The End Zone Fade: Oregon Can Run It Now!

DazeNconfused Editorials

Duck fans, I’m sick of getting beat by the Stanford Endzone Fade play. Has there been a game in the last decade (besides the Ducks’ 21-6 win in 2019) in which Stanford hasn’t scored at least one touchdown on the Endzone Fade?

Does last year’s 4th down pass interference penalty, then Stanford’s untimed down to tie the game and send it into overtime, still haunt you?

Let’s admit it’s been a great play for Stanford, and give credit where it’s due. But why have the Ducks never adopted the Endzone Fade? Chip Kelly’s Spread was copied all over college football because it was successful, so why don’t we copy the Endzone Fade?

It’s past time for Oregon to use the Endzone Fade, and we’ve had the personnel to run it for a few years now. Matter of fact, I’ve been screaming at the TV to run the Endzone Fade, and complaining to my Duck friends that we don’t. We had Juwan Johnson, Bryan Addison, and Devon Williams here for years and I don’t recall throwing one Endzone Fade. (We know Devon had hops.)

Devon Williams shows how to highpoint the football at OSU in 2021.

The Endzone Fade lends itself to more success with tall wide receivers paired with tall athletic tight ends. Since 2019 we’ve had players who were perfect for the Endzone Fade, but here are the players on our 2022 roster we would use.

• WR – Dont’e Thornton 6’5, 197 lbs.
• Safety/WR – Bryan Addison 6’5, 190 lbs.
• WR – Kyle Kasper 6’5, 195 lbs.
• TE – Terrance Ferguson 6’6, 243 lbs.
• TE – Moliki Matavao 6’6, 263 lbs.

All these players have the height, wingspan and body size to box out cornerbacks one-on-one. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of the size matchup we have, and the let these players go up and high point the ball? No cornerbacks are going to out jump our guys; they can try to be physical, but they aren’t moving Ferguson or Matavao off the ball.

Why am I advocating so hard for the Endzone Fade? Well, it’s rarely an interception, it’s a one-on-one matchup, and it gets a high percentage of pass interference calls. Defenses down at the goal line tend to overload the box against the run and give up the one-on-one Endzone Fade to the outside.

Stanford connects on the Endzone Fade against Oregon in 2021.

One way Stanford likes to run this play is in 12 personnel, one back, two tight ends. They will put two wide receivers to one side, one tight end alone on the other and one tight end kept in to block.

In this set with TE Terrance Ferguson out wide one-on-one, he will have a huge size advantage on any defensive back, and this is where you’d want your QB to look first. If you throw Ferguson a back shoulder ball, he has the body size to get to the ball, box out the defender and go high point the ball. We have seen Stanford do this to our defensive backs for the last decade! On the other side, if we put Thornton and Addison out wide it also created a huge size mismatch. The outside man runs a corner fade, and the inside guy runs a straight fade, making this side of the field the QB’s second option

Let’s take this a step further, and say they put a bigger linebacker on Ferguson to take away his size advantage. Fine, the defense just got smaller by swapping a linebacker for a safety in the Box, and I’ll run straight at you.
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It used to be that Oregon didn’t have the optimal size at wide receiver to run this play. But under Mario Cristobal we have had that size since 2019, but haven’t used that to our advantage at all with the Endzone Fade. I feel Oregon has had better personnel than Stanford to run it. I know if Williams and Addison were playing for Stanford, they would have been utilized to run Endzone Fade against us. You don’t have to always use the tallest players: Elijah Higgins, who caught the game-tying pass last year against UO was 6’3, but the success rate goes up with taller players who can go highpoint the ball over the defender.

Mykael Wright shows great timing on his leap to get off the ground and break up the end zone fade pass against Stanford in 2021.

Now some of you might be thinking the Endzone Fade has a low percentage success rate of around 33% completion in college football. It gives the defense two extra defenders between the endline and sideline, and I’ve seen too many balls thrown two yards out of bound where the receiver has zero chance to make the catch.

To that I’d say you’re right on all points — some teams aren’t executing the Endzone Fade very well at all. But Stanford does because the play isn’t some afterthought or random play call. Stanford wants to attack that one-on-one match up on the smaller defender, and they practice it in a disciplined way. That means Stanford QBs work on getting the ball to the right spot at the right height, where the receiver can go highpoint it. (They rep the heck out of this play in practice.)

I’m hoping, with the personnel we have, that the Endzone Fade is a play Coach Kenny Dillingham feels is just begging him to put our big receivers in matchups on smaller defenders, and we start running this play.

There are not many things sweeter I could think of than the Ducks throwing a late game winning Endzone Fade right in the Tree’s face, watching the Duck receiver come down with the ball while the defender falls to the ground at his feet.

That would put a smile on my face a mile wide; how about you, Duck fans? Share your thoughts about Oregon running the Endzone Fade in the OBD Forum.

Portland, Oregon
Top Photo by Oregon Football Twitter

Natalie Liebhaber, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in SLC, Utah.

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