Cristobal: “Time to Coach ‘Em Up”

Coach Ken Woody Coach Woody's Analysis 28 Comments

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There are a lot of unknowns going into the 2021 football season for the Oregon Ducks and coach Mario Cristobal. It’s hard to tell from the spring football game so let’s look at the last serious competition, the Fiesta Bowl where tough Iowa State dominated the Pac-12 champions 34-17.

Oregon’s offense, traditionally a national force, went meekly into the night, dominated on the line of scrimmage, a huge disappointment given that Cristobal had welcomed the physical challenge presented by the Cyclones. His proud Ducks were dominated in all ways, converting 0-6 third down chances and 0-1 on fourth down which explains the meager 88 yards gained rushing over only 17 agonizing minutes of possession time. Three lost fumbles and an interception made things worse.

Conversely, the Cyclones performed more like the old-time Ducks: converting 11-of-19 third downs and 2-of-3 fourth down tries, giving up no turnovers and hogging the football for 43 minutes. Duck fans were left with a bad taste in the mouth—this game was reminiscent of previous uninspired losses to conference low-lives California and Oregon State.

So, have things turned around? Check Oregon’s massive offensive line, average sized at 6-foot-5, 318 pounds. Can they open holes for CJ Verdell and Travis Dye (neither one able to start for Alabama or Ohio State?). Is there a new comer with size and speed who will pose an inside-outside threat like Royce Freeman? If the Ducks are to hang with the country’s big boys, they need to average around 200 yards per game rushing and never fail to gain 100, which is a sure recipe for defeat.

Pac-12 Video

Anthony Brown gets his chance to run the offense in 2021.

Anthony Brown has won the starting quarterback job. He has a world-class quarterback coach and offensive coordinator in Joe Morehead. Will Cristobal let Morehead loose with play calling or hang over his shoulder, stifling the flow a good offense needs today? A persistent serious flaw has been third-down and short yardage play calling. Morehead said they would never run a play into more defenders than he had blockers, yet that was violated on more than one occasion, especially out of the Pistol formation where the running back is aligned 8-10 yards behind the line of scrimmage as the ball is snapped.

Out of the Pistol, the Ducks have made short yardage situations long yard situations for the linemen who must sustain their blocks long enough for the running back to show up from his deep position. Two years ago, losses to Auburn and Arizona State (which kept the Ducks out of the national playoff) were directly related to fourth-down short yardage tries that were stopped for loss out of the Pistol. Somewhere, I’m sure the Pistol is an effective formation, but it is not at Oregon.

A consistent offensive weakness the past three years has been field goal kicking. The Ducks were 5-of-8 last season and the stadium crowd holds its collective breath at every attempt. It would also be nice to see a kickoff guy consistently put the ball in the end zone, just like the walk on kickers from Washington State do.

Pac-12 Video

Anticipation of watching this star on defense is high going into 2021.

The defensive front seven looks solid, lead by All American Kayvon Thibodeaux. It is the secondary that needs to come together, but there is a lot of athletic talent to choose from, especially at corner. Last year’s defense lost safeties Brady Breeze and Javon Holland to the pros before the season. Those two consistently made big plays in crucial situations and were never adequately replaced.

Oregon fans are foaming at the mouth, just like every other college fan that is weary and cranky over the covid cloud that took the fun out of the game last year. This year looks better, brighter, at least at the beginning. There are a lot of unknowns for the Ducks, but the prevailing chatter has Oregon ranked from 9th to 25th nationally. This is based more on highly heralded recruiting Cristobal has chalked up the past four years than performance on the playing field.

There are whispers around the Pac-12 that the Ducks have not played “up” to the level of talent at their disposal. It’s time to “coach them up.” This is Cristobal’s challenge and one that Oregon fans can evaluate, beginning with kickoff against Fresno State, who was picked to finish fourth in the Western Division of the Mountain West Conference this Saturday.

Coach Ken Woody
Eugene, Oregon
Top Screenshot from Pac-12 Video

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I still maintain that the Oregon big men were OUT OF SHAPE all season long last year.

THAT will account for difference in 3rd down performances.

Iowa St had a full season of football and knew they were going to play. The Oregon players took the year off (mentally and physically) because they didn’t think they were playing and by the time they got the news, it was too late.

In 2020, the Ducks had a good competitive game against USC. That is the only good thing I can say about the entire season.

Time to start over and blaze a new trail.


Interesting take. Certainly accounts for the weird season.


Exactly, Coach Woody! Time for RESULTS!! Time for 5-Star Coaching of our 5-Star recruits!!! Thanks!



It’s been an awfully long wait. Too long. Last year ended on such a sour note I still have a bad taste in my mouth.

And while we are all enthused by the promise of the talent on this year’s squad, Fresno State is no cupcake. This will be a test.

I’m hoping the coaching puts all that talent in a position to win what I see as a bellwether game for the 2021 season. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life watching re-runs of the 2015 Rose Bowl game. Much as I enjoy watching Jameis Winston demonstrate his keen sense of balance and ball handling skills.


Exactly! We’ll said!👍


Hopefully the pistol will be used less frequently than the last two years. I was impressed with Illinois’ use of multiple sets with multiple alignments last week…including the pistol. THAT is how I see coach JM’s offense performing this year. The pistol does not need to be completely abandoned in my opinion. It has some valid situational uses. Just use it much less often, please.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I am biased, as I believe that when you limit a formation–it becomes easy to predict what you are going to run when you are in that formation. If you do everything out of one formation…(the Shotgun for example)

Spring Game 2021_Pac12 Video.jpg

Great point. If the opponent can guess what you are going to run, it makes it much easier to stop it.

I wish they would have run some play action on those 3rd or 4th down pistol runs between the tackles. How can it be any worse than getting stuff at the line of scrimmage?


“Time to Coach ‘Em Up” of shut up. Enough of the lets get physicality stuff. Four years and now he has his players and staff. If it ain’t this year then when? Yes it’s a young team but it’s probably overall one of the most talent loaded. I don’t think under todays circumstances that the Ducks will make the CFP though. But If MC can’t take this group to at least a 5-6 ranking and the Rose then somethings wrong.


Thanks coach Woody,

I agree with you. Ever since the Pistol been installed at Oregon it mostly have failed. Not sure why coach MC keeps beating this dead horse of a scheme. It’s plain and simple does not work at Oregon. Oregon has the right coaching staff in place and very excited about that. It’s time to leave the Pistol in the dust and move on to better suited schemes.

That is why I am very encouraged as to the coaching staff MC has put together, optimistic he is growing as a head coach. Hopefully this means he will put his complete trust allowing JM and TD have complete command of their perspective duties and not micromanage. Be the CEO he is destine/should be at Oregon. Love coach MC and what he has accomplished at Oregon. This is the next step I feel and know so many has said he needs to take.

Encouraged at this moment and time, YES. Optimistic that this coaching staff brings out the best in this team coaching up to their potential, YES. i guess because there is so much potential this team can become. I know I see through green color glasses at the moment, but as Drake said, for better or worse I do love my Ducks!! Looking forward to this season.

As far as running backs I know we do not have a back the size of a Royce Freeman or a Legarrette Blount (would be wonderful to get another back their size). But I do believe both Byron Cardwell (215 lbs) and Trey Benson (210 lbs) are going to be great running backs for Oregon. Possibly bulking up more as they mature.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I too would hope the Coach Cristobal would focus on what he is the best at:

–Be a CEO to the Assistants and let them do their job independently
–Recruiting Players and Coaches
–Building a Winning Culture
–Working his magic with the Media with his PR skills

This is the next step in his growth as a manager who is also a football coach, IMHO.

Mario Cristobal and Willie Taggart 2017 Spring_Gary Breedlove.jpg

Yep. Word. True that. And do what Mac Brown is doing at North Carolina.

When Mac Brown got there, ‘experts’ were saying that he is nothing coach who just sits on the golf cart during practice.
He knows how to get out of the way and just be the CEO of the team.

Orgeron at LSU got a new OC, let him do his job and won a national championship.

Cristobal should give up on calling 3rd or 4th and 1 dives up the middle and instead focus on bringing in top defensive line recruits.


Expectations are high and the results are in the hands of some young players in a few key positions. This is going to be a rollercoaster ride this year because mistakes are going to happen. The exciting part is just how good this team can become if our QB (and defensive backs) play well.

Cristobal, Moorehead, and DeRuyter seems to be a solid foundation to a coaching staff. Together they are going to help the Ducks win a lot of games. Can they lead us to the “ perfect season”?

Probably not this year….but they have my attention.

For better, or worse…. I am looking forward to this years rollercoaster ride.

Let’s play some ball…Go Ducks!!!

The Ducks got pushed aground and soundly beaten by Iowa state.

Talent alone isn’t meaningless but requires coaching, hard work, dedication over time and good game management

If the Ducks aren’t MUCH improved and dominant questions about MCs coaching ability will be legitimate. Each successive class looks much improved. The talent improvement seems obvious at all positions.

However Results are the ONLY thing that truly matters.

If they don’t clearly look much improved it’s either the coaching or picking the wrong recruits.

I’m optimistic, but out of excuses for losing to good teams.


How the 2022 recruiting class looks like according to ESPN rankings.
Top classesNotre Dame currently leads the way with 14 ESPN 300 commitments, which is the most of any FBS program, followed by Penn State (12), Oregon (11), AlabamaLSU and Texas (10 each), and ClemsonGeorgia and Ohio State all holding on to nine.

Oregon may have more 3* this year, but they are currently still in the top 5 for having top talent.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

We have nine of the 4/5-Star players on Rivals out of 19 verbally committed. If we get to 12 of the 4/5-Star players, then we will remain in the nation’s top ten in recruiting when February is over.

I think Oregon can now get three more, or two more and one three star gets an elevated rank at the end of the season. (Which I think will really occur)

While I’ve been critical of his offense, there is no coach who can recruit like Cristobal to Oregon. It is astounding.



On another site…it was pointed out that recent DB commit, Jahlil Florence (3-Star on Rivals) kept a 5-Star rated receiver so blanketed in his game last week, that not a single reception was allowed. Whew!

He is a strong candidate for a bump to 4-Star…. (GREAT upside analysis by the coaches!)


Very well said by all here this morning, particularly Coach Woody in the article.

It is quite literally time to put up or shut up.

We have to (with the naked eye) see clear progress this season that we have not yet seen in the past 3 years. Not saying we have to qualify for the CFP to see this progress, but it has to be obviously visible and backed up with stats such as average scoring at least pushing the 40 pts/game mark.

The cold hard reminder about the Fiesta Bowl is palpable. It communicates what I saw on the field, which was complete domination by ISU in the trenches and by their coaches strategy.

I expect by half time of the game on Saturday some of us will have a decent sense about whether we are dealing with Helton of the north or not.

If we continue to see pistol on 3rd/4th and short that will be very telling for the potential of this program.


I think you’re right about it being time to lay the cards on the table; with Iowa State behind them, and Ohio State looming, the Ducks have an opportunity to realize what Cristobal’s recruiting has given them. It’s worse to have an underperforming team with “Talent”, than it is to have a team struggle just because it doesn’t measure up to its opponents.

Darren Perkins

Thanks, Coach. The coaching down of Justin Herbert remains a bitter taste in my mouth, so very nice to see him excelling in the pros.

I remain positive going into this season, but if Cristobal coaches down the offense this year I will have lost all faith in him and don’t see him leading Oregon to the CFP, ever (in its current format).


Herbert’s best play was when Taggart was coaching. And the last few games of his college career.

Herbert missed on a lot of throws. That is on Herbert. The coach can’t throw the ball for you.

Steven A

Glad to see/read you are back. Your byline puts a smile on my face as it causes me to think back to witnessing that 3 – 0 win at uw in ’68.

I guess I just needed to see it in writing that we need Cristobal to not be the Helton of the North.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck


I told Coach Woody your story of being there in the end zone where he first missed, but due to a penalty had the chance to kick the game-winner right into the area you sat. He loved it–oh the memories!

Ken Woody below making the winning kick with Joey Harrington‘s father, John Harrington holding.

Ken Woody kicking the win at Washington_Register-Guard.jpg

I am guilty like everyone of not remembering the sobering facts about the Fiesta Bowl, and I thank you Coach Woody for reminding us. For all the talk about being physical, the results have not matched the rhetoric.

Since he went “Physical” and dumped two prior successful offenses (the Oregon Shotgun Spread and the Gulf Coast Offense) that scored high numbers of points and rushed the ball so well–our scoring and rushing offense has declined significantly.

At the end of his third year his team was truly less-physical, out-rushed and out-scored by a non-traditional bowl opponent, and we hope this year is the beginning of reversing that trend.

The questions, the drama and the fun to watch so many story-lines play out through the season is going to be great fun and Duck Discussion among us!

Thank you for your articles this season coach.

Ryan Walk and Travis Dye_Fiesta Bowl.jpg

It is time for the excuses to become reasons we win. The excuse we didn’t have time to install a new qb, new offense can now become the reason we score 40 plus points, convert on 3rd down and have explosion plays.

The idea Oregon is young becomes a reason for hope as we see new talent dominate the line of scrimmage. New talent makes the tough catch and creates after catch yardage. New talent just might come in and instill a renewed energy when mistakes are made. The young players won’t be an excuse, but the reason we see the outcomes we want.

Even though Oregon begins to dominate the line of scrimmage more, play calling will spread the field, and pick apart weaknesses of the other team. The new DC creates opportunities and helps the players flip the turnover ratio. Our OC finally breaks free of the prevent offense and excites Autzen and the fanbase with the new weapons and depth at his disposal.

The excuses from the past are no longer valid. Excuses will end, and coaching up will be the mantra. There is an opportunity to turn a new page on the Oregon Football Program. It is time for Oregon to rise up, reach it’s potential and keep rising. I can almost hear the whistle, Go Ducks!


Well said Coach Woody! Recruiting is important, but without results on the field they are meaningless empty words! It’s time to SHOW ME like they say in Missouri.

Your Fiesta bowl reference was perfect. Iowa State delivered actions and dominated Oregon!

Like all Duck fans I’m rooting for a total Duck Dominated game!


I’m glad to see you back again writing for Coach Woody. Thank you.

Your tone rings of doubt and trepidation about the offensive scheme and on-field game coaching.

You point out the position groups and game situations to watch for an elevation of game performance, but it is coming down to the coaching which has been underwhelming under Mario Cristobal.

These coaches are Coach Cristobal’s hand picked brain trust. The players are his own. There has been enough time and practice for all of the elements to gel.

The 2021 version of Ducks football takes the field in 3 days. We will begin to get answers to so many questions. I hope this story has a happy ending.

Go Ducks!