Coaching Leads Ducks to a Loss

Ryan Robertson Editorials

Coaching is what defines a team. In 2010, Oregon’s coaching got them a spot in the BCS National Championship. In 2019, their offensive coaching was so poor that it made a potential NFL Hall of Fame QB look mediocre. And in 2023, at the midpoint of the season, Oregon’s coaching looks… suspect.

It was the first possession of the second half, and Bo Nix threw a check-down to a receiver. Not abnormal by any stretch. The issue? It was 3rd and 12, and Oregon was down 22-18. By all accounts, Oregon should’ve scored ab0out 60 points on Washington. Their defense couldn’t stop the run, couldn’t defend the deep pass, and was playing overaggressive to the point they could (should) have been flagged at least twice for late hits on Oregon players.

And yet…

Oregon running backs and tight ends caught 16 of Nix’s 33 passes. Again, not a big deal. The problem once again, is the situation. Almost every pass by a running back was an out-route from the backfield – at or near the line of scrimmage – and one on the last drive of the game ate up six seconds of clock to result in 0 yards gained. The tight ends mostly run curls and screens. For an offense that so heavily featured the tight end in 2022, this year it looks like the coaching staff just doesn’t know what to do with them.

Defensively, Oregon allowed 99 rushing yards. Sure, that doesn’t sound bad, but Dillon Johnson rushed for 100 yards at 5.0 yards per carry. He got around the corner of the defense almost every time he tried. How is that on coaching? Well, there was never an attempt to set the edge on either side. With the running back on the QB’s right, the line would shift so the left end was covered by the left tackle prior to the snap. The edge was lost before the snap.

A botched pass on a key down. (Photo by Truong Nguyen)

Then there is the obvious: the fourth down attempts. 0-3 on fourth down is… not great. However, the situations of the fourth downs warrant some discussion:

At the end of the first half, down four points, Oregon failed to convert a goal-to-go fourth down as time expired on a QB boot to the right with only three WR’s in the route. Instead of converting on a Michael Penix interception with points, the Ducks missed an opportunity.

On their second drive of the third quarter, Oregon had 4th and 3 at the Washington 8 yard line. Nix threw another incomplete pass.

The last one, that is getting the most discussion online, is the choice to go for it on 4th and 3 at the UW 47 yard line with 2:11 to go. Another incompletion from Nix. This particular missed conversion was actually to Oregon’s favor versus punting, since the defense gave up a 2 play touchdown drive. The offense would have had less time to play with on the final drive had they punted.

And yeah, maybe Oregon misses one of the field goals on the earlier conversions. That would have still put three more points on the board and gotten them to overtime.

The most egregious game management came on Oregon’s final possession.

Cam Lewis has a routine attempt to convert. (Photo by Truong Nguyen)

Nix first play of the drive was an in bounds three yard completion to Bucky Irving. It absolutely drained the clock. Starting a drive with 1:38 and losing about 30 seconds before the second play was snapped is embarrassing for this coaching staff.

Not to mention, playing for a field goal when Camden Lewis has struggled over the last few weeks is borderline criminal. Making the fourth down calls in the 2nd and 3rd quarters with the justification of “I want it in the QB’s hands, not the kickers” only to do the opposite on the last drive of the game is nothing but poor coaching.

Dan Lanning has a very long contract ahead of him. He is likely to win a large number of games as coach of the Ducks. But they will never be the program he wants them to be if he can’t clean up the sloppy coaching decisions.

Ryan Robertson
Sierra Vista, Arizona
Top Photo By Truong Nguyen

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