Picture it: November 7, 2020. Oregon is playing Stanford at home, hoping to kick off a national championship bid season with a bang. Sophomore QB Tyler Shough throws for a decent stat line in his inaugural start, with 227 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He looks a little jumpy throwing the ball, and the staff compensates by running a lot of read option. So much in fact, that Shough rushes for 85 yards and a touchdown, eclipsing Justin Herbert’s 2019 rushing total in a single game. Things are far from perfect, but the Ducks are better than what we expected, right?
Since then, the Ducks offense has been read option after RPO after read option. New offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead wants to keep defenses guessing about the play-call, while giving Shough the ability to decide where to put the ball post snap. It can be an effective offensive system, but it has to be run properly.
Unfortunately, the young Duck seemed to forget that he could run the ball on the read option against UCLA. Shough rushed for only 31 yards and must’ve had 6-8 plays where he handed the ball off to a running back despite seeing nothing but green grass in his running lane. Even more frustrating than that, CJ Verdell fumbled the ball as a result of one of the incorrect reads by Shough, who handed the ball off into a collapsed offensive line. The fumble was picked up and ran in to the endzone, killing any momentum that Oregon had, and nearly resulting in a loss.
Shough made up for the poor decision by throwing for a massive 334 yards and three touchdowns, but the Ducks could’ve controlled the game completely if he had pulled the ball out of the RB’s gut a few more times. Even though Oregon found a way to win, my voice box and fiancé would appreciate it if I didn’t have to spend the entire Oregon State game yelling for Shough to pull the ball out.
What do you think? Should offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead be getting in Shough’s ear to keep the ball more often, or is it too early to expect this kind of production from the new starter?
Top Photo by Tom Corno
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