No Sacks! No Defense! No Problem for Oregon

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Analysis

It happens every year; the massive over-reaction early in a game, and yet things turn out fine later. When Portland State drove easily to a touchdown in the first quarter to quickly answer Oregon’s score–the classic over-the-top reactions in the Our Beloved Ducks forum surfaced immediately.

“Tuioti and Lupoi both need to be replaced if we want our D to be the best it can be.”

“From my reading, Lupoi has always been a great recruiter but underperforms as a play caller. I don’t look to Lupoi at all. This is Dan Lanning’s defense. Buck stops with him.”

“This is why I will never ever believe the hype around the defense, never again, been burned too many times.”

Yep, there you have it; an opponent scores and the DC needs to be fired! But why did Portland State score so easily? And why were there no sacks against such a hapless opponent? Mr. FishDuck will share his opinions after looking closely at the game, and you can decide if they make sense.

We need to start with understanding that Portland State runs the Pistol formation with Zone Reading as Oregon did under Mario Cristobal, and now under new OC Will Stein. (Yes, the majority of the plays for Oregon were run out of the Shotgun, but we were told Stein would use the Pistol, and he did extensively on Saturday. It did not seem to impair the scoring output!)

The quarterback needs to be exceptionally fast to turn the corner in the Pistol, and the Viking QB had excellent jets to pull it off. However the real problem was not with the PSU QB, or the Pistol, but the Ducks with their defensive assignment discipline. Coach Dan Lanning addressed it at the press conference after the game when he stated…

“…We had two critical errors in that drive. Made a really bad execution in the red area on that touchdown. You know, but ultimately, I think what you saw is when you don’t do your job, bad things can happen. We had a couple guys not do their job early in that series. It led to a long drive and I think we all settle down after that and realize, ‘Hey, all I gotta do is my part, my 1/11th and the rest will take care of itself.’”

First game assignment errors create big plays. (Screenshot from Pac-12 Network Video)

Above is the first play of Portland State’s scoring drive that went for over 20 yards. The QB (red arrow) had pulled the ball from the dive-back (green arrow) and is headed outside with a pitch man. Problem is…Oregon has three defenders (No. 0, No. 1, No. 2) covering the dive-back, and only one (orange arrow) to cover both the QB and the pitch man. Any wonder why the play went so well?

Even MORE following the Dive-Back? (Screenshot from Pac-12 Network Video)

The Oregon defense actually compounded the assignment errors later in the drive as you will see above. The QB (red arrow) has pulled the ball from the Dive-Back, (green arrow) and this time the Ducks have four defenders (orange arrows) following the dive-back and only one to take on the lead blocker and Portland State quarterback. They got the first down!

Watching the plays develop above give you a good feel for how crucial it is that players follow their assignments, and let the rest of the team do their part. To me, the best part is how dismayed we all were after this first drive, and yet after that the Vikings got no more points due to the defensive adjustments Oregon made. That is what you want from your defensive coordinator–to make adjustments as the game progresses, right? The Ducks did not wait until halftime to straighten things out…

No Sacks! No Sacks! 

We heard plenty about that from the media, and from the fans in the OBD forum. An example was, “One thing that bugs me is that the Oregon defense doesn’t have a single sack. That’s very concerning to me.” What is most important to Mr. FishDuck is why there were no sacks; let’s take a look…

If it went more than 2.5 seconds–the PSU QB was toast. (Screenshot from Pac-12 Network Video)

My first thought when going back to game film was checking to see if Oregon went into a “contained-rush” where the pass rushers are pushing the pocket to collapse it on the QB and create a throw downfield, yet maintaining their balance and footwork to prevent the quarterback from scrambling. The PSU QB had demonstrated great speed and elusiveness in the first drive, and that strategy would not have been a surprise to me.

Yet that was not the case; Oregon was not implementing a contained-rush, because when timing out every snap that had a pass play by Portland State–it was evident that the Viking game plan was to throw the football quickly. I timed out throws by the Vikings to only be: two seconds, 2.5 seconds, 1.5 seconds, one second, two seconds, two seconds, etc. You get the idea; they were throwing the ball immediately, as they knew their offensive line would have trouble with Oregon’s defensive pressure.

Above you see an example of when the PSU quarterback held the ball for three seconds, and he was hit by No. 98, Casey Rogers, as he threw the ball incomplete. Every time it went longer than 2.5 seconds–the Viking QBs either were running for their life, or throwing the ball away. My Duck-Buddies, you cannot get sacks in 2.5 seconds, and it was a sound strategy by the Vikings.

Call it sign of respect for the Oregon pass rush, and frankly–if every team implemented that strategy–it would make Tosh Lupoi’s job that much easier! Do you agree with my observations? Do share your thoughts in the only Oregon forum-with-decorum because…

“Oh, how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

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