Moorhead Teases Offensive Revival at Oregon

Joshua Whitted Editorials 61 Comments

Read options, designed quarterback runs, multi-level RPOs, numerous deep passes … are we sure the team that wore green and yellow at Autzen last Saturday was Mario Cristobal’s Oregon Ducks? The Ducks’ offense still has the same ground-and-pound mentality that head coach Cristobal loves, but for the first time in a while, Oregon’s offense feels … creative.

It has only been one game, but what a first impression it was for Joe Moorhead and his new-look offense. Tyler Shough looked like a legitimate running threat at quarterback, and he was actually allowed to carry the ball and show off his wheels unlike his predecessor. The receivers were finally given opportunities down the field in one-on-one situations, and they didn’t disappoint. And perhaps most importantly, there were numerous added wrinkles in the running game, giving it some much-needed diversity.

With how well Cristobal develops offensive linemen, and with Oregon recruiting more and more blue-chip skill position players, the only thing holding the Ducks’ offense back in recent years has been a questionable scheme. One week in, it looks like that concern may finally be a thing of the past.

What do you think, Oregon fans? How would you grade the debut of the new-look Oregon offense? Are we witnessing an offensive renaissance of sorts, or am I getting ahead of myself?

Joshua Whitted 
Morgantown, West Virginia
Top Photo from the University of Oregon

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Charles Fischer

Lombardi Signs Four Top 30 Prospects

OREGON ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Oregon head coach Melyssa Lombardi signed four top-30 prospects as a part of the 2021 Signing Class Wednesday. The Ducks signed two pitchers in the top 15 overall nationally according to Extra Inning Softball and a pair of infielders who are in the top 25 in the country at their position.

“The 2021 class is strong in every facet of the game – offensively, defensively, and in the circle,” said Lombardi. “Their individual strengths, versatility and desire to win will bring an immediate impact to our experienced roster.”

Allison Benning, RHP, Lake Elmo, Minn. (Stillwater HS)

The No. 13-ranked prospect in the Class of 2021 by Extra Inning Softball … Ranked eighth nationally among pitchers by Extra Inning … Also ranked in the top 100 overall by Softball America at No. 70 … Named the 2019-20 Gatorade Minnesota Player of the Year … Went 9-1 with a 1.47 ERA and 104 strikeouts playing travel ball in 2019-20 … Selected first-team All-Suburban East Conference as a sophomore in 2019 … Also earned honorable mention all-state recognition and third-team All-Metro honors from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune … Went 13-5 with a 2.14 ERA and 114 strikeouts … Also hit .467 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs to go along with seven doubles and two triples … Dominated in the section playoffs, going 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 21 strikeouts in four appearances while also going 8-for-10 at the plate with three home runs in four games … Earned a spot on the 4A state playoff all-tournament team after helping lead Stillwater HS to a state title … Club team is Top Gun National.

Lombardi on Benning: “Allison has great stature on the mound. She is a power pitcher with explosive velocity and a deadly change up to offset her movement and speed. As a left handed hitter she also has the ability to drive in runs.”

Stevie Hansen, RHP, Norco, Calif. (Norco HS)

Rated a top-10 prospect in the Class of 2021 by Extra Inning Softball and Softball America … Ranked No. 6 in the Extra Inning Softball Top 100 and the eighth-ranked prospect by Softball America … The third-ranked pitcher nationally by Extra Inning … Has given up just 32 hits over 102.1 career innings in addition to 178 strikeouts to just 26 walks heading into her senior season … Struck out 38 while walking just one over 18.2 innings with a 0.75 ERA, going 3-0 in a shortened 2020 season … Tossed a two-hit shutout with 17 strikeouts in her second appearance of the season … Finished with a miniscule 0.13 ERA while going 9-0 with 102 strikeouts to just 15 walks as a sophomore … Named Extra Inning’s National High School Player of the Week after back-to-back perfect games early in the season … Struck out nine over seven innings in the first one before a 12-strikeout performance over five perfect frames the next time out … Struck out double-digit batters three times while fanning at least eight batters eight times … Posted a 1.17 ERA while allowing just 12 hits over 30 innings pitched as a freshman … Club team is Athletics Mercado.

Lombardi on Hansen: “Stevie has dynamic movement and excellent command on the mound. Her ability to create deception and calm presence will allow her to compete at a high level.”

Kedre Luschar, INF, Carson City, Nev. (Carson HS)

Ranked the No. 28 overall prospect in the class by Extra Inning Softball … The No. 24-ranked infielder in the class by Extra Inning … Also in the top 100 of Softball America’s rankings at No. 81 … Owns a career .488 batting average with 14 triples, 82 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in two seasons of high school ball … Hit .476 with eight home runs, 11 triples and 49 RBIs as a sophomore … Scored 36 runs while recording a .495 OBP with 14 stolen bases in 2019 … Turned in 13 multi-hit games, including six three-hit games … Hit safely in all but two of the 30 games … Batted .500 as a freshman with six doubles, three triples and 33 RBIs … Finished with a .531 OBP along with 40 runs scored and 11 stolen bases … Recorded 20 multi-hit games and had a hit in 30 of 34 games played.

Lombardi on Luschar: “Kedre will be an exciting athlete to watch. She has excellent range and a strong arm on defense. She brings versatility to the plate with her ability to slap and drive balls in the gap.”

Paige Sinicki, INF, Henderson, Nev. (Coronado HS)

The No. 15-ranked prospect in the Extra Inning Softball Top 100 … Ranked 35th overall in the Class of 2021 by Softball America … Rated the 12th-best infielder in the class by Extra Inning … Named first-team all-state by the Las Vegas Review Journal as a sophomore … Selected first-team All-Southeast Region by Silver State Preps … Hit .452 with 11 doubles, seven triples and five home runs while driving in 32 runs in 2019 … Also scored 61 runs while stealing 19 bases to help lead Coronado HS to a 4A state runner-up finish … Put up 21 multi-hit games and eight multiple-RBI performances … Recorded an extra-base hit in 19 games, highlighted by four games with multiple extra-base hits … Plays club ball for the Corona Angels.

Lombardi on Sinicki: “Paige is a competitor and a leader. She is an extremely aggressive defender and can play multiple positions. Offensively, she will be a catalyst and has a high softball IQ.”

oregon111

Continuing to run the pistol up the middle and get stuffed – is not quite a revival.

Pistol runs are fine late in the game with a big lead when you want to run down the clock.
But they just lead to punts early in the game.

30Duck

Move over, Jerry Palm, 247 has Oregon in the Playoffs too.

https://247sports.com/LongFormArticle/College-football-bowl-projections-Playoff-Ohio-State-Buckeyes-Notre-Dame-Clemson-Alabama-Crimson-Tide-Texas-Longhorns-154433400/#154433400_12

Projection: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Oregon
For the first time in what feels like several seasons, Clemson is not projected to reach the College Football Playoff this week following Saturday night’s double-overtime loss to Clemson. The Crimson Tide move into the No. 1 seed spot this week, a projection we won’t know is factual until the selection committee’s first rankings reveal in a couple of weeks. Oregon handled Stanford by three touchdowns in its 2020 debut and get the four-seed here over the Big 12 champion, BYU and Cincinnati.

30Duck

If nothing else, seeing Oregon in these projections is confirmation of Oregon’s place in the hierarchy. The Pac-12 starts after all the other conferences, is perceived as being weak, yet Oregon is now in ahead of Clemson.

Annie

OT, but has Oregon been recruiting any kickers/punters this year? I hope, of course, that the ones currently on the roster will be successful, but the position has been somewhat of a question mark at times.

David Marsh

I know they added a couple as walk-ons in the 2020 recruiting class.. I would imagine they are adding some more at preferred walk-on status for the 2021 class as well…

Tom Snee looked ok at punter… it was a 50 yard punt though it went into the end zone for a touch back… but the distance makes me hopeful. The next level would be placement to get that ball to land outside of the end zone… but a touch back isn’t the end of the world.

GODUCKS15

This is the perfect season to run a QB. Fewer games to get hurt in.
With the nasty weather predicted for the WSU game, running Shough like last Saturday seems like a good idea.
I like what I saw last Saturday. Last years offence was stale.
Something to ponder. What if one of the 4 qualifiers for the CFP is ruled ineligible from Covid infections? Who’s in to replace them? At this point in the season no team in the top 7-8 can be ruled out.

Jon Sousa

Perhaps the solution to this is have an 8 team playoff and anyone who can’t go forfeits until the championship game, give two weeks, if the team still can’t play…. forfeit.

Drake

Moorehead stated that parts of his offense would “stretch the field, and give the QB opportunities to run. It didn’t take long for Shough to throw downfield, and maybe a couple of series before he ran the ball. Check marks in both columns.

Fast forward to a point where Shough has an entire year under his belt, with normal time to practice, this offense will move the ball. Could be kind of difficult to keep us out of the end zone. Get our defense back up to speed and we are very good.

So far Moorehead is 1 – 0 with an inexperienced QB and offensive line. Look forward to watching this develop.

Brent Pennington

A Revival? I’m all-in. Preach it, Joshua!

30Duck

https://twitter.com/wilnerhotline/status/1326922704214224902

The #Pac12 is prepared to get creative with the schedule if cancellations continue. “We’re in an outside-the-box year,” ops chief Merton Hanks said. Might we get Oregon-USC, after all?

Jon Joseph

This ‘stuff’ is logistically difficult.

Sounds good to be flexible, but there was no flexibility built into the schedule.

Can’t play UCLA? Why not try to get a game vs BYU? A program that likely would be willing to travel to Eugene to get in a game against a P5 team.

Would be good for the winner’s PO bona fides.

UtahDuck

One thing to add to your list was the play sequencing from Moorhead! That TD pass to DJ Johnson was i believe the second in a sequence of plays he called in which the TE lined up in the half back position. And every time the play was called the weakside Linebacker made the wrong decision. It was probably the prettiest thing from the Oregon Offense in 7 years.

Charles Fischer

Yep, I referred to them as “constraint” plays in my Sunday article, and writer Mike West refers to them as sequential plays as you do. Slowing down the read-key defender from covering both the QB and RB in the mesh engendered one set of constraint plays, and the other set was the TE series as you noted.

Fun progress to see!

Jon Joseph

Great observation. I went back to my tape and watched the referenced sequence again.

Spot on.

David Marsh

It looked rather vanilla still… however, I get the feeling that Moorhead is keeping stuff close to the with just one game in and in order to beat Stanford by 21 vanilla was good enough.

The other reason why the offense may look like it has a ways to go is that there has just been a lack of practice. From the sound of it they have spent a TON of time on studying the offense and learning the Xs and Os of it all but they haven’t really had time to execute it in practice yet as there hasn’t been that much practice time.

I am hoping to see more concepts added this week against WSU and then more the following week against UCLA and so on…

David Marsh

I was happy with some longer runs in the second half out of the pistol. The first half the pistol runs were pretty predictable.

I guess what rubs me the wrong way is that I wouldn’t consider myself terrible astute when it comes to film… Getting better but not at the level as many who are on this site are… But the problem with the scheme the past few years has been pretty simple…

If the ducks are in the pistol it is going to be a handoff or a pass and using that runningback to block in the gap they’d typicy be running through… Which usually has someone to block because how a team stops the run or stops the pressures the pass when they see this is the same…. Attack downhill and either take out the runningback or the quarterback.

What I was really happy with was seeing the quarter back run the ball and forcing the defense to have to pause and think. Once Shough started running Stanford couldn’t just attack without thinking and we started seeing better pistol runs.

However… We haven’t seen the runningback running out of the pistol really attack the edges at this time … They are still running right into the middle.

I just feel that if I am making these observations I know the opposing teams are… So more outside runs please!

I see potential…. I just want that potential to be revealed.

Charles Fischer

Amen, my Duck-Brother. When we run the Pistol…there are just a few plays that constitute 90% of all Pistol plays, and that is easy for opponent’s preparation. They check a couple of keys easily, and make the “read-key” defender squeeze to the point of being able to cover both the QB and RB as much as possible.

Charles Fischer

I am not ready to proclaim a new offense until I see a lot more of it. I liked the new plays on third down, as we have not seen that tactic used in years, as well as the shots downfield.

But the plodding Pistol plunges were way too numerous for me…

Fun stuff to ponder though! Thanks Joshua.

Last edited 11 days ago by Charles Fischer
Mudslide

Just a thought about the pistol. Several of long gains were had from this formation in the second half including the TD by Dye, IIRC.

Charles Fischer

Sure, just as we had success in the Rose Bowl with it when we ran the quarterback as a usual option. Bear with my feelings about it, because if it was completely unsuccessful–then the coaches would change. I just feel that these type explosion plays also occurred in the Shotgun, but more often.

Just my opinion though…

ptdduck

The running game is basically the same but the read option is now open for business during the regular season. JoMo has added some layups to the passing game, easy throws to the RB and TE. Looking forward to see where it goes from here.

Last edited 11 days ago by ptdduck
Jon Sousa

“Upon further review” — A couple observations after watching last week’s game a couple of times…

Verdell stayed healthy the whole game. How many times did that happen last year?? It’s amazing he stayed in after that colossal hit he administered with his body while scoring a touchdown. He must be stronger and in better condition.

I was very impressed with Shough’s ability to put his foot in the ground and change directions. He did it a couple of times. The most impressive example is when he scored the touchdown.

Regarding the missed field goals… It looked like two of the four missed were not the kicker’s fault, as the holder did not turn the laces away from the kicker. Herbie mentioned it once. Kicking the laces adversely affects the kicker’s ability to aim. Speaking of field goals, Lewis made his attempt but it was nullified by a false start penalty. Oregon only had 6 penalties for 43 yards the whole game and one of them HAPPENED to be on the first field goal attempt. If we are going to “coulda, shoulda, woulda” with Stanford’s missed field goals, how about doing the same with Oregon’s missed field goal? Stanford’s misses are an aberration but Oregon’s are “normal”? The pointy ball bouncing funny is part of the game.

It never felt like the game was in danger. Give Stanford three of those field goals and they still needed two TDs to win.

Charles Fischer

OK…I know this is weird, (aren’t we all weird in our own way?) but I replayed the slo-mos over-and-over and my conclusion was the splatter of flakes came from the Stanford helmet. Very cool no matter where it originated, and it is great that others notice that stuff too.

Jon Sousa

Another thing I noticed is that there were signs of the GoGo as at least 4 times there were two running backs in the backfield going in various directions. It was interesting to see after the 3 articles on it last week.

Charles Fischer

The plays were blown up, but GoGo principles were attempted out of a slightly different formation with two backs…and yeah–I noticed!

So interesting to watch for!

Santa Rosa Duck

Thanks Joshua. With the short spring and abbreviated fall, I would be surprised if Coach Moorhead has installed even 50% of his offense at this point. Really looking forward to this game. WSU always plays us tough in recent years and we will have a much better idea of who our DUCKS are after this win in Pullman.

Sherman

Generally speaking, the public’s impression of a football coach (Cristobal included) is formed through their weekly pressers during the season. That in turn, invariably leads to an image of a fully formed entity …an almost mythic figure… with a style and approach IMMUNE TO OUTSIDE PRESSURES. A master of X’s and O’s who’s only concern is the next faceless opponent.

But the reality is:
College football programs are a necessary cash cow for just about every university. The Harvards and USCs with $30-$40 billion endowments are exceedingly rare.
So bringing in football dollars takes on added importance.
Oregon’s football program alone generates $100 million a year in revenue.

With the extraordinary amounts of money involved, it becomes clear that a college football coach is merely a cog in a much larger financial plan. And because of that, the administration and the well heeled boosters take on much larger roles than the general public is aware of.

That said, do you think “Smashmouth Mario” willingly decided to transition to the read option/RPO all by himself? And the hiring of Moorhead to make it happen?
NO FREAKING WAY!

Cristobal brings a LOT to the table, no doubt. He’s been a boon to the program in innumerable ways. But completely revamping his offensive scheme? You think HE thought that up?
No way.

Behind the scenes, the big money guys/the administration/the boosters who were used to and EXPECTED the high-powered offensive juggernaut that Duck football was….(along with the concurrent marketing and branding dollars) …. most likely let Cristobal know that his 2018-2019 version of Oregon’s offense was incompatible with expectations.
Does anyone honestly think Uncle Phil and Nike liked the slow moving plod that Oregon football had become over the last 2 years?
No way.
Too many corporate dollars…. university dollars …. are on the line.

This is all conjecture, of course.
But a reasonable take considering the individual players involved and the dollars at stake.

Last edited 11 days ago by Sherman
BigDucksFan

For some reason I don’t think Cristobal does a whole lot that others suggest that he hasn’t already thought out and wanted to do in the first place. I’m sure he hears from people and listens but I’m sure he has a mind of his own that he works from. Just because others see a faltering offense doesn’t mean that he can’t see it himself and knows that it needs to change.

He’s no puppet of others.

30Duck

100%, BDF.

Jon Joseph

Great thoughts.

$! This is why the playoff has to go to 8 games. All P5 champs, G5 rep and 2 AL. People across the country need a reason to maintain interest in CFB all season long.

BTW, this week’s ‘If They’d Listened to Larry?’

8 OK ST B12 at 1 BAMA SEC
5 A+M AL at 4 Clemson AL

7 Oregon Pac-12 at 2 Notre Dame ACC
6 Cincinnati G5 at Ohio State Big 10

Rick Neuheisel made this point today along with mentioning that CFB, based on recruiting, is far too predictable. A handful of teams pick up top drawer recruits like Clemson with Lawrence and now DJU. Bama with Tua, Mac Jones and Young. Ohio State with Haskins and Fields.

The calculus would be different if Tua, DJU and Young, among others, had ‘stayed home.’

30Duck

Hey Jon, guess what ? I agree with you on this this completely. That was predictable, and why Ricky was right. Predictability is the only protocol that the Committee follows to stock “The Invitational”. The recruiting, that Oregon is shaking up, maintains the status quo, and allows the “eye test” to be the arbiter of the Final Four.

Drake

While I don’t consider myself well heeled, I am a donor to both the University, and the Athletic Fund. Both budgets need extensive donor support to help pay the staff and maintain and expand facilities. A disruption to revenue, or unexpected expense can easily tilt either budget into red numbers.

I walk around the Oregon campus and see the improvements that Donor dollars have made over the last 40 years and am proud to contribute annually. Both budgets will need added support due to the set backs that COVID have created. Fortunately, I am in the position to help.

Did a donor call up Cristobal and tell him to change his offense? I don’t know. But, I do know that if one did and Cristobal listened, then there was a good reason for it.

Jon Joseph

Thanks Joshua, fun ponder point.

OT – As noted below I have a wager this Saturday on Indiana -7 at Michigan State.

Indiana is worth a bet based, if nothing else, on the truth is stranger than fiction names of the Hoosiers 3 top WRs. To wit:

Whop Philyor (confused file clerk?;)

Ty Fryfogle; (short order cook?) and

Peyton Herdershot, (prep school head master?)

Holy Bobby Knight!

Could any author of fiction possibly top these 3 names?

Still my favorite CFB name of all time: UW QB Sonny Sixkiller.

Haywarduck

Favorite Duck player name?

Jon Joseph

Not name, nut nick-name: The Black Mamba. Especially, since it came from Snoop.

Haywarduck

Snoops nickname for Flowe doesn’t translate as well to the college game. I always liked Igor Olshanky. You just knew the guy was going to be a force.

Haywarduck

Both the defense and the offense improved as the game went on. This needs to continue as the season goes along.

With just one game we also have no perspective. This too will be enhanced as the season moves along. We need to improve and teams need play others so we can know just how good our beloved Ducks are.

Things look good, but we want to see great, there is time. Basically I want to see more than a revival, I want an upgrade and something that exceeds expectations. Is that too much to ask in 2020?

30Duck

You’re not ahead of yourself at all, Joshua. What was so fascinating about the offense last week was that it was a revelation, so different in multiple ways. But it didn’t “new” in the sense of the players not understanding what they were supposed to be doing. There were a couple of times when Shough made a wrong read, but that wasn’t due to a new system. On the other hand, as we’ve all been discussing this week, it was the defense that needs to pick it up for the Ducks to run the table.

Brent Pennington

It’s easy to jump to optimistic conclusions with the indicators we see in Ducks football. We will know more about the team and it offensive strength following Game #2 in the Palouse on Saturday night.

Last edited 11 days ago by Brent Pennington
Jon Joseph

1st Half – C

2nd Half – B+

Encouraging for the first game after a 311 day layoff.

So nice to see Shough run and run effectively.. He needs to improve his reads.

It was also nice to see the receivers help Shough out by making a number of difficult, contested catches.

Saturday will be interesting. Stanford was without its starting QB and best WR. If Toner had kicked to his previous standard this game would have been far closer for far longer.

The O needs to continue to improve. But the D? Need to get pressures on and sacks of the QB. That was discouraging, as was some shaky pass D.

In addition to the Wake at UNC Over 66 bet, I have decided to stay in conference with USC -14 at Arizona and play the hot hand with Indiana -7 at Michigan State. Sparty looked darn good vs Michigan and putrid in its other 2 games.

COVID – 4 SEC games canceled; #1, 3 and 5 not playing as scheduled this Saturday. Ohio State is now down to 7 ‘regular season’ games.

BigDucksFan

Once again you are so right Joshua. The new offense looked great for the first game of the season. Lots of creativity, we now need to just smooth things out a little and add more complexity as time goes on. We’ve seen lots of good players making great plays, as they should. A real pleasure to watch. The big test will be USC at the Pac-12 championship game.

duckcardinal

I think looking past Cal & UW based on the Stanford game and without seeing a single snap of theirs may be a bit premature. By the time we play them those teams may have played just enough games to have themselves sorted out (3-4) but not to enough to accrue a bunch of injuries.

On the other hand, given the overly zealous Covid protocols of Alameda County, I’m betting that no Cal games are played there this year at all; including ours.

Jon Joseph

CAL may have to trip to Nevada to get a ‘home game’ played?

BigDucksFan

I hope the Ducks and Cal will look into that if needed. We can’t – not play a single game this season – if we expect to have any chance at the big playoff.

Quackanadian

We have ourselves a more modern and creative RPO offense to compliment the ferocious D.

Could run the table if they show up to play every weekend.

BigDucksFan

I didn’t see the dominance from the D that I expected. Better stoppage at the line was needed and a better pass rush. I really expected more from them. This needs much improvement if we want to run the table.

David Marsh

I do expect there to be more of a pass rush against WSU. Stanford was running 2-3 TEs as blockers on the field… extra bodies on the line of scrimmage did keep the Oregon pass rush from getting home… KT got close quite a few times but he just couldn’t get to the QB before the ball got out…

There were a lot of deeper throws based more on timing that burned Oregon’s secondary… though there were also a lot of short throws by Stanford that only for a couple of yards at best. The Stanford QBs didn’t want to hold onto the ball too long and did dump it off if when they felt the heat coming. Some rather smart QB play on their part… but again Stanford was also using 2-3 TEs and that can make a pass rush more difficult.