The Ducks Are Playing With Fire

Darren Perkins Editorials 131 Comments

Yes, a win is a win. But the way the Ducks have played in three of their first four games has left many Oregon fans puzzled. It is a frustration based on knowing the talent of this Oregon team and the way they handled Ohio State, and watching the sloppy and inconsistent play against three far lesser opponents.

Five Thoughts After the Arizona Game:

1) The way Oregon played on Saturday, I’m sure at least half the Pac-12 would have beaten the Ducks. The Wildcats moved the ball at will against a soft Oregon defense and were only stopped when their young quarterback made awful throws. Other than that, Arizona, a loser of 15 straight coming into the game, looked great.

2) For me, the “Oh no, this is going to be a long game” moment came on the Ducks’ second possession, after Bennett Williams’ first interception. The Ducks got it to first and goal at the Arizona five-yard line but could not punch it in. After a third-down Anthony Brown run for no gain forced the Ducks to kick a field goal, the tone of underachievement was set for the Ducks.

3) It is confounding how the offensive and defensive line play looked so great against the Buckeyes in Columbus but looked bad to average against the likes of Fresno State, Stony Brook, and Arizona. Aren’t the trenches Mario’s baby? Time to toughen up.

Craig Strobeck

Anthony Brown is running the ball too much.

4a) While some had a problem with Mario Cristobal chewing out Kris Hutson on the sideline for his showboating, I, for one, was completely okay with it.

4b) What I did not like were the three throws by Ty Thompson at the end of the game. Sure, he needs some reps, but those were the most meaningless reps he will ever take. Just take a knee and call it a game.

5) Brown is a beat-up quarterback with a history of injuries, so you would think that the Oregon coaching staff would try to protect him. It would only seem to make sense. But nope, to hell with it. Instead of handing the ball to our highly talented running backs, let’s have Brown lead the team in carries (Brown had 12, Verdell 11, Dye 5).

At this pace, Brown is not going to make it through the season. I was having flashbacks to 2017 when Willie Taggart tried to turn Justin Herbert into Earl Campbell, which led to Herbert getting hurt and missing five games. While this year’s team has much more talent backing up its starting quarterback, trotting out an inexperienced freshman to take on the meat of the Pac-12 schedule is probably not in Oregon’s best interest.

Craig Strobeck

First down for the Ducks.

In Summary

Every team that runs that table usually has one or two less-than-stellar performances that they have to overcome. So far, the Ducks have had three, and we’re only four weeks into the season. Fortunately, two of these opponents were so over-matched that the Ducks ended up winning by a large margin, while they squeaked by the other.

No team has run the Pac-12 table since the Ducks did in 2010. It is very difficult to do, and the Ducks are toying with disaster. For the Pac-12 — to borrow from The Rolling Stones – is singing out, “Don’t play with me ’cause you’re playing with fire …

And the Ducks are in danger of getting seriously burned.

Darren Perkins
Spokane, WA
Top photo credit: Craig Strobeck

Andrew Mueller, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.

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My Goodness this is FUN!

So many epic comments in the last couple of days, and so many people posting that…well, it has been a while and it is GREAT to see them back along with so many new members.

A BIG thanks for all of you for creating the Reading/Paragraph spaces after every three sentences to make it easier on older-eyes that some of us have.

And Darren…your title really nailed it. Fun read, as it really feels like football season with our articles and the all the superb discussion.

Cheers to you ALL!

Fans at Tailgate_Pac12 Video.jpg
Jeremiah Geiger

Im gonna be at the Stanford game on Saturday, first Ducks game ever!! SCO DUCKS

Jon Joseph

IT’S ALL ON YOU! Bring back a Victory!


hear me out—i don’t know the stats offhand, but i know we aren’t giving up a lot of explosive plays. what if the “soft” defense we’re seeing limits explosive plays and increases the odds of turnovers? if so, are you ok trading bad stats for high turnovers and low scoring defense?


are you ok trading bad stats for high turnovers and low scoring defense?”

Yes and No. At some point, the INTs will slow down and the opposition will be scoring more TDs. Oregon is getting those turnovers from bad throws – a top QB won’t make those errant throws.

Even when Oregon gets a turnover and stops them, they are controlling the ball and keeping Oregon’s offense off the field. Look at the 3rd Qtr last game.

Bottom Line: Oregon needs to get more stops on 3rd and 4th down. Then the yards won’t matter quite so much.

Mike West

Agree that we need more stops on “conversion downs”, but I’m going with the bend don’t break philosophy..

Killing explosive plays matter. Didn’t we end up forcing a top notch QB into throwing an INT?

I don’t like the optics either. But I expected them this year.

The only thing different than in previous years with MC as head coach is we beat a Blue Blood team in their house doing what we always do: produce far too much drama in the process.

I’ll take 12 more ugly wins if it comes to that.


I just watched the Moorhead PC after the Zona game. WOW I am very disappointed –he seems very much like he’s not really into the team for the lack of a better term. Its on You Tube for those interested. He doesn’t seem very up(high) on things–just my opinion.

I also noticed that both Moorhead and Cristobal have problems addressing specific performance issues /questions from the reporters. Shades of Helfrich to me.
After listening to both of these guys I have less confidence than I’ve had in a long time about where My Ducks are headed and I sure hope the Stanford game will give us all some answers.


That’s why I don’t pay much attention to interviews. Chip Kelly was the worst when it came to answering questions. Mario at least gives hints as to what is really going on.

Moorhead got fired from an SEC job – this gig is a demotion for him.

Jon Joseph

And is he meshing with Mario?


That is kind what am talking about. He seemed like he’s just a rower of the boat.


Chip had a bit of arrogance which gave me a bit more confidence in the team.


I really do miss the time when the Pac 12 Championship and Rose Bowl or New Years Six Bowl Meant something. While I do understand the criticism, I do not share the belief that a one or two loss team composed of about 60% freshmen should be considered a dumpster fire. Remember, but for the Covid shortened season, we would have Penei Sewell protecting Brown’s blind side. Also, Holland. Graham and Breeze still roving the secondary. I would say give it two years and our beloved Ducks will be making a legitimate run for the National Title.


Couldn’t agree more, Darren! If thats the no. 3 team in the country…….college football’s in sad shape! Still waiting for a Cristobal team to show a dominating offense……hope we can see it soon!


Pls Let me re-phrase that for you…

Clearly this team can play SOME outstanding football every game. But why can’t Oregon play outstanding for all 4 qtrs against inferior teams?

Jon Joseph

To date, because Clemson is ranked and Texas is not, the Ducks is the only team with 2 wins vs top top 25.

Mike West

Great article Darren (as usual).

A couple of things come to mind:. (1) This time I agree that running Brown isn’t wise (I still disagree about Herbert-as the only time he faced the prospect of injury was that case because HE LUNGED FOR THE END ZONE instead of his usual ability to avoid contact-you can count the number of times tacklers hit JH in college on one hand including the time he got injured).

(2) How do you like Taggart’s offense at Oregon now? It STILL has outscored every offense Cristobal has run as HC. And that includes 5 games without Herbert.

I don’t know what the cure to the lack of killer instinct the team has had since Chip moved on. The players spend more time showboating than putting teams out of their misery. It will eventually result in a loss (or two).

Win The Day (Fast Hard Finish) is the best sports theme ever. It speaks to all that matters if one is to win a title(at any level).

By the way; the only PAC12 team that can run the table (including the Title game) is Pete Carroll’s USC squad. Only Nick Saban and Bama has matched the ensemble of talent, coaching and performance those Trojans pulled off for so long.

We should feel fortunate. After all, Cristobal has put us in position for a playoff run twice now. I’d rather angst over trying to be perfect than hoping we’ll ever have a shot. Are you paying attention Husky fans?


killer instinct?

I don’t think the problem is the players. I think it is the play calling and scheme. Need a deep throw every so often. Need a blitz once in a while. Need to be not so predictable on offense and defense.

Considering that last year was a throwaway year, the team has 2 new coordinators and I think they are just trying to install their base, vanilla schemes without applying any extra pressure on the opponent.

But of course, Taggart and Leavitt were brand spanking new in 2017 – and they got it done, until Herbert went down. They also did it with far less talent than the team has right now.

Mike West

Think of our one and only undefeated Duck team.

THAT TEAM WAS FIERCE. They were physical, intimidating, and took no prisoners.

That team is the standard.

We will never see a title until teams play like that team.

Jon Joseph

So spot on and so good to have your comment.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck


So great to have you posting, as this discussion is always better when you are here. And you are right; I would rather be frustrated at 4-0 versus so many of the alternatives!

Jon Joseph

And Pete did that in the Pac-12 before the conference had divisions.


Here are some “IFs”…

IF KT gets healthy and plays like his old self,
IF Funa starts playing like a borderline 5 star,
IF Keith Brown learns his position,
IF Moorhead can scheme/play call the receivers to get open, (Brown doesn’t miss open receivers – lets give him credit for that)
IF the freshmen RBs can start playing and break some tackles (or Dollars comes back)

THEN, the team will be a whole lot better and get much closer to their potential

In addition to this, I think the ‘lesser’ teams are out-scheming the Ducks in the middle of games. Then the Ducks make final adjustments, and finish strong.

The two “players” that I want to see “step up” are both of the coordinators. They did great vs Ohio St and not so good the other games so far.

As fans, we have a tendency to put it all on the head coach. For example, Brady Hoke sucked, but we all blamed the 2016 season on Helfrich.

This team has huge potential. Problem is they only reach it in short little spurts.


well, helfrich picked hoke. the minute hoke’s name was mentioned as a candidate i was disappointed—even moreso when helfrich picked him. if i knew it, helfrich should have too. it was all his fault.

Jon Joseph

Do you see great half time adjustments on either side of the ball? I don’t.

Brady Hokes SDS team deserves to be in the top 25.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

A very astute observation about the 2016 season, because in that year–Helfrich (with RS Freshmen Offensive Linemen) scored more points than the three year average of Cristobal. But it was the defense and Hoke that destroyed us.

Yet Helfrich refused to make a change…


In light of the article, podcast link Ducks confidential on the team’s performance. Some good discussion and thoughts on our defensive side:


David Marsh

I’m not sure all of Brown’s runs were by design. I have noticed in the past Brown gets antsy and starts to run rather than looking to pass. His instinct is to take the ball and run with it rather than get his eyes up to extend the play and pass it down field. If he had his eyes up he would have found some plays for the taking. Receivers were running open or mostly open and he just needed to get the ball to them.


That is what Shough was doing last year. It is fine when the QB runs for a first down, but not good for only a two yard gain. I had thought that Brown would start improving after the Ohio St game. Maybe he just has a very low ceiling?


MC even mentioned in an interview that AB misread a couple downs and should have passed.

as someone who is risk averse, i identify w AB, but it certainly seems like his desire to not have a negative play makes him use the run as a crutch.

and to be totally candid, when i first saw how much he was running, i assumed that the coaches must not be all that concerned about keeping him healthy b/c they have decent backups (unlike past years).

he reminds me of Prukop.


After the Arizona game, Coach Mario said “We typically get what we emphasize and we have been emphasizing starting fast and we have been starting faster. We have been emphasizing the fourth quarter and we have gotten better there. “

As long as the team is winning while improving,—and doing what they are emphasizing—do we second guess all the details?

I hope the game plan to beat Stanford works, but expect it will be we questioned either way.

Jon Joseph

Yet like it did in the Rose Bowl win and at Ohio State the team started fast against Arizona.

Then it seems like the energy disappears?

I don’t get it?


If Coach believes this young team will win with an emphasis on a fast start and a strong finish, and wins are the result, why are we questioning him?

As much as I want to see touchdowns on every Duck possession, and negative yards on every opponent’s play, I accept that talented younger players need time to grow.

This team could be scary good in the next couple years.


Winning ugly only lasts so long. At some point we need an offensive effort that can overcome a bad day on defense. Next two games on the road will tell us if we are ranked too high.


They won ugly last year vs UCLA and were 3-0, then the bottom fell out. Oklahoma is winning ugly and getting lucky. Clemson already dropped two.

Jon Joseph

OT – Anxious about no expansion?

I get that the Pac-12 has decided for the time being to stand pat on the expansion front. I get the idea of The Alliance.

But if not now for expansion, will it be too late?

BYU for multiple reasons was never in the mix. Cincinnati and UCF are much too far afield.

But with the Pac-12 as is, certain to maintain P5 or P4 status, why not invite Houston, a Tier 1 Research University, before it joins the B 12?

The Houston media market is huge.

Sonny Dykes is lighting it up at SMU. SMU today is a ‘religious oriented’ school in name only. And the Dallas media market is also huge.

Both schools have new stadiums that are bigger than a number of those in the Pac-12.

I would also invite, although I believe both asked to be invited, OK ST and TX Tech. Not AAU member universities; however, when the Pac-12 was considering expansion, GK said that AAU membership would not be a deal killer.

You want to balance 2 non-AAU schools joining, invite Kansas and Iowa State instead of OK ST and TT.

Houston and SMU get the conference into the top media markets in Texas. Add these 2 and 2 of the other 4 mentioned above and you are at 16 teams.

You leave no existing Pac-12 member behind!

Or, go really large and add all 6?

6 or 8, limit non-football travel by having Mtn Time Zone CU and Utah, and one or both of half-of-the-year Mtn Time Zone AZ/ASU, in the East Division.

The B12 is not in The Alliance. The Pac-12 owes nothing to the B12.

Would adding these 4/6 immediately pencil out? Probably not.

But I believe that Houston and SMU would help, not hurt, the new media deal coming in 2024.

And I am certain that expansion along these lines would add new and much needed subscribers to the Pac-12 Network.

I think that adding Houston, SMU, Texas Tech and OK ST would bring in a significant # of new subscribers?

And I think with these 4 added to the conference, FOX might be willing to take over ownership and operation of the network?

None of the 3 proposed Texas schools and OK ST would come in as Pac-12 bottom feeders in CFB or CBB.

I also believe that unless the Pac-12 acts now, all viable expansion candidates may have set sail?

I’m more focused on Saturday down on The Farm. But I don’t want the Pac-12 in the long run being left further behind the B1G/SEC.

If the Pac-12 does not move east into the Central time zone where else can it go?


I also agree that the “alliance” is probably the better way going forward assuming that good match-ups continue between the conferences.

Just a small counterpoint for argument’s sake: yes adding schools like Houston or Texas Tech probably wouldn’t add much of anything in terms of competitiveness/viewership however coming with that would be games every other year in Texas would be hugely beneficial for recruiting. Imagine how much easier it would be for Coach Mario to pull bluechips from Texas if he knew he’d be there at least every other year.

Jon Joseph

Great points. But I an almost certain that adding 3 TX teams, especially two in lucrative Houston and Dallas markets, would.. bring more subscribers to the Pac-12 Network than would a home and home vs Wake Forest

Jon Joseph

But where else do you go for big time media markets?

Houston has produced a Heisman winner. Mahomes came out of TX Tech. OK ST games had more viewers in 2929 than did 2 Pac-12 games.

I so respect your comment. But under The Alliance, how often will Oregon play Clemson? Will Syracuse at Oregon draw a huge amount of eyeballs?

1 game a year vs ACC + B1G teams is not going to drop that much $ to the bottom line.


I have a question for this group of Duck faithful.
Would you rather have the Ducks make the playoffs this year, and lose in the first round? Or, win the Pac12 and win the Rosebowl?

I would really like to read your thoughts on this. Thanks.


My opinion is that the playoffs would be better. It would enhance the message of building a championship team for recruiting.

Jon Joseph


Unfortunately today making the PO is what it’s all about, recruiting and otherwise.

The Pac-12 has a new media deal(s) on the horizon and desperately needs a player in the playoff.

Sad to say but the Rose Bowl this season is a consolation game.


This is a tough one for me. It really depends on if we can compete.

If we went to the playoffs and lost by 24 or more I think it could have adverse affects.

Jon Joseph

My friend, I respectfully disagree. Even a tough loss to say Alabama in the PO is better these days than a close win in the Rose Bowl.

I don’t like it but it is what it is.

Being in the Final 4 these days is what matters. Close to a solid month of recruiting pub.

And if the team that played in Columbus showed up, I don’t see a blow out L.


Well I dont see this team making either the way we played against Arizona.

Maybe the Stanford game will tell us something.


Yeah, it’s the Playoffs, especially with how this season has started.


I see the topside of this team, right now, as winning the Pac12 and then win the Rose Bowl.

We aren’t ready to play the big boys with the leadership we have on the field right now.

It’s almost like an Ernie Kent team which needs an amazing point guard to lead the play of the game. Right now we don’t have anyone leading this team like that, on offense at least.


Play offs all the way. That would really enforce the process that the players are buying into. Better to have tried and failed than never tried.

Jon Sousa

How about Ducks to the playoffs, Beavers to the Rose???


PLAYOFFS!!! How can you even ask that question? The Rosebowl is now just an exhibition game – it is the playoffs or nothing

Jon Joseph





Playoff. It’s the next logical step after winning two straight Pac12 championships and the Rose Bowl. Even if it’s a loss, making it to the CFP is huge exposure for media rights and recruiting.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

The Playoff is the next step, but I will state up-front….if we get to the Playoff–we will have a “learning experience” and Cristobal will see what I’m referring to.

But making it would be incredible with this team, IMHO.


Playoff for sure. Were not making the playoff unless we win the pac12.


Would we be talking like this if we had lost at tOSU?
After only 4 games does anyone really think the polls have much value?

It’s early still. We will improve on D when Swinson and KT get back and the LB are not true freshman. DeRuyter can’t call his more elaborate schemes if he ain’t got the experience.

My biggest concern about the AZ game was the O-line. They didn’t get low, had little to no push, a truly unacceptable performance.
I expect to see big improvement from them this week.

I think having such a high ranking so early does not help this young team. Youth needs to play hungry. I hope they bring their appetites Saturday!


Beating tOSU was certainly of value to Oregon. Lose and the Pac-12 remains, “After Dark” to the majority of the country. We can question if Oregon would beat Arkansas, but they don’t have to for now.


I just have a feeling we’re going to see two different teams all season. That’s a sign of poor coaching. Is it a lack of player control or a lack of coach respect? I saw 100% respect when Mc was chewing butt last Sat. But that shouldn’t be necessary. Coaches can only do so much with young ego’s.

Like they say you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

Not to bash the whole team or all the coaches because no doubt most are on board with the process. But you need 100% on board to be successful. When is that going to happen? Heck maybe this will be a season of winning frustration. Ducks win all but 1-2 games but look erratic winning or losing. There’s always next year.


Sir Charles…Game Day title suggestion…

Balling Out or Bawling Out

…too soon? 😉

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

OK….now that is funny!

Jon Joseph


After Week 4, would the below ranking be out of line?

1 Alabama
2 Georgia
3 Arkansas
4 Florida
5 Mississippi

The only reason Arkansas does not have 2 top 25 wins is because, in their wisdom, the Coaches and AP voters have 2-2 Clemson ranked and not 3-1 Texas.

Arkansas destroyed a good Texas team. A Texas team that IMO, has played, sans the Arkansas debacle, the best football in the B12.

Georgia 63 – Vandy 0. This was vs a Vandy team that effectively ran the ball and played decent D against Stanford.

Florida took Bama to the wire. A missed extra point and failed 2 point conversion from taking the Tide into OT.

Ole Miss is not just lighting it up on O in 2021, in Kiffin’s 2nd season, the D has significantly improved

On a neutral field today would Oregon be favored against any of these 5 teams?

Bama plays Ole Miss Saturday. UGA plays Arkansas. UF plays at a more-than-decent Kentucky.

Compared to the Pac-12 ‘grind?’ Is there really any comparison?


By posing the questions Jon, you’ve answered them.



And Oregon played poorly against a team which lost to Northern Arizona. Northern Arizona lost to The mighty Northern Colorado Bears, who lost to Lamar, who lost to Abilene Christian 56-0. Abilene Christian does have a solid win over Permian Basin.

Stoney Brook is 1-3 with a win against Colgate. Colgate is 1-3 with their only win against Lehigh. Stoney Brook also lost to Fordham with a comparable score to Oregon’s win. Fordham is 1-3 with a loss against the Monmouth Hawks.

One doesn’t have to go too far into Oregon’s recent wins to understand we are playing under our abilities. We have to get our trajectory going up again, or we are in for a tough few losses.

This is why I could see a loss this weekend as a good wake up call. Oregon needs to start playing like they are a #3 ranked team, because they haven’t been, recently.

Jon Joseph

Great take.

Anther year, another time, 2019. But as I recall the L at ASU did not lead to a dramatic difference in play vs Oregon State?

The Ducks won the game vs OR ST but certainly not in impressive fashion.

When in the national spotlight, the Ducks did ball out vs Utah in the champ game.

It seems to be player self motivation or no motivation?



Great contrast, these student athletes play well against teams they can get up for. They weren’t inspired against Iowa State, but the big names get our highly rated Ducks fired up. I would say big names, not just big bowl games get their juices flowing.

Will the name of Stanford get these players playing inspired football, history would indicate it will be at least close.

This is my latest hypothesis, but not sure, yet, if it is valid. This hypothesis would indicate we lose one, maybe a couple through the Pac-12 play. Top expectation would be win the Pac-12 and the Rose bowl, at best.

Mario Cristobal’s Ducks bio so far, win, compete hard against big names, coast through the other games.

Mike West

I’d say both. One rarely sees Bama “downgear”. Saban chews his team out when they do (much like that refreshing display we saw out of MC last Saturday).

Granted, we don’t have Bama’s depth ( I think THAT would cure the entitlement mentality we’ve seen since Chip left).

This team lacks the will to kill. I see it in Sewell, I see it in Flowe. But it isn’t contagious. It’s more like a Miss America Pageant to me. These guys want to be pretty.

Mike West

I actually believe Georgia would beat Bama if they played this week.

Arkansas comes to earth this week. But they are a very good team. If their QB was accurate more often, I’d say they also could beat Bama.

In hate to say it, but your top four ARE the best in the country at present.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Say it isn’t SO!


I agree Saban is great. Alabama is the program to model. But 2019 wasn’t that long ago and even they didn’t fair too well for being THE team to beat. 2 losses out of 3 against ranked teams got them to the Citrus. My point is merely that even Alabama can’t always live up to Alabama. It’s a very high standard. Everyone strives to be perfect. That is the goal, but I want to have proper expectations. I believe the coaching staff are going to get this smart, highly skilled group of many ducklings on track. But it’s going to take more in-game reps.

If MC is correct about Stanford’s O, Saturday could be a disaster on national TV. Let’s hope the Ducks get hyped for them even more than they did for the Buckeyes and their level of play does not diminish moving forward.

Go Ducks


If you call a dull game, the players play a dull game. It is time for Cristobal and Moorhead to turn the weapons loose.

Saban was talking with the Manning brothers last night during the game. He said two things which were important in football right now. Number one was a hurry up offense. The other was the qb, critical in the way the game is played.

When he mentioned the hurry up offense an example came up right away. The defense was caught out of position and an easy score happened. All we have seen is our defense unprepared against tosu, and fortunately we were able to move past that one.

Oregon needs to hurry it up and catch teams off guard. This seldom happens and needs to change. This excites a team and you see effort and emotion, rather than the passivity we seem to see too often.

The other item he spoke of was the qb. He said Bama use to have game managers, and recently have had dynamic qb’s. We need the same, we can no longer just have a game manager.

I am afraid our game manager isn’t going to be able to manage the game effectively any longer. Teams are figuring out his system. When this happens, qb’s struggle, and AB’s struggles are just beginning. It is time to see a passing game, we have the weapons, we just need somebody who can distribute the ball.

We are leaning on our college football leading turnover margin. It is time to lean on the talent waiting for our qb to share the ball with.

If our RB’s don’t get the ball more than the qb, and our receivers don’t become more of a downfield threat, the season is going to turnover to something uglier than we are seeing up to this point.

Maybe we need a loss at Stanford and then a bye week to get it together for the rest of the schedule. Right now the offense isn’t going to get it done against teams scheming against the obvious play calling. Our defense, and the team, can’t keep betting on the massive turnover margin we have so far. I am afraid the day of reckoning may be coming this weekend or soon, and it might be the best thing for this team.

Jon Joseph

Great take.

At 4-0, Oregon reminds me of another 4-0 team, Michigan. Although, Michigan has yet to trail in its first 4 games.

The Michigan QB, McNamara (from CA) is adequate, at best. He misses open receivers and often makes the wrong decision as to the right guy to throw the ball to. He is an adequate runner but is not shifty and is not all that fast.

One difference? The Michigan OL has showed up for every game. The OL hasn’t been great but it has been consistent. Thus, the Michigan run game has carried the team on O.

Another difference? The Michigan D is slower than Oregon’s but they are playing together and arrive in bunches to attack the ball carrier.

The Michigan DL has played to its potential in every game.

As to Nick Saban? An ‘old school’ coach who has evolved on both sides of the ball. Who understands that in today’s game you are not going to play in a lot of low scoring, D dictated games.

That you have to put up points and you need a QB who, as you so well noted, is more than a game manager.

My only disagreement with your take my friend? The team doesn’t need an L at Stanford to wake up. The team was woke in Columbus. No reason it shouldn’t be woke on The Farm.

Besides, I have to cover -8!


Oregon’s record against other Pac-12 teams is pretty good. Our worst winning percentage historically against a Pac-12 team is pretty easy to guess, the spoiled children, we win 37% of the time. The next team we struggle with is at a 41% win rate, any guesses on which team it is?

The third most difficult team is UCLA at a 43% win rate. History is a funny thing when you consider the should of, could of and would of’s of football games.

For some reason I never feel confident when we play the trees, I suppose history tells us why.

Jon Joseph

Great stats, Thank you.


I agree with your first paragraph, especially!

Escalante, the teacher who’s life inspired the movie, Stand and Deliver, believed people ( students) will rise to the level of what is expected of them.

Don’t bend and don’t break. Let the horses run. Put some Oregon Huckleberries on that Tillamook Vanilla Bean ice cream, baby!


Wasn’t it Nick Saban who was whining and crying about the hurry up offense a few years back when Chip and Oregon were running it to perfection? I guess now that they do it too it’s ok?

Jon Joseph

He complained. Evolved. And changed.

What great leaders do in every endeavor.


Excellent point! “Call a dull game, the players play a dull game.”
I couldn’t say it any better. Thanks Haywarduck!


Excellent article Darren. You put into words all my frustrations.

I get rope-a-dope; but Muhammad Ali took a lot of damage from all those heavy blows. We are having more injuries this season than I can ever recall. My preference is to have a big playbook and give defensive coordinators too much to think about.

I agree with the earlier comment from CJ “lack of respect for the opponent which is breeding overconfidence. This results in a lackadaisical effort…”. I would add that playing vanilla offense and defense leads to overconfident players resulting in lackadaisical effort.


Yeah, it makes sense that running boring simple plays would take some of the luster out of the game. Vanilla is boring after all.

Jon Joseph

‘I can’t go no satisfaction …’

I think the pattern is clear. Under Mario, buckle up, it’s going to be a turbulent ride.

No matter the quality, or lack thereof, of the opposition, we are going to see games go into the 4th quarter. We are going to be watching a bunch of one score differential games.

I know the team is young, I get that. What I don’t get is how the Ducks can come out so fired up vs USC in last season’s Pac-12 Champ game, come out on fire at Ohio State as a 2 TD underdog, and show up so flat, disoriented and seemingly disinterested against teams the Ducks should destroy?

It seems from the HC on down to the 3rd string guys, that Oregon cannot play to quality of its roster, unless the Ducks is facing a big time opponent in a big time game.

I don’t understand? I asked a far more CFB savvy guy than I, Coach Boles, if he had an explanation for this inconsistency? He could not put his finger on it.

Probably to the point of ad nauseum, I again point out that Coach Saban and Alabama have won 100 consecutive games against unranked opponents.

Last week vs an inferior opponent, Bama put up 63 points. The Bama D allowed 7 points.

It took Nick Saban one season of stumbling around to right the Bama ship; a ship that had been floundering for years before he showed up.

It took Nick Saban a season of having big guys on D who could smash you in the mouth but could not run sideline to sideline, to realize that this was not the type of player, at least in the back 7/8, that could combat fast paced, hurry up Os.

Saban complained, but he changed.

It took Nick Saban a few years to ‘modernize’ his O. To recognize that to win in today’s CFB, you have to be able to pile on points.

Saban complained, but he changed.

He brought in Lane Kiffin to run the O. Without abandoning the run game, Bama went to mobile QBs and schemed to get the skill players on the outside involved.

If an amateur such as I can see this, how can a guy who coached under Nick not see it?

It’s so puzzling. What is this team’s identity? I have no clue?

If the idea is to smash mouth the opponent and wear him down, why would you run a QB, who is not the 2nd coming of Lamar Jackson, more often than 2 excellent, experienced RBs?

I am not seeing the O that Joe Moorhead ran at Penn State. JM the QB whisperer? 2 years in a row we have seen the Ducks QB regress as the season progressed.

Why in game 4 is the D so out of synch? Individuals are making great plays, but collectively?

And most puzzling to me? How can the OL, Mario’s baby, be so inconsistent? How can the OL be so undisciplined to commit false start after false start?

I have no idea what the Ducks practices are like under Mario? But something is obviously wrong.

Make no mistake, I want Mario to succeed and be at Oregon for decades. I think he is a fine person. A top drawer and at the same time, ethical recruiter.

But for some reason(s) or another, the quality of the Oregon recruits is not showing up on the field. The players almost always play down to the level of the competition.

Playing down to the competition has nothing to do with youth, it has to do with want-to and attitude.

The roster is young. But what have we seen to make us believe that these talented young guys will be coached up?

Jon Joseph

FWIW, last rant from this old timer.

I can’t complain about the team doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and do the same when commenting on FD.

Mario will ‘get it’ or he won’t. The team, young or not, injured or not, will play to its potential or it won’t.

The team is 4-0. A rocky 4-0, but 4-0.

My dream? On 11/27, a 10-1 Beavers team, ranked in top 10, comes into Autzen to play the #2 or #3 ranked, 11-0 Ducks for the North title.

Ducks win a great, close “Civil War” game. Then, the Ducks win the conference champ game in Las Vegas and advance to the Playoff.

May not win the semi-final PO game in Miami or Dallas? But Oregon puts up one heck of a fight vs a higher ranked opponent.

A big ask? Yes.

But one that at least on paper after 25% of the season has happened, could happen?


Jon Sousa

A big ask? Yes.”

I like your big ask. How about after that close win against the Beavs, playing a 2 or 3 loss South champ for the trip to the Playoffs, sending the Beavers to the Rose Bowl???

Jon Joseph

SWEET! We need the dues,

Santa Rosa Duck

I see our toughest conference game coming this Saturday. Stanford always plays our DUCKS tough. Coach Shaw is looking at our decimated D-Line and Linebacker corps and saying we are going with 2-3 tight end sets, run it up the middle and run the clock.

It is time for a QB change and time to open up the playbook.


The way the Beavers are playing lately I think OSU also deserves consideration.


As a kid, the stove was a magnet, your mom and dad said, “don’t touch it!”. But you put your hand close to the burner, and you felt the heat. Hopefully, the Ducks felt the heat Saturday night, and the curiosity factor has been squelched. The downside to beating Ohio State is that this young team now has the self- assured hubris that the game is theirs before it starts, particularly against a Stony Brook or Arizona.

The Ducks need to play like Alabama does, or Mike Tyson. Tyson didn’t care who the guy in the other corner was, until Buster, The Ducks had Arizona on the ropes, but let up and kicked the field goal. When your team needs to manufacture emotion it’s in trouble.

Going down to Stanford should get the juices flowing, Reggie Bush, and certainly others, said he loved nothing more than taking the spirit out of the crowd on the road as fast as he could. That sound of silence was music to his ears. You’re No. 3 Ducks. Stanford should be smart enough to realize they don’t have a chance, but you need to make it clear,

Jon Joseph

Until Buster. Great stuff.

I hope that this year’s Oregon State team will not be a Ducks Buster?


Quarterback is the most important position on the team. A good quarterback can compensate for many other offensive deficiencies, and often can bail out an underperforming defense. It’s why the best college QB’s typically go top 10 in the draft and earn the highest salaries. They are that important.

I stayed out of the FISHDUCK preseason conjecture about Brown’s potential to lead the Duck offense. So many commented that Brown would likely be replaced – by Ty Thompson – by midseason, My thinking was, “C’mon, give the guy a chance!”

We’ll, he’s had his chance and his performance has been underwhelming. He is not the guy to lead the Ducks to the playoff, especially if the Ducks’ offensive line continues to stink it up.

Oregon’s inconsistent line play, on both sides of the ball, has been baffling, especially since the Ducks clearly dominated Ohio State in the trenches. I can’t figure that out at all. Somebody help me with that….please.

I, too, would like to see the Ducks’ receivers get more targets, but I think that is largely due to Moorhead realizing that he doesn’t have a QB that can deliver the ball in tight places, nor throw the deep ball.

Everyone is excited, me too. The Ducks are 4-0, with a win over Ohio State at The Shoe, ranked third in country.

So why do I feel like the sky is about to fall?


Yes, I now believe there is a Duck disaster countdown clock ticking right now and it WILL go to zero. We just don’t know when.


Brown always has an errant throw or two. But it is not his fault that receivers are so tightly covered. I am starting to question some of his decisions on the zone read plays. Some he should have handed it off and some he should have kept it.


Your line play question: Oregon out-schemed Ohio St. Other teams are out-scheming Oregon. The O line is only 5 guys and the TEs who are playing now (not DJ) are NOT big hulking blockers.

D line has injuries to the ends and the backups are not fitting in well.


It won’t matter which QB plays if the OL doesn’t protect him adequately. One thing to consider about the OL: they really haven’t played very long together as a unit. In 2019 we had a largely senior-laden veteran line that was not only full of NFL caliber guys but had played together since they were freshman. The talent, experience, and chemistry showed in the success of that season.

This season’s OL has really only played basically a decimated 2020 season plus 4 games. So I surmise that the chemistry is not quite there yet which partially explains the inconsistency. Constantly rotating guys in and out also slows down that building of chemistry. I understand that Cristobal wants to build versatility in his line (and probably to keep blue chip recruits happy with at least some playing time) but I think allowing one established set of starters the majority of the minutes now will allow them to grow more quickly as a unit, after that’s established then you can rotate guys.

Steven A

Yes Darren, someone had to say it. My 2¢
1 thru 3, agreed.
4a) Couldn’t agree more.
4b) I liked that they had him throw the ball and that it was somewhat risky over the middle. 1 game closer to burning his red shirt, so have him throw as opposed to handoffs.
5) Agreed. Hopefully, it is part of some Morehead master plan setting up the rest of the year with fewer QB runs, but with it being more of a threat.

Jon Joseph

Ty can appear in 4 games this season and still RS.

But if he is all that? Staying with Brown means 2 years for Ty as the starting QB. Then, it’s off to the pros.

And if Ty isn’t the starter coming out of spring ball in 2022?

Hello transfer portal.

Brown must be one heck of a player in practice and Ty, despite his talent, must not be? Ditto Butterfield and Ashford?

Based on what we have seen YTD, it’s difficult to believe that Brown is the best QB on the roster? The QB with the most upside in 2021?

If Brown is the best at the position and it doesn’t matter what I think but what the coaches think, then the QB recruiting rankings for the other 3 guys were way off.

Lots of young QBs in CFB today are balling out.


The BP keeps rising as the season goes on. I will continue to support the team but would like an easy win or five to calm things down. Let’s start with the trees! Feed the talented TEs and flip the script on them.

Jon Joseph

Great call regarding the TEs. When given the opportunity, young TEs as well as Webb. have come through.

If you can figure out ‘the scheme’ on O, please let me know.

Log Haulin

One thing easy to forget is that this is a team comprised mostly of freshman and sophomores. To be sitting in the three spot, which is suspect to me, is a huge accomplishment. The future looks bright, especially with the addition of blue chip talent being added at a higher rate year to year.

As far as line play goes, I really don’t know what to say. Ducks were pressured most of the game v. AZ and got almost no pressure on the defensive side. For a coach that prides himself on line play the inconsistencies are mind numbing. The offensive line is one of the most seasoned units on the field. C’mon MC, get it together.


Im thinking more injuries than we might know because both lines have been getting tossed around too much.

Jon Joseph

There are plenty of ‘young guys’ on rosters all across the country who are balling out. Whose natural talent is being coached up.

Does experience matter? Yes, but how much?

Iowa State has basically its entire Fiesta Bowl winning team back and has two losses.


Freshmen and Sophomores with a redshirt and an extra covid year – are Juniors and Seniors in time with the program.

Keith Brown gets a pass being thrown in there as a first year player. Noah had growing pains last year.

The entire O line is playing better than last year with a year of experience.

Stoneybrook wilted in the second half, but Fresno and Az played tough the whole game.


Pretty much agree with all your points here Darren.

#1 – no doubt in my mind we would of lost to Oregon State and UCLA at the very least. I am just going to say it and I know many homers won’t like it but we will lose at least one of these upcoming PAC12 games. My guess is it will be to UCLA and/or Oregon State, but I won’t be surprised if there is another one in there too.

#2 especially resonates with me. Very poor play calling in that possession. Although it seemed like a lot of it was Brown making bad decisions and trying to do too much. He pitches that soft option to Verdell and they have 6 right there and the complexion of the game changes. Instead he fakes the pitch tries to keep and gets stoned. From that moment on he never really got going again for several possessions. It’s like the hit he took, and probable disappointment he felt from getting stopped in his tracks, just sucked the life out of him.

My main consolation with what I have seen in these three very poorly played games at home is that Moorhead is just playing more rope a dope. The hopeful victims are Shaw, Wilcox, Kelly, Lake and Smith. Though I have to admit that I am impressed by Jonathan Smith. I think he is a much smarter coach than often given credit for.

Point #3 – all I can think is that it’s just lack of respect for the opponent which is breeding overconfidence. This results in a lackadaisical effort where the big guys aren’t playing from as low of a point of attack as their highly motivated opponents are. They are just kind of sleepwalking through the games assuming they are gimme’s. Look at the safety that was given up…..that, in a nutshell, tells the story. Every O lineman was pushed at least 3 feet back right on top of Brown.

#4a and b – yep…….both very true statements here. Hutson would of been benched in my team culture. The end of the game was bizarre. Almost seemed like some shade was being thrown towards AZ or their coach. Should of taken a knee and finished it with class. I think Thompson should of been in during the previous possession though……..or even earlier.

#5 – how much of it is Moorhead and how much of it is Brown himself? That’s what I a have been wondering. Seemed like Moorhead was a little miffed on the sideline talking with Brown several times during the game. Brown had a real bad game. Worst we have seen yet. Hopefully he can turn things around.

Jon Joseph

Great take. But, is it rope-a-dope or calling plays like a dope?

I don’t see how playing down to the level of the competition in 3 out of 4 games will have the team better prepared to play quality foes?

Other than for a trick play or two, what are opposing DCs not going to be able to plan against versus the Ducks O?

Jon Joseph

And with better coaching JH is lighting up in the NFL.

Including Sunday’s late game winning drive in Kansas City.

Is this the same Joe Moorhead I saw significantly up McSorley’s game at Penn State? Or, the guy who had mediocre success on O at Mississippi State?

JM called a perfect game at tOSU. What is going on?

Does JM have free will on O; or, is he being handcuffed?


My five thoughts:

  1. this is not a complete team – a big dropoff at DE/outside LB compared to all other positions (where are the 2022 recruits?)
  2. weak side LB is a mess with all the injuries and transfers
  3. Oregon receivers are almost NEVER open, while opposing receivers are almost ALWAYS open
  4. Oregon needs to keep attacking outside the box – until there is no more box – then run it up the middle
  5. the kick return game is still anemic – remember DAT and Cliff Harris?

On the plus side:

The team is very explosive. They can turn on the jets and run teams out of the stadium. That is a quality that only the best teams have. I think they need to pick their spots to call blitzes on D and deep throws on O.

What they do against lesser teams:

They let teams ‘hang around’ for too long and get the score close, when they should be blowing them out and putting the subs in.


Point #1 is ironic considering coming into the season it seemed like those were our strong positions i.e. KT, Flowe, Sewell, ISM, Funa, Jackson etc.

Your point 3 is well taken. Very confounding. I know I saw one guy get wide open catch a bullet and turn into pure lightning…..that was Donte Thornton……but guess what that was the only look he has gotten. What’s up with that?

Totally agree on point 4. It’s pretty much the game plan they had for tOSU so I am hoping what we have seen is more bait and switch that has yet to play out.

What kick return game?

Bottom line is still 4-0 though. Can’t argue with that stat or those numbers. Beating the suckeyes is such a positive for me that I am pleased with this season, no matter how many of these bad games we witness from here on out. Felt so good to get the monkey off our back and do it on their field none the less.


For the stand up ends, KT is the prototype. But the others don’t seem like great fits. Funa/Shipley too big and slow. A. Jackson too small, but very fast. Ma’ae looks like the type – maybe he can turn into something good?. Where is Naverett? DJ Johnson is the best they have when Funa and KT are out.

Even more concerning is the lack of recruits for those positions coming in next year.

Maybe we could trade another team some of our WRs?

That is the next step for Cristobal. To get deeper at the spots where they are thin at.


Same issue in 2018 and 2019. But much of that is the players – hot and cold. Herbert was like that when he played here.

Jon Joseph

Where is ISM? Balling out in Dallas. Bummer.


His stats have not been all that impressive.

Jon Joseph

Good point. But the Ducks D could sure use his healthy body.

Jon Sousa

He no doubt bolted because he had no idea that we would have so many injuries. Flowe played less than a quarter last year and he has only played one game this year. How much will he play next year???

Keith Brown is a true freshman that plays like it. Showed a lot of upside in his first start but got hurt and missed the next game. He will get a lot better before year’s end.

So many injuries on the outside line that DJ is now back on defense full time… practically. Good thing that our young tight ends are growing up quick.

Jon Joseph

Great take JS. You never know?

Unfortunately, Flowe looks like a great player who can’t stay on the field?