Ducks, Cristobal Answer Nagging Questions: Are the Ducks for Real?

Coach Ken Woody Coach Woody's Analysis 42 Comments

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Oregon, a 14-point (or more) underdog, confidently entered the storied Ohio State ‘Shoe that was packed with 100,489 fans hungry to see the Buckeyes earn their tenth-straight victory over what many assumed were the usual bunch of Northwest patsies who have never defeated OSU.

Head coach Mario Cristobal and the Ducks answered a lot of questions that have lurked the past two seasons: can Oregon show any kind of flair and explosion on offense and will all the great recruiting classes Cristobal and his staff have gathered the past three years finally show it on the for-real field?

The answers given were resounding: offensive coordinator Joe Morehead crafted a brilliant game plan that used every weapon the Ducks had in uniform and defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter fired up his charges when needed most to totally deflate Ohio State.

CJ Verdell had a career day, rushing for 161 yards against a Buckeye front that, based on the Ducks offensive line’s dismal performance against Fresno State, did not need to respect Cristobal’s stated goal of dominating the line of scrimmage. The Ducks rushed for an astounding 269 yards and limited OSU to 128. Usually, when these two teams rumble, those totals are turned around.

Tom Corno

CJ had tons of running room against the Buckeyes.

Oregon’s offense used inside runs to set up outside passes and the offense, for the first time in a long time, had a flow and sense of purpose that was a beautiful sight for Duck fans who have long criticized Cristobal for past methodical and boring performances.

Quarterback Anthony Brown showed he’s for real—completing 17-of-35 throws for two touchdowns and running for 65 yards, many in crucial situations. His completion percentage was not impressive: dinged by several drops by Duck receivers, who had problems last week against Fresno State. Brown looked like a true maestro directing an Oregon offense that was dynamic and steady under pressure: many of his throws were completed in critical situations.

For the game, the offensive line regained respect, grinding out 269 yards rushing, allowing no sacks, and converting four-of-four red zone opportunities and the team committed no turnovers.

The Duck defense was magnificent on fourth down, allowing only two conversions of five tries, every stop key to keeping the Buckeyes at bay on the scoreboard. Oregon was never behind in the game, and the defense was strong when needed most, regardless of field position.

In the video above, CJ Verdell (No. 7) scores the first of his three touchdowns with excellent line blocking highlighted by the crack back block of tight end DJ Johnson (No. 12). At 6-4, 273 pounds, Johnson is an outstanding blocker and receiver and an imposing physical threat to any defender who must cover him.

Verdell scored twice on this exact play and coach Morehead called it several other times in the right situations. Ohio State’s linebackers and safeties had a difficult keying the ball, often out of position to make a play on the ball carrier.

The Duck’s corner Mykael Wright (No. 2) above is caught in an embarrassing situation, looking down checking the coverage call sheet on his wrist band, as the Buckeye’s best wide receiver runs past him for the easiest touchdown he’ll ever score. The score gave some life to the 100,484 fans in the ‘Shoe and brought OSU to a tie score which was as near as they would get during this game.

This play above by freshman linebacker Noah Sewell (No. 1) shows why he’s an All American: beating OSU’s left guard to the running lane, while Kristian Williams (No. 91) gets upfield on his blocker, cutting off the cutback lane.

Sewell’s tackle is textbook: square to the runner with explosive hip action that stands up the ball carrier for no gain as the Buckeyes were threatening to tie the score before halftime.

In the above play, Verdell scores his third touchdown at the beginning of the second half. Verdell finished with three touchdowns and 161 yards, averaging eight yards per carry against a proud Ohio State defense. His rushing success also helped set up key pass completions as the game wore on as the Buckeyes were forced to honor any fake the quarterback made to him.

This is the only evidence the Ducks were able to cover OSU’s All American receiver Chris Olave(No. 5) on a fourth-and two situation deep in Oregon’s red zone. The Duck secondary had every receiver covered and was helped out by excellent pressure from the defensive front.

Adrian Jackson (No. 29) and Nate Heaukulani (No. 46) flushed the freshman quarterback CJ Stroud to scramble outside and throw across the field late in a vain attempt to connect with Olave. Duck defender DJ James (No. 0) avoids an interference penalty by not grabbing the hands of Olave and coming over the top to knock the ball down. Stroud was 35-of-54 pass attempts for 484 yards and three touchdowns while Olave caught 12 passes for 126 yards, but no scores.

Freshman tight end Moliki Motavao (No. 8) above catches his first touchdown pass, wide open in the end zone thanks to the consistent inside running of CJ Verdell. Anthony Brown fakes to Verdell, who draws the entire Ohio State defense inside.

DJ Johnson goes in motion and sneaks in front of Verdell’s plunge and, blocking the end man on the line of scrimmage, draws the two defenders who are now concerned with Brown running outside, giving Motavao plenty of open territory behind them. What makes this more effective is the tight end, who gets lost by releasing in front of the three outside defenders; everyone else was reacting to Verdell.

Ohio State pulls to within 35-28 on this scoring pass above from Stoudt to Jaxson Smith-Njgba on a clever fourth-down pass play. OSU’s right tight end picks safety Steve Stephens IV (No. 7), who is supposed to be covering the slot receiver coming across the field while the Buckeyes’ offensive line picks up an all-out blitz by the Ducks.

The pick is legal as there is no body contact with Stephens, who is forced to avoid the tight end and the Duck covering him. Stephens’ alignment at the snap was too deep for him to cover Smith-Njgba anyway. Give OSU credit for running the tight end at the back of the referee, whose position helped obscure Stephens’ vision of his receiver.

The Buckeye’s right tackle avoids the referee’s eyes with a key holding violation on a Duck pass rusher.

Another example above of the value of the Duck’s inside running success: the entire interior defense sucks in on the run fake to Verdell. Tight end DJ Johnson sneaks into the flat behind the fake to Verdell. Two defenders with outside responsibility and concerned about Brown running after the fake, are influenced by the inside fake to be out of position to defend the key completion that allowed the Ducks to run out the clock.

After a huge win that took them to the clouds, Oregon still has work to do on defense. There was no appreciable pass rush until the latter part of the game and the secondary needs to tighten up. The Ducks sorely missed five starters including All Universe Kayvon Thibodeaux who should be back in stride by conference play, or sooner, against Stony Brook, who lost to New Hampshire 27-21 in their opener and won last week 24-3 over Colgate.

Out of respect, the Ducks should not overlook the Seawolves, as they should remember what it’s like to have that attitude directed towards them. With the unrelenting intensity and discipline that Cristobal brings to the Duck program, that should not be a problem.

On the other hand, one can forgive him for feeling a little smug about all the questions he’s faced for so long before this exhilarating victory: “I told you so, just wait until you see what else Oregon can accomplish.”

Coach Ken Woody
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Tom Corno

Ken Woody coached college football as an assistant at Oregon, Washington, Utah State and Washington State and head coach at Whitman College and Washington University-St. Louis.

He conducts a weekly Duck Clinic at the 6th Street Grill on Wednesday’s at 6:00 p.m. It is free and open to the public-Learn football and why the Ducks win or lose.

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For Football Season: FishDuck Back to Seven Days a Week!

I had to shut down the daily articles on July 20th because I could no longer work the extra 3 to 12 hours per week of certain managerial/editorial duties. (beyond the usual ones with FishDuck)

I’ve had a blast writing without those duties, and now, due to a new agreement with the writers, I can announce that we will have articles seven days a week again. I wish to thank the writers publicly for their graciousness in coming to a solution, as now I still do not have do those extra duties with our agreement, and meanwhile the writers are back having fun creating articles as I am.

Everybody is happy! So below is the new schedule through football season:

Monday: Mr. FishDuck
Tuesday: Darren Perkins
Wednesday: Joshua WhittedMr. FishDuck
Thursday: Coach Eric BolesAlex Heining
Friday: David Marsh
Saturday: Mr. FishDuck (GameDay Baby!)
Sunday: Jordan Ingram

A couple of writers could not join us as they have new projects in their lives, and cannot write for anyone at the moment–but perhaps we will see them back later.

Things rarely work out so well for all parties in agreements, but this time it has and truly….everyone wins!

Our 33 rules at FishDuck can be summarized to this: 1) be polite and respectful, 2) keep it clean, and 3) no reference of any kind to politics. Easy-peasy!

FishDuck members….we got your back.  No Trolls Allowed!

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FishDuck History Article Featured in UO Alumni Publication!

You may have received an email from the UO Alumni Association containing their monthly digital newsletter SHOUT, and within it is a link right here to an article condensed from a FishDuck article in the History section of our Oregon Football Repository.

This goes out to 19,000 Oregon Alumni, and over the course of the year this publication will feature a FishDuck history article each month.

Very exciting!

FD Article in UO Shout_UO Alumni Association.jpg

Thanks for the breakdowns Coach! Watching these highlights in slow motion is such a sweet pleasure.

A couple of things I noticed that I hadn’t before:

1) AB was running stride for stride right behind Verdell on the big run. It was probably unnecessary, but shows that he’s there for the team.

2) On the controversial no-call on James in the endzone, Olave doesn’t even try to catch the ball. Watch it again in slow-mo. It’s like a soccer flop. At the first contact from DJ James, Olave goes full possum. I think if he had made an honest effort to catch the damn thing, he probably could have. And I bet if he’d made an honest effort and not made the catch, the ref might have even called a PI. One of the better no-calls I’ve seen.

Thanks again for helping us relive one of the all-time great victories in Duck history.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

“Soccer-Flop” describes it perfectly!

David Marsh

I find Anthony Brown is really in the mold of Darron Thomas. Thomas was a solid quarterback but he was oportating a system that really just required him to get the ball to play makers and let them do the work. It was also the Kelly Era and the spread offense was ripping teams apart.

Brown’s job is similar to Thomas’ … get the ball to play makers. Typically off shorter passes and let them take it the distance. It works but if push comes to shove it won’t create an elite offense.

The next level of Oregon offense is going to need one of the Freshman quarterbacks at the helm. I wonder if that happens this year… I also wonder how much of a freshman quarterback do we see this Saturday and do they impress enough to give the coaches pause about reopening that competition?


Interesting take as I have always thought AB wasn’t going to be able to win the big games for us. On this note I was thankfully wrong, the guy knows how to run an offense in a pressure cooker.

I do agree the young guns below AB will undoubtedly bring a dynamic we aren’ seeing right now. I also see Mariota was just a redshirt freshman which is what we are looking at with a couple of the qb’s. The problem with Ty is a year of watching is often invaluable.

I just don’t see AB getting replaced as Brown is actually doing an incredibly tough job, and doing it well without the big mistakes I thought he would make. Those mistakes may just be what we get with the young guys.

I just doubt a #4 program is going to switch to a freshman, and drop a senior getting it done. The safe and smart choice seems to be the choice I wasn’t calling for, AB all the way, Go Ducks.


tua tagovailoa

Interesting, because I get a Jalen Hurts vibe from AB. Cool, calm and collected, nearly to a fault. Now if only Brown had the deep ball that Hurts had.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Well, he threw a nice deep one to JJ III for a touchdown versus Fresno State. I think we’ll see more of it….


I loved seeing Ryan Walk high stepping in the end zone following Travis Dye after he paved the way for the score!
Starts at 9:16 in the video

Jeremiah Geiger

My two main concerns that id love to discuss.

  1. AB throwing the ball down the field. Can he make the downfield throws and really utilize the WR talent Oregon has?
  2. Justin Flowe’s injury. How will the LB corps play down the stretch without the 5 star talent?

More PROOF that You are UNIQUE….

My friends, the worst thing you can do when you have a website is change things in a big way. You know like…moving to a forum…then back…then supposedly shutting down….then going seven-days-a-week again. (I really am not a flake, just how life circumstances have played out with an all-volunteer/no revenue website.)

My point is…our average page views per day since September 1st is exceeding the numbers of 2020when we finished in the Top Half of 1% in the World for page views. With all the change…we were pretty low not long ago, and now with the actual football season and this community–we are back to killing-it.

Page views technically do not matter, as I do not get paid anything on them since I don’t have advertising. But it is indicative of readership, and this unique community at FishDuck.

Over 300 comments the other day…and all were great? Incredible. And something I so love is the absence of aggression in the tone of posts, the absence of tension. People are just sharing their thoughts and opinions is all…and it is easy.

Yes Noah Sewell, you are No. 1 on the field, but the FishDuck Community is No. 1 among discussion groups. (Big Announcement Coming!)

Noah Sewell_Fox Sports Video.jpg
Jay MacPherson

Ken, thank you and a good set of questions. I particularly like your inclusion of DJ’s catch!

Wow. Brown Named Davey O’Brien Award National Quarterback Of The Week

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Davey O’Brien Award announced Oregon senior Anthony Brown as its national quarterback of the week on Wednesday morning after Brown led the Ducks to a historic win at No. 3 Ohio State last Saturday.

The Pac-12’s leader in total offense through two weeks, Brown accounted for more than 300 yards of offense and two touchdowns against the Buckeyes. He finished 17-of-35 passing for 236 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 65 yards on 10 carries.

With Brown at the helm, Oregon’s offense amassed 505 yards of total offense, becoming just the second team since 2000 and first since 2012 to eclipse 500 yards of offense vs. the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium.

Brown and the Ducks – who are up to No. 4 in the AP and coaches polls – return home to Autzen Stadium this week to host Stony Brook on Saturday at 4:40 p.m. PT (Pac-12 Network).

QB ANTHONY BROWN – Dave O’Brien Award National Quarterback of the Week
» Threw for 236 yards and two TDs on 17-of-35 passing while rushing for 65 yards on 10 carries.
» 12 of his 18 completions went for first downs.
» 121 rushing yards on the year are the second-most by an Oregon QB through two starts as a Duck.
» Second Oregon QB to run for over 50 yards in their first two starts.
» Just the 10th QB since 2000 to throw for over 200 yards and rush for 50 in a game against Ohio State.
» Leads the Pac-12 in total offense through two weeks with 264.5 yards per game.

(Press Release from UO Athletics Communications)

Anthony Brown_Tom Corno.jpg

I wonder if he continues to play at that level, if he’ll receive any Heisman votes.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

OK…I’ll be the first to ask it. Are we getting “Over-Blown Love?”

You recall in all the years where we had some studs on the team, but because the record was poor–they were ignored for awards while we saw players at bigger programs getting the awards that should have gone to a Duck.

Is the reverse happening now?

Seeing Bradyn Swinson as Pac-12 Defensive player of the Week raised my eyebrow, and this National award for Brown? I thought both players played well and were instrumental in the win,…but they were that good?

But I will take it!


LaMike in 2010 comes to mind. Perhaps AB just had the best performance/game win combo last week? Either way, I’m happy to see Oregon getting more recognition, as it can only help us in recruiting.

Everyone was complaining about the “9am” kickoff, but it may be one of the reasons we’re seeing the Ducks get some recognition. And there just weren’t that many big games last week either, so we got all the eyeballs.


The Ohio State game is indeed why we watch, lose and the season is all about winning the North. But they won, and now they’re No. 4, with a much different goal for the season. The defense was huge, especially without KT and Flowe. But it gave up 600 yards & 4 TD passes to a freshman QB. But yet, the Ducks D always seemed to be in control, the Buckeyes were never able to get into a rhythm.

Meanwhile, the Ducks offense was purring; CJ’s vision was 20/20 in the Horseshoe. Brown looked like the 6 year senior, managing the game; no broken plays, 0 turnovers. Players stepped up all over, on both sides of the ball. Stony Brook is next, then Arizona, then it’s at Stanford, who, looked awful in their first game, then goes into the Coliseum, beats USC and gets Helton fired.

It’s great to have the Ducks where they are and still realize that they have so much room to get better.


Read that there was only one negative play for the Ducks’s offense in the game. One. That’s an amazing stat.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Agreed. Happy about the win, and happy about the upside. Good-or-Good!


I agree. The D had them at 3rd and long quite often. Forcing OSU to go for it on 4th down FIVE times and stopping them three times is another positive stat. The D even spotted one TD to the Buckeyes just to make things even more exciting.


One thing we used to lament game after game, that we have not seen this season, is the plague of missed tackles. No more tacklers sliding off ball carriers, or whiffing in open space; now it’s proper technique and wrapping up.


I agree completely, except for the play when the DB’s were all looking at their wristbands, the D was textbook for coverage; there were comments everywhere about Olave “flopping” trying to get a PI. It wasn’t called then, or any other time, and on the other end of the spectrum, there weren’t any plays where the Buckeyes receivers were just running free; and not only on the 4th & 1’s, the tackling was clean.

It’s being reported that the defense will be the FOCUS for Ohio State practices this week, and Day won’t comment on who will be calling the signals on defense for the Buckeyes against Tulsa this Saturday.


this! the YAC were miniscule.

i have such PTSD from those coaches-who-shall-not-be-named years that i am still surprised when the first tackler gets the stop.


The guy I think would kill it at sc, Jack Del Rio. Does anyone remember the last NFL head coach reject they hired?

I find it interesting no one is talking about the legendary sc LB coming back to lead the school to greatness. Del Rio is one of the few guys I think could excel in LA.

I hope they keep looking at most of the candidate being discussed. So far the AD Bohn has a pretty weak history of hiring the right guy.


I saw a report yesterday that Eric Bieniemy, former Colorado Buffalo, current Kansas City Chiefs OC has expressed interest in the SC job. Bieniemy has interviewed for NFL Head Coaching jobs the last couple of years.


Del Rio is an interesting choice. He’s got plenty of experience. But does he aspire to be HC in the NFL again? He’s never coached at the collegiate level. Maybe he would think it’s a step down? Just sayin’.


Interesting indeed, the best choice sc has made in a long time was convincing Pete to take a step down to the college game. Same thing for Pete, best choice was moving to sc.

I doubt they will make such a sage move again. I hope they don’t! He actually wasn’t a bad NFL coach, would seem to be the perfect fit for sc. A legend would command the much needed respect, and focus the program so badly needs.


As a fan with a learned appreciation for Aliotti, I found DeRuyter’s defense the most impressive part of the win. He contained a highly explosive offense in tosu.

He did this without pressuring the qb, which he will be able to do much better when Thibs is healthy. He also did this with LB’s who really never should have seen the field if everyone was healthy.

Winning this game without critical, elite talent was incredible to watch. I was critical of the late play call, and the receiver running by our DB, but that was one call. DeRuyter is the difference maker on this Oregon Football team.

The progression of Cristobal to CEO was impressive, but DeRuyter is a difference maker in the 2021 Oregon Football Program.

I think our defense let us down in the upsets over the past few years, I doubt that will happen with DeRuyter.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Actually…as I watched parts of the game again–Oregon did not have a lot of sacks, but we had a ton of “hurries,” where if the ball wasn’t released–the QB would have been sacked or flushed out of the pocket.

We were close a ton of times, and I think the QB felt that pressure…

I think the young Buckeye QB was also feeling the pressure of playing his first college game at the Shoe with over a hundred thousand fans. A lot of people were clamouring for us to start one of our young, highly rated QB’s instead of Brown, but I think we saw what can happen when a young, inexperienced quarterback starts feeling the pressure in a BIG game. Brown’s experience showed against the Buckeyes and in hindsight, it’s clear why the coaches chose hime to start.


I certainly hope the Ducks are for real. I think the Ducks played a very good game, but I don’t think they played a great game. There is room for improvement. I find that a good thing. We don’t want to play our best football in September, but in November, December or January. It is exciting, but we are only 2-0.

I believe the Ducks have the next two games to get healthy. I would prefer for MC and Moorehead to get the Ducks out to big leads and then bring in the backups for some reps. I was happily surprised by the O against tOSU. It appears Moorehead was running the O. If that is the new norm, I see a very bright future for the Ducks this season.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I agree, as it was a perfect scenario for a full season. We win a big game, make a bunch of plays, but have boatloads of potential upside yet. Love it!


Thank Coach Ken Woody for the great video analysis! Much appreciated!


After a win like this has a new baseline now been set? I thought this after the Utah Pac12 Championship game a few years ago as well.

So the question now becomes will this win propel the Ducks to a consistent dominating approach? Or will we see more games like the ASU (2019), Cal, OSU, ISU (2020) and Fresno State (2021)?

Football is a bit of fickle sport and even the very best teams have off days, as well as coaches. Did tOSU have a really bad day, or did the Ducks just have a better team and a better scheme overall? Did Moorhead’s chess strategy completely fool Day but others solve it without problem? Will the D continue to rely on giving up huge amounts of yards but relatively few points? Is that approach sustainable or was there a bit of luck in all the 4th down stops?

There are only a handful of teams that you really see bringing all facets of the game consistently every week. Do we have a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde situation here or will we see the needed effort from players and coaches week in and week out that we saw this past weekend?

No telling, but we will all get to witness it over the next several months. A huge part of the fun (and sometimes frustration) is trying to figure this out.

I believe we still need some more data points…….a big first one is likely to be when we travel to Stanford here in a little less than 3 weeks. They seem to have solved their QB situation with a big guy who is slinging it and possibly changing their identity this season.

No matter how this season ends I think it will be good (and cathartic) after this past weekends victory. Will we run the table and make the playoff? I still think that is an incredibly long shot, but if the Ducks bring the team and the scheme the way they did last weekend every weekend then there is a real good chance.

Consistency IS the hallmark of great teams.

Speaking of inconsistent……..anyone see Shough’s numbers versus Stephen F Austin this past weekend? 12-22 174 yds 1 TD 2 Picks and a lost fumble (3 turnovers). Look familiar? I like our chances a lot better with Brown. Coach definitely made the right call letting Shough know the situation coming into this year.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I did see those Texas Tech numbers as they struggled to beat a much smaller team.

In many respects, this win over Ohio State is just the beginning of the path of this team and Cristobal growing, as yes, there are many questions yet.

–Can Cristobal get the team ready to play and beat all the teams they should?
–Can the defense do better than giving up over 600 yards and 28 points?
–Can the offense improve its scoring average in order to someday challenge Alabama?

This is why we watch!

Team Celebration after Ohio State win_247 Sports.jpg

Great point and Braxton Burmeister still playing well for the #15 Hokies. Student athletes, such as Shough, need patience, as do programs to allow their talent to grow into starters.

Hopefully we see some action for the young guns this weekend. Cristobal seems to have made the prudent decision with Brown, stellar game against tosu. I can’t imagine Shough or any of the young guys handling a game in the shoe like AB did.


When Bryan Bennett used to come in as QB, I always felt he ran WAY too often. He was a great strong, straight ahead runner. But it created a one dimensional offense. I was concerned Brown might run too often, as well,
this year . But I felt like he did a great job of decision making Saturday.

Side note…Anyone else feel like Spencer Webb is an 8 year Sr? I didn’t realize he was still on the team. SMH. So glad!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

That COVID year is going to do that with a ton of players!

Remember…Cam McCormick is technically a SOPHOMORE in eligibility status. He could still play another two years!

It really is a sad situation with Cam McCormick…just plagued by injuries. I believe he is working on his master’s degree right now and could continue playing, but at 23 you have to wonder when he will call football quits and began the next phase of his life


really sad situation


Great read! So many good plays, on both sides of the ball. But too many bad ones as well. All I see is improvement though. Let’s hope it continues.

Go Ducks!