Spring Game Offense: Head-Fake or for REAL?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials 25 Comments

One benefit of being an ol’ Greybeard, is being able to compare current events concerning Our Beloved Ducks with so many episodes of Oregon Football in the memory banks. Watching the Spring Game brought to mind something from over a quarter-century ago, and while it was quite entertaining–it also created even more questions for me. Is the 561 net passing yards to be believed? Is this a shift in the offense, or simply a Spring Game emphasis to shore up one aspect of the offensive attack?

Or this just a head-fake?

Back in the 1990s, Oregon State had Jerry Pettibone as their head coach and he installed the Wishbone Offense with the Beavers. In one of their Spring Games, OSU passed the ball for a crazy amount–like over 600 yards! I recall watching it and wondering if this was a new balance to the Oregon State offense, or even a major shift? (No Charles, that came with Dave Kragthorpe later)

Oregon Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti was asked about it at that time in a television interview and he laughed it off. “We know who they are and what they do,” was the gist of his remarks among the guffaws he was fighting back. He implied it was an attempt at a head-fake to the rest of the conference and Nick wasn’t buying it. And it turns out Nick was completely correct…

Pac-12 Video

Robby Ashford can pass, run and score the winning points!

We learned in a recent article from yours-truly that the top three teams in college football averaged 45 points over the last three years, with 2020 National Champion (LSU) and 2021 winner (Alabama) averaging 48 points per game. The lesson is that you have to pass the ball more often, (and skillfully) to score a boatload of points … because it takes that many points to win at the highest level.

Is this the beginning of Mario Cristobal‘s progression as a coach, or is he trying to pull a Jerry Pettibone on the rest of the conference? As I stated, it generates more questions from me than was answered from the Spring Game, but I must say I like so much of what I saw. What are your thoughts about the direction of the offense?

“Oh, how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo from Pac-12 Video

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I wasn’t that impressed with the running game. It still looks too reliant on the pistol. I really hope we lean on the passing game more this year but I’ll believe it when I see it. I was really impressed with the young qbs, especially Ashford. Brown looks steady and reliable but unspectacular.

At the end of the day, we’re a defensive oriented team and the D needs to make strides for us to go far next year. I thought they had trouble picking up TEs and RBs in the passing game but it’s early.


One word, talent!

Big question, qb?

Brown, he is the serviceable one who can lead the team, but will a young one rise up and take the role?

Ashford, I don’t count him out as he has the arm, mind and seems to have some magic.

Butterfield, he may be the guy with the throws and an ability we have’t seen completely.

Thompson, a freshman, can he progress fast enough to overtake all the others?

The summer and practices will give a lot of info on what will happen this fall. I think Brown is just holding the position until one of these guys takes it over, but when? Two 13’s say a lot, nobody is the #1, just a bunch of guy competing.

Bottomline the passing game is the strength of this team. Kind of amazing as the past we were a running team, but no more.

The WR’s too many to mention, but if we don’t pass more than run, we don’t reach our potential. The WR position is light years ahead of when the NFL rookie of the year was here. We have a questionable running game, but lights out potential with the ball in the air.

On defense, too much talent to get into it too. Flowe is the real deal, can’t keep him off the field. I think they rotate the talent as the D is deep! If JTT signs then the D is going to be the real deal. It still might be the strength of this team, which says a lot.

David Marsh

Another major take-away…

Only ONE penalty throughout the duration of the game. There were some instances where Cristobal changed things up by repositioning the ball. But there was really only one penalty called during the course of the game.

That is some super clean play.

David Marsh

I’m banking on Cardwell right now… Bigger back with some decent speed.

Verdell just doesn’t seem to want to dodge tacklers.

Dye is pretty good but he isn’t an every down back.


The Good:
I liked the look of the RB Smith. He looks the part.
Receivers and tight ends look really good.
Flowe looks the part at the LB position. A human missile.

The Bad:
Still turning the ball over with both interceptions and fumbles.
Still running up the gut on 4th and short.
Defense definitely was a bit rough looking in some facets, but they get the benefit of the doubt with so many starters out.

QB Situation:
Thompson looks the best when you just look at mechanics and how the ball leaves his hand. He has a helluva arm.
Brown looked the most comfortable but definitely doesn’t have a real powerful arm. A good bit of loft and wobbliness to his throws.
Butterfield had some good plays and then some real bad/weak throws. I think he transfers out.
Ashford looked real mobile and seemed to have a pretty solid arm. I still think he should stick with baseball though.
All in all I still stand by my notion that Cristobal should start Thompson over Brown and play for the future this season, but I am totally good with sticking with Brown. My hunch is we will see plenty of Thompson this season either way.

David Marsh

It’s a spring game and as such a glorified scrimmage so players will naturally push the limits and see what they can and can’t get away with which can lead to more turnovers. I remember hearing back when Mariota was at Oregon that he would turn the ball over in practice quite regularly but in games it would be rather rare.

I’m not too concerned about the turnovers at this time.

Also of note for the turnovers… The intersection was a pass thrown by Pittman in a trick play… So not a quarterback.

One fumble was caused by a bad snap and mistake by the second string offensive line that is still adapting to the college game as it was a freshman at center.

Then the only other turnover was from Brown when he bobbled the ball in the pocket. This was the worst fumble… Though I also get the sense from watching it that if this was an actual game he was of thrown himself to the ground to grab it. He was also hit by a defender which would have resulted in a sack for no contact players… So he may have just assumed the play was already dead.

Not saying these mistakes are acceptable because the coaches won’t be brushing them off… But as a fan I’m not worried about them at this time.

Jon Sousa

Interesting that there were a lot of 12 personnel and Allioti was loving it.

As to the run/pass balance. I think that QBs were told to look for the P openings more in the RPO because of only having 3 RBs available, and two of them being the starters.

I liked seeing Moorhead coaching his QBs after their at-bats. Not knowing what he was saying, it looked like he was teaching and they were giving him their full attention.


I think this is the first time in a decade(if not ever) that I can say oregon has the best wr room in the conference.

A few key points DB’s that didn’t play included starters hill, James and Wright as well as backup Bridges. I think that showed.

I honestly don’t think we can truly gain any meaningful information from the play calling as they clearly didn’t want to run much during this game.

Points that I enjoyed: hearing flowe and sewell’s name called on a play. Freshman wr’s seem legit, qb depth seems good. I thought te’s did good as well.

Things to work on: obviously DB’s didn’t play well. I thought the dline could have gotten more pressure.

Things I need to re-watch offensive line. I was mostly watching qb and wr play.

Obviously db/RB depth may prevent it but I really like it when they have a true scrimmage with a drafted team vs these o vs d scrimmage.

David Marsh

These receivers by game 6 will be an absolute terror.

I do honestly believe that Johnson and Redd will start the season but by game 6 I think Franklin and Throton and Hudson will surplant them.

Williams and Pittman are going to continue to develop and get better. Pittman had a couple drops but I’m not worried at this time.

David Marsh

The passing attack had been the biggest weakness the past few years… Even with Herbert due to the unreliable receiving corp. It looks like we have the makings of a fantastic receiving corp.

I think the emphasis on passing in the spring game was to really focus on that aspect of the game. The other side of it as well is that the running back corp is pretty banged up at the moment so there just isn’t that much depth until fall camp.

Then keeping Verdell and Dye healthy is critical so they each got a few touches but nothing crazy.

Though it does look like running backs catching passes out of the backfield is going to be featured heavily this upcoming year…. It was a significant aspect to the offense last year as well.

Does Oregon go pass heavy? I’m not sure but they need a strong passing attack to really loosen up the run game.

Also… The pistol continues to be reduced. The longer Moorhead operates the offense the less pistol we see appears to be the trend. I’m hoping that holds out through the season. The pistol is good sometimes … Not all the time.

Santa Rosa Duck

125 days until kick off vs Fresno State. Can we attend the game Governor Brown?

Lou Farnsworth

Hi Charles,

I spent from 6am to 10pm yesterday driving from Pueblo CO to Fontana CA,( my fifth such roundtrip so far in our retirement exodus from CA to CO ), and hence missed the spring game. But I gather from your article, that in it, the back up QBs seem to be serviceable enough that we can actually have a RUNNING QB this year.

That would be good news, it would dramatically open up Coach JM’s RPO playbook. We have the QBs, the receivers, ( the tight end room is looking good this year ), and RBs that cannot be ignored. Defenses shouldn’t be able to stuff the run with a stacked box. My gut tells me that we are not seeing a “head fake”, but –perhaps–( let’s nuance this eh? ) the foreshadowing of a truly balanced offense that can actually put up the numbers that would be obligatory.

But then again, you know me well sir, I am a pathological optimist! =)

Santa Rosa Duck

It seems to me that when we have all our running backs available, our offensive line has had time to gel and we have four (4) very good QB’s that we are going to have an explosive offense this year. We have a lot of top young talent and many are going to make waves early IMHO.

Take Troy Franklin for example. He went to the same high school as Santa Rosa Duck so some of my extreme talent must have rubbed off on him.


Anyone else notice the big guns on JJIII? Feld has been working with him.


Was that pulling right guard (Sagapolu?) who tipped the snap from center really quick or did the center snap it late? I think he was quick.

I think Coach MC was pulling a Pettibone fake when the first fourth down run was stuffed. I’m hoping the rest of the league thinks that we’ll always go mano y mano and run up the gut on 4th down setting them up for play action!

It was good to watch a Duck football game again!