You are not supposed to have a bit of a sickening feeling coming from your stomach up after a win. After a loss sure, but not after a win-right? I wondered what this yucky feel and uneasiness was about after the game, and then I recognized it from some years in the past. It comes to you when you realize your team is just not as good as you hoped for, not as good as so many had predicted going into this year. And yes, Our Beloved Ducks fit that description right now…
You know what I mean; we are not a savvy team with unstoppable scoring, and a strong experienced defense. We are raw and have huge upside, but we are not there yet. I love our team, but I can see the upside that is not yet developed. I was pondering about why this came about, and then I remembered yesterday’s article by Jordan Ingram and how Oregon is the youngest team in America. We might need to alter our expectations for such a young team, because stuff happens to newbies learning.
In fact the position group that might doing the best is the one with the least experience, with only one start among the group coming into this year, (222 last year) and that is the offensive line. I do not have the time, energy or space to show all that I’m excited about, but when we had No. 71 Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu (325 lbs.) at guard, No. 77 George Moore (325 lbs.) at tackle, and No. 89 DJ Johnson (258 lbs.) at tight end blocking … it is the best darn right side of any offensive line in America.
They don’t just block; they create massive running lanes!
My concerns about the explosive offense of the Cougars were justified. With recruiting and more years ingrained in his system–these Cougars are going to be lethal. They are a tough out now, but the price of poker in the Pac-12 North just got higher. My hat is off to that team and their coach. (And may they give a devil of a time to the Huskies!) The mental toughness of the Ducks learned from last year was a huge factor in this win, and I credit Coach Mario Cristobal for it.
The Offense is a Work in Progress, with HIGH Upside…
I had my doubts about whether this team was ready and able to score 40 points or more and was pleasantly surprised, and especially by the method used. They came right out in the first drive running a Jet Sweep to the outside, flare passes and play-action passes to the perimeter, which was where I wanted to see Oregon attack. Washington State was ready to man-up on the inside and it set up the open field to the outside and I sing the praises of offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead for such a game-plan.
Did you note that with the drive beginning about 2:24 in the third quarter onward–Oregon primarily ran the Shotgun, and was blasting the Cougars, again–primarily on the outside? It almost feels like Moorhead was doing it MCs way for a game or so, and when it got to crunch time–Moorhead needed to call his own game? This will make preparing for the Ducks that much more difficult for our next opponents. (Chip Kelly will smile seeing an Outside Zone Read out of a Shotgun doing so well for the Ducks as he views the WSU-Oregon game tape)
Tyler Shough got better through the game, (21-30 for four TDs and one interception) and I love our balance; rushing was 269 yards and passing was 312 yards. The confidence gained by the quarterback, the tight end again and the offensive line is so crucial with more tough, close games coming up. Coach Moorhead got us another great third down conversion ratio of 7-11, and 2-2 on fourth down conversions? Whew!
He is the opposite of how some coaches would approach this and I love it. Many old-school coaches want to run the same plays they always have at crunch time, “because we know them well.” Moorhead pulls out great new plays on crucial downs, such as the play-action pass touchdown off the Jet Sweep, a running play that was used earlier in the game and set up this score beautifully. He has a constraint play to counter every defensive tactic used against his fundamental plays, and that is the mark of a great OC.
When Oregon runs outside, varies the passing game and slips some new surprises into the mix–the middle with the Pistol opens up that much more easily as the defense is stretched to cover the horizontal attack. The Ducks ran the flare pass to the tailback so well that when the RB ran that direction and Shough pumped … the defense moved that way and thus allowed the offensive line to pin the defenders inside as Tyler ran a bootleg the opposite direction. Sweet play!
I am confident about the growth on the defensive line and slow improvements coming to the linebackers. The defensive backfield is a mess right now, and we might have to be operating under the old premise of so many years ago of simply outscoring our foe, as we did last night. If we had a twelve game schedule–I would have confidence that Avalos would have the ship righted eventually, but there is not enough time and games. (IMHO)
I love seeing the six-man blitzes and the safety blitzes to mix it up. I enjoyed seeing defenders get off blocks faster than last week, but the sloppy tackling needs to be cleaned up. Popo Aumavae returning next week at defensive tackle will help the defensive line significantly, and coupled with incremental improvements at linebacker-we’ll see more defensive results.
The reality is that we are building the future with an abundance of youth on defense, and the future of an elite defense are built on the lessons like that game against Washington State.
What is YOUR Goal for the 2020 Ducks?
As I’ve written in the comments often, I feel that our best times are ahead of us, not now. My personal spin I’m telling myself is that name of the game will be to survive and win any way possible for now. With all this youth–if we could win the Pac-12 and be in the Fiesta Bowl–count me as one happy Duck. Winning this conference is a tough task, but enough improvement could occur over the next five games to make it happen.
So much to discuss, so let’s get started!
“Oh how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!“
Charles Fischer (Mr. FishDuck)
Top Photo by Eugene Johnson
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