In this homecoming … who is the master and who is the grasshopper? Chip Kelly put Oregon on the map years back, but he has reinvented himself, and his new UCLA offense is a far cry from the Chip Kelly offense we were accustomed to in Eugene. Meanwhile in Eugene, Coach Mario Cristobal, with an infusion from new OC Joe Moorhead, has reinvented Oregon’s image and offense. Today, neither Cristobal’s Ducks nor Kelly’s Bruins represent the Blur of years past.
As I will every Saturday during the season–I will share what I am looking for in the upcoming game, My humble hope is to be at least 50% correct! Today’s game holds special significance for me after creating 50 videos back in 2011-12 (viewed over 2,000,000 times) of the Chip Kelly offense and defense with the Ducks. As always, let’s discuss before, during and after the game in the comments, and let’s savor every game that can be played.
“I have met the ENEMY, and he is US”
Chip Kelly’s new offense is almost a mirror of Oregon’s, with the majority of Bruin plays coming out of the Pistol formation. UCLA mixes it up with some Shotgun, which telegraphs Coach Kelly’s Outside Zone Read plays as that is what he likes to run most out of the Shotgun formation. As many of you know, a complaint I have with the Pistol is how deep the mesh is taking place in the backfield, requiring a very, very fast quarterback to make it work well.
Tyler Shough and Justin Herbert have good speed, but the Bruin Quarterback (if he plays) Dorian Thompson-Robinson (DTR) has great speed, making the Bruin version of the Pistol much more effective. If DTR does not play, then UCLA’s Pistol formation will be easy for Oregon to defend, much like UCLA’s handling of the Ducks in 2017, when Braxton Burmeister replaced Justin Herbert. No chance of victory in either case…
DTR is a streaky passer who can throw some beauties and then follow up with some real head-scratchers. We have to assume he will have a career day against us, and the Ducks will need a very speedy “spy” to mirror DTR wherever he runs. This could be a very important game for the Oregon defensive line because DTR throws poorly more often than most quarterbacks when pressured, making this the game for multiple hurries and sacks!
There is NO STRONGSIDE on Offense?
The direction Oregon runs to is good-or-good, but the right side–whether the strong or weakside of the formation–performs exceptionally well. Offensive formations have their strongside (with more players stacked one side of the center) and a weakside that has fewer past the center. Our coaches have figured out that if those three players are Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu at guard, George Moore at tackle and DJ Johnson at tight end … that is all they need.
What caught my attention was how often Oregon ran to the weakside away from the big-three above and made big yardage on it! Huh? The defense has the same number of players on that side, but they do not have the ability to beat those blocks. Once the running back clears the line-of-scrimmage on the weakside, there is often wide-open field!
This happened frequently in the last game, where Oregon would run to the weakside and just carve up the Cougars. Now if the-hack-Mr.-FishDuck can notice that … so have the Bruin coaches. If they flip another defender over to the weakside, then Steven Jones, TJ Bass and Alex Forsyth can blow through a lighter defense on the strongside! This Joe Moorhead play-calling luxury is brought about entirely by the unexpected strength of the offensive line and the best right side in college football!
Our WORST Match-Up….
The Bruins have a tight end, No. 85 Greg Dulcich, who gets open all the time, much like Jacob Breeland did for Oregon in recent years. Dulcich has elite speed and runs like a tall wide-out, but the worst part is who gets matched up by the Ducks to stop him? The well-below-average Oregon safeties … yikes! If there was ever a time for a big growth game from newbie safeties Bennett Williams and Jordan Happle–this is it. Oregon’s worst match-up will have me gulping and taking short breaths; it does not help any that DTR and Dulcich are roommates with great on-field chemistry. They must be stopped…
I am also going to be watching the Ducklings on the offensive line going up against some athletic and veteran UCLA defensive linemen who can pressure the quarterback. Is this going to be a “come-uppance” game for these youngsters going up against some experienced pass rushers? How well Oregon protects Tyler Shough will be an important indicator going forward as the Ducks’ passing offense continues to be unveiled. The “hand-battle” in the pass rush is usually won by those who have dealt with it hundreds of times, and that is not the strong suit of the young Duck offensive line.
The run-blocking of these big Ducklings is arguably the biggest surprise in the conference; can they match it against savvy pass rushers?
One way to slow down the Bruin rush is to run up-tempo. Increased tempo often made UCLA line up incorrectly against Colorado (which created explosion plays for the ‘Buffs) and disrupted the Bruins’ substitution patterns. In their haste to get into the play after being late to the line-of-scrimmage, the UCLA defensive linemen would often just bull rush as hard as they could. While that can produce sacks, as it did against Cal, it also makes UCLA vulnerable to screen passes and our new quarterback draw plays. Just some tasty tidbits that Mr. FishDuck is watching for today…
The 2020 Winning Formula is Back-to-the-Future?
The biggest “tell” of the current differences between Coach Kelly and Oregon was a 4th-and-1 for UCLA against Colorado; Chip Kelly likes to “do what we know,” and in this case his bread-and-butter Inside Zone Read was stuffed once again. Meanwhile Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead consistently threw curves at the opposing defenses on key third and fourth down plays in our first two games. It is a fundamental difference in coaching philosophy; the Oregon version is more refreshing for the fan and clearly has had more success thus far in 2020. I am happy with where the Ducks are and yet wish Coach Kelly well against all but Oregon.
Back in the Mike Bellotti days, our coaches did their best to elevate the play of the two-star and three-star players that made up the majority of the Ducks’ roster at the time, especially on defense. The West Coast passing offense produced tons of touchdowns, and frankly our MO was to simply out-score our opponents. The typical score would be 41-38, and while it produced a ton of nail-biting, it also produced wins in spite of the Ducks’ short-handed defenses.
Since the defense in 2020 is not what we hoped … I believe our goal to win will be centered around scoring a ton of points and relying on the defense to make just enough stops to slow the other team down. Fortunately, Oregon has the talent on offense and in the coaching booth to make this method of winning a reality this year.
Ruin the Bruins!
“Oh how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (Mr. FishDuck)
Top Photo by Kevin Cline
Phil Anderson, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.
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