Oregon Football: “To Play or Not to Play, That is the Question”

Coach Ken Woody Editorials 52 Comments

First, the bad news: with every football season there is uncertainty. This season is already bad. Shadowed by COVID-19, which has the potential to cancel games, or the season in the worst case, the Pac-12 schedule has been shortened to seven games and doesn’t begin until November, closer to winter than autumn. Add to this Oregon coach Mario Cristobal‘s challenge in replacing last year’s quarterback, the entire offensive line, his best linebacker, and three quarters of the best secondary in the league, and you could see why he may not be sleeping well.

This season, Pac-12 guidelines state that a game can be cancelled if a team has fewer than 53 scholarship players available to participate, or the following minimum number of position scholarship players available to begin a game: seven (7) offensive linemen, one (1) quarterback and four (4) defensive linemen.

All players are to be tested daily, and if positive must be isolated until they post negative on successive days. False positives have already prevented Oregon’s scheduled second pre-season scrimmage, seriously limiting scarce game-like reps for a team with minimal experience.

Eugene Johnson

No easy touchdowns against Portland State this year for Johnny Johnson III.

Due to the virus, the season is starting two months late and the schedule has eliminated the non-conference cupcakes usually played to pad win-loss records. Teams have also missed spring football practice (the Ducks had only four days out of 20 that were scheduled), so freshman players will be even more raw than usual for fall ball.

Because of all this, many natural advantages powerful Pac-12 teams have traditionally enjoyed have been leveled for all schools. Oregon’s opener with Stanford is likely not to be as polished as fans could normally anticipate. Quality coaching, always important, will be even more so this season.

Cristobal has sophomore quarterback Tyler Shough and Boston College transfer Anthony Brown to lead the offense, which also returns its top running backs and most of the receivers. But the heart and soul of a Cristobal offense is the line, and there is nary a returning starter to be had.

Fans won’t have to wait long to see whether the new group can step up to achieve the success the departed achieved, including the nation’s best lineman, Penei Sewell, who chose to leave with two years eligibility left to prepare for the pro draft.

Tom Corno

The hapless Beaver receiver had his pocket “picked” by Mykael Wright, No. 2.

The front seven on defense, minus an all-league linebacker, is back, but the secondary is going to be young and vulnerable. The Ducks have a wealth of underage talent at all positions and one of the best defensive coordinators in the business, Andy Avalos, to take on opponents whose offensive personnel and capabilities are unknown, just like Oregon’s.

Today, track the explosion plays offensively and defensively of 10 yards or more, turnovers, and penalties — markers of young players needing game experience. Watch the big boys: linemen, hands on hips, sucking wind between plays as the game wears on. Players, with less training and practice time, will not be as well conditioned as usual, so it will be difficult to operate and defend fast-paced offenses. For openers, the Ducks could look a lot different than in the past years.

The good news is that Cristobal has a ton of talent to replace what was lost to graduation and the pros, and has Washington and Stanford at home. One question is how much of an advantage will Autzen Stadium provide if you can hear crickets in the background? As it is now, without the capacity crowd’s loud support, sharp-eared fans watching television at home can hear the quarterbacks’ signals and linemen’s calls at the line of scrimmage.

Kevin Cline

Cal has some talented players…

Cal would be my pick right now for the division title based on the Bears having the only established quarterback (undefeated in eight straight starts, and the active leader in starts (19) and wins (13) returning in the North), along with nine other offensive starters. The Bears get Oregon and Washington, two of their toughies, at home. However, without fans, traditional home-field advantages will not be as strong, which will hurt all teams equally this season.

The Cardinal is always tough for the Ducks, but they face the same problems all the other Pac-12 teams share: limited practice time this spring and fall, and less-than-usual knowledge of the potential of all their young players. On paper, Oregon has better players than Stanford and should win if Cristobal finds ways to overcome those challenges. Cardinal coach David Shaw has the most wins in Stanford football history and his teams are always hard-nosed on both sides of the ball. This makes for a game difficult to handicap.

Right now execution is more important than who the opponent is. Under the right circumstances, Oregon has the talent to win the North and the Pac-12 title. Now, though, the biggest hurdle might be one that no team, no matter how talented, can overcome — the dreaded COVID-19. With apologies to Hamlet, the season for all Pac-12 teams hangs in the balance, threatened by a host of unknown and unanticipated perils ahead, to be or not to be.

Coach Ken Woody
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Kevin Cline

Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT AFTER FURTHER REVIEW–AN INSIDE LOOK AT WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD

Mike Bellotti, ESPN Analyst and Former Oregon Head Coach: “Ken Woody’s ability to break down the game with interesting, entertaining insights comes from a career as a college player and coach, influenced by some of the top coaches in football. Woody spells it out in a simple, refreshing, humorous manner.”

Dan Fouts, NFL Hall of Fame, Oregon Ducks quarterback: “Entertaining and easy to understand.”

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.

Buy the book at the Oregon Bookstore, Michael’s Fine Books, at Amazon.com right here, and other bookstore outlets.

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Charles Fischer

My FishDuck Friends,

We will have an article by yours truly published in the morning, and let’s break the game down even further! Two very different halves…

We won by a bigger spread than I certainly thought would happen.

oregon111

Shough did not look good. DJ Johnson looks like a natural at TE. Of all the new faces, I think that Breeze was missed the most. I think Anthony Brown would have done better.

Charles Fischer

I would agree with the DJ and Breeze observations, but for any game–those were good stats for Shough, and for a first start? As good as I could have hoped for, but no sweat–we can disagree.

oregon111

First start – somewhat OK. But AB had a lot of starts. If the running game was not working, I wouldn’t want to see them have to rely on his arm to get first downs. We will see how it goes. For what the Ducks dad on O and what Stanford had on D, he was plenty good enough for today, but he wouldn’t have been nearly good enough against a top defense.

CJ

Defense kind of letting up here. They have given up 184 yards rushing so far. Stanford is kind of pushing Oregon around a bit in the trenches.

David Marsh

Stanford has a rather expirenced offensive line considering how many injuries they had last year.

Oregon has definitely made some significant mistakes on both sides of the ball tonight… Usually stuff that gets worked out against a couple of cupcakes…

oregon111

Defense not as good as they are on paper. I wasn’t impressed with the linebacker play. Maybe they will get better with time. Coronavirus issues makes it hard for teams to be as crisp as they normally would be in a regular year.

Charles Fischer

We had some issues on defense in the first couple of drives, no doubt. But Stanford does have some good offensive linemen too!

CJ

Wow, Shough is quite an elusive ball carrier. Who knew?

Charles Fischer

Not me!

And what I love is that it is on scrambles or plays where it is not designed to be in between the tackles and lowers the potential of injury.

David Marsh

I’m loving this running the quarterback thing… Why would we have ever stopped it????

Charles Fischer

I am guessing because of a lack of experienced depth; we can do it with Brown, and if Brown transfers out at the end of the season–he still has another year elsewhere to play due to COVID. Good for us and for him.

Matt23

Not too fond of the offense so far. Still looks pretty basic with a lot of pistol dives still. Moorehead has made some good decisions on play calls though. Though our tempo would be a little faster this year

Charles Fischer

Boy I hate the Pistol…good thing we don’t see it very often! (Sarcasm, but not at you Matt)

He has made good calls on key plays.

Last edited 19 days ago by Charles Fischer
David Marsh

This last series (score at 21) Dye did pretty good damage from the pistol… But bleh still not a fan.

Charles Fischer

Dye has excellent vision and finds the hole and does not have breakaway speed, but he does he have acceleration that gets him into the secondary. Man I love so much of that blocking I saw tonight!

David Marsh

Considering the overall lack of camp time and spring camp time for instillation I’m not surprised by some more basic looks…

But the pistol looks as good as ever…

Charles Fischer

Between my grumbles…I was reminding myself of that too. And I should not get greedy; Stanford fans are not happy right now, as we would not be. I counting our blessings!

CJ

Pretty rough start here tonight. Looking a bit rusty with two turnovers already.
Something that frustrates me is the kick coverage. I was frustrated by it last year too. Need a kicker with a stronger leg that put the ball in the end zone. These 30 yard average kick returns are brutal on the defense.

David Marsh

Agreed and… The pistol doesn’t work… I was hoping Moorhead would make it work but we’re still watching verdell run into the defensive line.

Matt23

I agree and Shough is missing when to keep it

David Marsh

Ughh… The defense is bending as it tended to do last year and not a major problem… But the offense needs to do more…

oregon111

where is the freakin game? NO POLITICS – WE HATE POLITICS

UtahDuck

Just saw a report saying stanford QB Davis Mills is being held out tonight due to covid protocols.

Charles Fischer

Wow. That could change everything….yet it has raining, cold and nasty outside in Eugene. I assume that holds both teams back, but without Mills…Oregon could load the box and make the ‘Furd beat them through the air?

Also, the No. 3 receiver in yardage returning, Connor Wedington is also out, as well as starting DE Trey LaBounty…all due to COVID as announced by Stanford Athletics on their Twitter.

A starting Cardinal corner was also injured in the past week, so a newbie starter is there as well. Oregon needs to capitalize on this!

Last edited 19 days ago by Charles Fischer
Jon Joseph

Ducks 31 Stanford 17

USC used up a ‘season’ of luck in the last 3 minutes of the game versus ASU.

I was not impressed by either team and the QBs,

BigDucksFan

And I’m not impressed with our Ducks right now. They look like players without any experience at the college level – – – oh wait, a lot of them are new. Sorry guys this is not going to get us into the national playoff this season.

BigDucksFan

The second half looked much better. The team seemed to settle in. Still questionable if they can beat Cal and USC.

A lot of use of the pistol and the play calling was much better than last year. Joe is doing a good job. Our defense line is weak.

30Duck

It has now been confirmed on the Ducks Pre-game show on the radio that the game will be moved to ESPNnews for continued coverage.

Charles Fischer

For those who live in Eugene and use Comcast/Infinity…it is channel 1210 of which I just checked, did not know existed and yes…it is ESPNNewsHD. On another site they referred to channel 622 also or KEZI 9.2. (whatever that means)

Some suggested to go online to Sportsurge, but I did not see a listing for the Oregon/Stanford game.

Brent Pennington

More optimistic than Coach Woody I’m betting 38-17 all Ducks. Play calling will allow the QB’s to perform. The recievers and RB’S will shine. The Defense should create two turnovers. The Big Ducks are going to get off the porch and wrap the Cardinal up in their wings.

Charles Fischer

Way to go Brent; your 21 point spread nailed it and your final score was pretty close!

David Marsh

I haven’t felt this excited since I was like 6 years old on Christmas day… I’m ready to see some Oregon football and some pac-13 after dark… College football ending around 8 pm is weird..

Santa Rosa Duck

Oregon 31 Stanford 21. I expect a game with miscues on each side from short preparation, Can our brand new Offensive line protect our QB? Create running lanes? I feel a bit more confident about our defense but our D Line is going to have to pressure Stanford QB Mills.

Charles Fischer

Prediction Time!

Give me your predicted score during the day and before the game and give me your thoughts as to why we arrive at that score. I’ve seen other predicted scores on other sites that run the gamut, but most see Oregon winning by a comfortable margin. A standard example would be 35-17 in favor of the Ducks, although some thought Oregon would score into the 40s.

I am expecting a tough fight from the Cardinal, and at the same time some sputtering on offense. Have you ever had a year with all-five offensive linemen are new starters? I cannot recall a single one, and add to that–usually the new starters have played a ton already and that is not the case here.

What rescues the Ducks are the very experienced and savvy receivers who take advantage of the inexperience at corner for Stanford and in the end I predict a similar game to last year against the Cardinal. We win…but are highly dissatisfied with the result. (21-6 last year)

I am predicting 24-16 Ducks; it is not what we want from the offense and will not help our rankings, but it will be a win and give the coaches a ton to help the players progress with.

Let’s hear yours!
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Television Coverage on ABC may not have all or the beginning of the Oregon/Stanford game?

For those who live in Eugene and use Comcast/Infinity…it is channel 1210 of which I just checked, did not know existed and yes…it is ESPNNewsHD. On another site they referred to channel 622 also or KEZI 9.2. (whatever that means)
Some suggested to go online to Sportsurge, but I did not see a listing for the Oregon/Stanford game.

Last edited 19 days ago by Charles Fischer
Charles Fischer

Now I have a new fear; election stuff on the major channels are (such as ABC) currently being broadcast over college football games originally planned. Will that continue through 4:30 this afternoon and we miss our game?

Normally I would consider such a notion as paranoid, but this has been a very strange year where anything can happen….

(And no….this is not permission to talk politics at all. It is a broadcasting observation of ABC (the Ducks play on) and other channels. Will we get to see the darn game?)

Last edited 19 days ago by Charles Fischer
David Marsh

It will probably still be available on an app… So just be ready to switch. As the announcement is planned ahead of time we will probably get some warning to switch to the app ahead of time.

Charles Fischer

Calm down Charles….

The interruption to the ASU/USC game on ABC has ended and the game broadcast is proceeding.

Whew!

30Duck

Apparently, the Clemson @ Notre Dame game on NBC will be available on USA Network if necessary, no word on contingency plan for Stanford @ Oregon on ABC. Both ESPNNEWS and ESPNU look to be open to take the game.

Last edited 19 days ago by 30Duck
30Duck

At least there will be radio, and I sync Jerry & Jorgy all the time anyway.

Haywarduck

I have to say I love the first picture on this post, almost makes it to the end zone. A perfect picture for a season where we won’t quite make it all the way to anywhere.

I have to pick the Ducks winning 38-3. I also have the defense scoring 14 points. This defense will continue to shine, while the offense begins it slow rise back to dominance!

I like 30Ducks pick of the beavs as well.

30Duck

My prediction, 21-10 Ducks, the first touchdown for the Ducks will be run in by Verdell.

And, Beavers 27 Cougars 23

Last edited 19 days ago by 30Duck
Annie

But it’s finally PAC-12 football! Let the games begin!

Haywarduck

Your statement, “Due to the virus, the season is starting two months late” is a bit of a stretch. The same can be said for the reason we went with divisions. Our lack of proactive leadership at the league level is truly incompetent. I am grateful we are attempting 7 games with divisions, but this is almost the worst case scenario.

At this point we can hope we win our 7 games as the best case scenario of what we have been given. The more likely outcome is some fun games to watch, probably less than 7, with little impact on a crazy college football season.

We can hope we see the future of our Oregon Football Program on the field for whatever games we can complete. Can the freshman LB’s and at other positions make an impact? Who is going to rise up at qb and lead this team? Will the O-line gel and become a force, once again?

There are many questions which will be answered during these games. Who is the best of college football, isn’t one of them. What I am going to try and do is enjoy one weekend at a time, the rest is a bonus.

smith72

I like yourcomments- I will enjoy one game at a time!

Charles Fischer

Amen. His last line is the best way to live this year!

Jon Joseph

Regarding Utah. The Utes next scheduled game is Friday night at UCLA. Have to wonder if this game, like today’s game, will be COVID canceled?

Lots of new cases in Utah.

If UCLA Is canceled, Utah’s best hope would be to go 4-0 in the regular season.

As I note below I think the Pac-12 should have dumped divisions this season with the 2 best teams playing for the championship.

David Marsh

I think the pac-12 should have to two best teams play for the championship regardless of division every year.

BigDucksFan

Not a good idea, If you do that you eliminate NORTH and SOUTH, and just have THE PAC. Who wants to see two games between USC and OREGON each season.

30Duck

Jon, I agree completely that the divisions should have been scrapped, certainly for this season, and Monday seems like a great way to minimize the damage by having UW and Utah play. There wouldn’t be any trouble about fans, flip a coin to see where the game would be played, and some network could find room to fit it in.

Jon Joseph

Thanks Coach.

NOT TO PLAY TODAY – CAL, UW. AZ, UTAH

So, 5 ‘regular season’ games for these 4.

Games were called because CAL and AZ are not able to compete. So, why not try to get a game between UW and Utah on Monday? I know, a logistical nightmare.

On paper, the best these 4 teams can finish is 5-0.

I expect more games will be canceled down the road?

I think the conference made a mistake in not following what the ACC is doing in 2020; no divisions, 2 best teams meet in champ game.

How many games does a team have to play to win its division? 5-4-3? I know in the B1G with 8 games scheduled, a team has to play at least 6 games to qualify for a division title. This is on a sliding scale depending on the # of conference wide cancellations. But based on the current number, Wisconsin, that canceled its 2nd game Saturday, this one against Purdue, has zero margin for further cancelations.

I don’t know what the qualifying # is for the Pac-12?

With Pitt out of contention for an ACC title due to its record, it’s best player has opted out for the rest of the season. It will be interesting to see if there are more opt outs from players on non-contending teams..

Strange days indeed.

Jon Joseph

My bad! It was Utah that did not have enough players available and had to cancel.

Interesting in that BYU, that destroyed Boise last night, has not had to cancel any of its games.