker, No. 20. At the snap of the ball the linebacker did a “run-blitz” into the gap (Red dotted line and arrow) to plug the run from the Ducks’ running back.
Herbert saw this inside move by the linebacker, which made the outside gap wide open and hence the easy yardage. Teams would not employ this defensive strategy if they respected the quarterback run. It is evident that Utah did not, and Oregon just messed them up — big time.
The “read-key” is obvious to all; if the defender being “read” is chasing the running back inside, then the quarterback pulls the ball and runs through the lane vacated by the defender. But if the defender “sits” in the gap, then the correct decision is the hand the ball off to the running back every time. On the play above — the Utah defensive end/linebacker is clearly sitting in the lane, and the obvious decision by Herbert is to hand-off, right?
Herbert defied all the experts on this play, as he pulled the ball and ran for a first down. There is no doubt in looking at the replay from two angles; the defender “sat” and Herbert is supposed to hand-off, and he did not. Was this a mistake? Was Herbert so rusty with the “read” that he made a bad split-second decision?
I don’t believe so …
It is my contention that Offensive Coordinator Marcus Arroyo determined (after looking at extensive tape) that the defensive end would not taking the QB running threat seriously, and that even with the Ute “sitting,” Herbert could pull the ball and beat him to the outside, which is precisely what happened. What you watched rarely occurs, because although Herbert is athletic with decent speed … an alert defensive end could nail him immediately under normal circumstances when he is residing in the gap as you saw.
The two plays above had to be very disconcerting to the Utah defensive coaching staff, as it was clear that Herbert was reading the linebackers at times (first example above), and other times was willing to ignore the correct read and sprint to the perimeter. That effectively froze the defenders being read the rest of the game, whether in a Shotgun or Pistol formation, as Utah could not take the chance of having a quarterback running against them on the big plays.
Wisconsin coaches will no doubt take notice and thus must “sit” the defender, which Oregon will now not have to block, and thus it will have an extra offensive lineman on the playside. It is my belief that the one extra blocker also helped jump-start the Duck running game in the Pac-12 Championship, and can have the same impact in the Rose Bowl. The quarterback threat makes all the difference!
“Oh how we love to learn about our Beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo From Video
Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks, a season ticket holder at Autzen Stadium for 35 years and has written reports on football boards for over 23 years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, have a daughter Christine, reside in Eugene Oregon, where he was a Financial Advisor for 36 years and now focuses full-time on Charitable Planned Giving Workshops for churches and non-profit organizations.
He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More…
For Football Season: FishDuck Back to Seven Days a Week!
I had to shut down the daily articles on July 20th because I could no longer work the extra 3 to 12 hours per week of certain managerial/editorial duties. (beyond the usual ones with FishDuck)
I’ve had a blast writing without those duties, and now, due to a new agreement with the writers, I can announce that we will have articles seven days a week again. I wish to thank the writers publicly for their graciousness in coming to a solution, as now I still do not have do those extra duties with our agreement, and meanwhile the writers are back having fun creating articles as I am.
Everybody is happy! So below is the new schedule through football season:
Monday: Mr. FishDuck
Tuesday: Darren Perkins
Wednesday: Joshua Whitted & Mr. FishDuck
Thursday: Coach Eric Boles & Alex Heining
Friday: David Marsh
Saturday: Mr. FishDuck (GameDay Baby!)
Sunday: Jordan Ingram
A couple of writers could not join us as they have new projects in their lives, and cannot write for anyone at the moment–but perhaps we will see them back later.
Things rarely work out so well for all parties in agreements, but this time it has and truly….everyone wins!
Our 33 rules at FishDuck can be summarized to this: 1) be polite and respectful, 2) keep it clean, and 3) no reference of any kind to politics. Easy-peasy!
FishDuck members….we got your back. No Trolls Allowed!