Ducks Hang on in a Rough Ride with Fresno State

Coach Ken Woody Coach Woody's Analysis 31 Comments

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Oregon fans who were eagerly looking forward to an easy win over Fresno State in their opener, had a rude awakening at the end of the third quarter with a 21-21 tie, a defense struggling to contain the Bulldogs’ potent passing game and an offense that disappeared after putting up a two touchdown lead midway through the first quarter.

With a couple of top-ten recruiting classes on board, the Ducks did not show the physicality that is a primary focus for coach Mario Cristobal. With a big Saturday showdown in Columbus against mighty Ohio State, there is much work to be done to make that game competitive.

The Ducks came out blazing on defense, with All American Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 5) sacking and striping the ball from Bulldog quarterback Jake Haener, enabling Mase Funa (No. 47) to pick up the pigskin and return it 16 yards to the Fresno three-yard line. It took three plays to score and that was the first indication that the Ducks were not going to roll over Fresno on this day.

In the video above, Thibodeaux shows the explosive quickness that makes him a dangerous pass rusher, splitting an attempted double team and hitting the quarterback from behind. New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter espouses a philosophy stressing takeaways and this was a good start, after a disappointing lack of takeaways last year.

Above, on Fresno’s next possession, first play, linebacker Noah Sewell (No. 1) steals the ball away from the ball carrier and forces a fumble recovered by defensive tackle Keyon Ware-Hudson (No. 95) on the Bulldog 27-yard line. After three running plays and a penalty, Oregon scores and establishes a 14-0 lead after eight minutes of the first quarter. It would be nearly 21 minutes before the Ducks would score again.

In the above video, Duck quarterback Anthony Brown (No. 13) does an excellent job looking off the free safety to his left before turning back to the right and hitting Johnny Johnson III with a perfect 32-yard strike that extended Oregon’s lead to 21-6 and led fans to believe a rout was in progress. Fresno State put those thoughts to bed by marching 75 yards in 10 plays (1:09) to narrow the halftime score to 21-13.

With the Ducks needing to get their offense going, they march 60 yards on their first possession of the second half. As shown above, running back CJ Verdell (No. 7) is stopped short on fourth-and-one. The offensive line struggled to get a consistent push all day long and once again, the Ducks come up short on a crucial short-yardage situation, a reminder of similar failures over the past two seasons.

Given new life by their short yardage defense, Fresno State goes 85 yards in nine plays and scores, adding a two-point conversion to forge a 21-21 tie in the third quarter. On this play Jordan Mims (No. 7) dashes 45 yards to the Oregon 18-yard line before Steve Stephens (No. 7) knocks him out of bounds. Although allowing 130 yards rushing the Ducks chalked up 55 yards in loss to hold FSU to 75 total yards on the ground.

The Bulldogs dominated play from the second quarter to the first part of the fourth, scoring three field goals and two touchdowns on five drives to take a 24-21 lead. The drives were 12 plays-69 yards (FG); 14 plays-68 yards (FG); 10 plays-75 yards (TD); 9 plays-85 yards (TD); and 22 yards-5 plays (FG). Oregon was only able to score once during this time period.

As shown above, Anthony Brown runs the option out of the dreaded Pistol formation to perfection on this fourth-and-two play with three minutes left in the game. Brown attacks the inside shoulder of the outside defender, and then gives a head and shoulder fake to make the defender believe he’s going to pitch the ball to the following running back. With the defender off balance and leaning to the outside, Brown keeps the ball and does 32-yards of fancy open field running to score and put the Ducks, finally, ahead to stay 31-24.

Brown’s option shows that the Pistol has some firepower when complimented by the option rather than the futile line plunge by a running back who is lined up between eight and ten yards behind the line of scrimmage.

The game was much more exciting than fans, and sportswriters, expected. The defense lost Thibodeaux to an ankle injury and promptly lost intensity and momentum. The offense was erratic and showed nothing of the prodigious power and physicality previously advertised. Brown was average throwing the ball: 15-of-24, 172 yards, one touchdown; but his leadership and athletic running ability proved crucial down the stretch.

Scott Kelley

Oregon will need to do better on 4th and 1 in the ‘Shoe.

Coaches say the greatest improvement a team makes is from game one to game two. This had better be the case this next week or there is going to be a Duck disaster. Thibodeaux looks to be ok for Saturday, but it’s going to be a real challenge for the young secondary to corral All American receiver Chris Olave and freshmen quarterback CJ Stroud and running back TreyVeyon Henderson who had career days in their first game, a win over Minnesota.

After their game, the beat writer for Minnesota described the Buckeyes compared to his Gophers as following: “The speed was different. The talent level at skill positions was different. The ability to score in a blink was different. One team is built like a race car…the car is hard to contain at full throttle.”

Mario Cristobal and the Ducks have been warned.

Coach Ken Woody
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Scott Kelley

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oregon111

Per the 4th down failed run…

6 blockers vs 8 defenders and no gain – who here has seen this movie before???

Lots and lots of uncrowded field, but instead calls a run up the middle that has been failing since 2018.

Play action would have worked. An outside zone read might have worked. A fake handoff and a fly sweep would have worked.
Anything but going 6 on 8.

Another option would be to put 10 on the line and do a wild cat to either Noah or DJ Johnson.

DanLduck

One of the most interesting points I read about week 1 of college football was that most of the “upsets” and teams that looked poor against weaker opponents (like our Ducks) were against teams that played in week zero.
Fresno played UConn. UCLA played Hawaii, for 2 examples.
Maybe that’s a relevant point.

On paper tOSU has way more blue-chip talent. They’ve had top ten recruiting classes for how many years in a row?
Why do we think we can go to their house and actually win? Because of a few good recruiting classes? Seriously, are we expecting too much too soon?

This is why we play the games.
We can win. It would be an upset, but it is a possibility. That’s why we “lace ’em up” each Saturday.

I see this game as a major, and I mean MAJOR, learning experience. For the players, the coaches, for us fans.
Cristobal is learning to “headcoach”. The players are learning what it takes to win each week. Going into Columbus will help everyone see where exactly we are in measuring up to top tier talent.

We may look bad. Maybe not. But it won’t define our season. Winning the Pac12 is the goal. We gotta keep focus.

As fans we want a Natty now. Let’s be realistic. Cristobal is building a solid base. Bringing in elite talent. There is no doubt that Ty Thompson will lead us to many victories, when he gets his chance. He is part of the future. We need to keep faith and trust where this team is headed.
It’s hard when it’s not what we want now, but I strongly believe it’s headed in the right direction.

A last thought, some people learn easy, some hard. Maybe MC has to learn hard. Even Saban didn’t win right away, if I recall, Belotti beat him once at least!
This week’s game is an OOC game. Our focus should be winning the Pac12 and a major bowl, and getting a firm idea how we measure up.
Our chance in the playoffs will come.
Even with Cristobal at the helm.

30Duck

I like the approach you’re taking with this game; reading it brought my pre-game anxiety down a lot. No doubt that winning this one would be an upset; before reading your post I thought that the +14 the Ducks were getting was an optimistic gift.

But, with this new found perspective I’m going in to this game feeling like the Ducks will do their best. Who knows how good that will be against the football factory that is Ohio State? But, regardless of the outcome, the season is just starting and the 3-peat is still the goal.

30Duck

How much will having Jamal Hill & DJ James on the field help the Ducks against the Buckeyes?

DanLduck

Good question. What kind of shape are they in? How many game reps?

Jon Sousa

Thanks Woody! I always look forward to your takes.

Haywarduck

Interesting tidbit, Ryan Day is probably the top of Chip Kelly’s coaching tree. Coached for CK at Philadelphia and SF. Lives next door to CK in the offseason.

The reason we will recognize an offensive mentality like we use to have is because Ryan Day is a disciple of CK.

Ryan Day played for Chip Kelly as a record breaking qb, coached qb’s for CK and is the antithesis of Cristobals conservative play calling.

There will be two extremely tough CK tests this season, this will be the first. It will be interesting to see if we see Cristoball, or will we see Moorhead against Day?

GODUCKS15

Hmm. That makes this weeks game look even more daunting for the Ducks.

Haywarduck

Test of Cristoball, or does Cristobal give the game to Moorhead?

This is what I will be watching, does Cristobal have confidence to stay true to his instincts against an aggressive offense?

I don’t think the outcome of a prevent offense can compete against a CK offense, unless the defense creates a lot of turnovers.

30Duck

That’s saying a lot and isn’t an overstatement. At best, the Ducks don’t have an advantage in any position group, and now it’s pointed out that tOSU also has the scheming advantage.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

This is a very good observation about the connections of Ryan Day and Chip…although it is interesting how Day has done less Shotgun Spread offense than Urban Meyer did.

From an Xs and Os standpoint–it will be quite interesting to see what Coach Day does versus Oregon.

GREAT catch Haywarduck…

You will have two very good data points to see how Cristoball compares to a more wide open offense of yesteryear. One with more highly rated recruits and another against what should be, an overmatched opponent.

Can Cristobal match up against the offense he spoke highly of, but doesn’t always adhere to, or actually seldom does?

GODUCKS15

I don’t care how good FS seems to be OR has way too much talent to end up with a score like that.
If in fact osu really deserves to be ranked 3rd then the Ducks are in for a tough day at the Shoe. The Ducks will be lucky to keep it a 14 pt spread.
Too many things need to change for the Ducks to win.

toketeeman

Yes, I would NOW regard “survival” in Columbus as not losing by more than 20 points.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Boy, it is amazing how much our expectations have changed in just one week…

(Not referring to you, but what I’m reading here, my own feelings, etc.)

EzDucksit

Charles,

The last time we met them was in the 2014 NC, after we wrecked FSU by 39. They proceeded to wreck us by 22 points. I think the record between us is 0 – 9, eventually to be broken? This is the kind of game where good and great athletes will understand why recruits choose the Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson’s of the world. Chip Kelly, was a giant killer, he took the rock and toppled Goliaths and College Football took notice. Now look where we are, how soon we forget.

Drake

Love watching Thibodeaux do his thing. They double team him and he still gets into the back field like a hot knife through butter. Our linebackers deserve a much better effort from our offense.

The, The, THE ohio state university is beatable.

“The” have a very talented but also very young and inexperienced QB. What’s he like under pressure? How’s his pre snap vision and understanding? Can Coach D exploit his vulnerabilities? Kids gotta be good for at least a pick, muff, fumble.

Ducks have a QB that while not electrifying to a lot of the fan base also didn’t throw any picks and made some plays. He’s got a fumble in him too clearly.

“THE” didn’t exactly shut down the run against Minnesota. Mo Ibrahim. 30 for 163 2 TDs before the injury.

The Ducks have a shot. But it seems like it will mirror games past where stopping the run without loading the box wins this game.

The team that plays better run defense wins this game which also means The team that can’t run the ball effectively likely loses.

If Oregon stacks the box too often the play action will be tough to beat one on one.

Flowe and Sewell likely to have big days in a Duck victory. I’d Expect a hurry sack turnover and multiple TFL out of them if the Ducks are to win.

I believe the team that runs it successfully early will win this game.

I respect your football observations as you have made some very astute points in the last two weeks.

But boy do I disagree with you on a ton of points in your post. I will go into detail in my Saturday GameDay article…

Travis Dye plugged_Scott Kelley.jpg
EzDucksit

Minnesota, was its OWN worst enemy, much like Oregon. The Gophers took their time, usually more than 20 seconds of clock per play, like they had that to spare. Minnesota had a 39 minute to 21 minute time of possession edge. But it provide the defense some breathing room, time to get set and worked against the Gophers.

Down 10 to start the second half, the Gophers took more than 6 minutes to score a FG. Ohio State took 56 seconds to score a TD. Gophers score a TD in a plus 4 minute drive and where excited to be down by 7 points. Just to have Ohio State improve their TD scoring time to 52 seconds and be back up 14 points and eventually win. In the first Half, they had an 8 second possession for a TD. Being on the field for a majority of time is different if you are constantly wearing them down. But slow play allows them to catch their breaths, see your formation and adjust or rotate fresh players.

I honestly was happy we did not go with Fleck at that point. In hindsight, he was not an innovator like CK had been. He was just a rower of men when we need a speed boat captain.

Duck Phan Phil

I’m with Van Boy: we’ve got a shot. Not a dumb-and-dumber shot but a real shot. Ryan Day’s Buckeyes, like Chip’s Ducks of yore, can win with explosive plays and limited time of possession, but stuffing the run and getting 3rd and longs helps limit the explosiveness.

I agree an attacking, innovative defense—and the health of KT—could be a big factor if Stroud can be rattled into muffs/fumbles/picks.

We’ll also need to be a LOT better up front than we were in the first three quarters of FS. Another big factor:AB. If given time to throw, how will he do on the big stage? He’ll need to be more than a game manager. He needs to sling it-quick reads, accurate throws. Don’t think we’ve seen that from him.

Saturday needs to be AB’s coming out party or going away party. If the former, Ducks win; if the latter, a new era is ushered in the following week.

The glass is half full!

Santa Rosa Duck

I am sure I am in the minority but I watched the entire Fresno State vs UConn game. I think Fresno State is a tougher team than many expected. Jake Haener at QB plus his receivers and running backs and a decent O-line are going to give many teams trouble this year.

Plus this was our first game. I expect improvement and a good game Saturday starting at sunrise. Does any one know when the DUCKS travel to Columbus?

CJ

They travel tomorrow afternoon.

I too have a feeling Fresno State might be tougher than pre-season pundits gave them credit for. We will know a lot more about Fresno a week from this Saturday when they take on the Chipster and UCLA. Should know a lot more about UCLA after that as well…..or at least our chances of beating them in the Rose Bowl this season.

Haywarduck

You mentioned the turnover ratio, agree kudos to DeRuyter! The defense has a chance to keep it close, but the ball must bounce the right way.

You also highlighted the stumbling 4th and 1 yd. attempt. If this is the go to play against tosu we are hosed. I love seeing AB being able to run but he has to be successful with the pass.

We need more passes, pass completions, an increase in yards per catch and much more yards after catch if we are to be on the same field as tosu in the 4th quarter.

I like what Silverflurry said, we have them right where we want them because tosu saw nothing but an offense in first gear. We need to hit 3rd and 4th gear or their car at full throttle will throttle us.

smith72

Thanks for the videos. They are great for watching and looking at individuals especially the close ups of the line.

I was always told low man in football wins. In your first video LG Bass is destroyed. From start to finish the Fresno State lineman is lower. Poor technique from one of Oregon’s better linemen. The right side of Oregon’s line all have lower pad level.

One hopes this area improves this week!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Great point, and as we know–Ohio State will have great fundamentals. How our linemen could not be….??

cartm25

You know something is wrong when MC has managed to create an inverse relationship between recruiting class rankings and offensive production.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

OK….if I could post a GIF in here–it would be of the man clapping vigorously…

Or Larry-the-Cable-guy, because, “I don’t care who you are…that’s funny!”

silverflurry

Got Ohio State right where we want ‘em. Almost feel sorry for the bast*rds.

Steven A

Right on, I assume they will be dehydrated from salivating after watching the game live, and then game film to prepare.

Quackanadian

The Ducks just have to keep improving on both sides of the ball. I don’t think they will beat Ohio St, but I hope they are in the game in the 4th quarter and at least have a chance.

Cheers.