Our Oregon Ducks football program has some work to do this week.
After a gut-wrenching shootout with the Huskies ending in the first loss of the season, the Ducks have to load up in a bounce-back game against Washington State to dominate a high-powered Cougar team that’s looking to rejoin the top-25. Dan Lanning’s squad looked like they could compete with anyone last week and this team’s right on the verge of being considered a serious contender.
Still, they have a ton of fixable errors that could be real differencemakers down the stretch to finish a strong second season under Lanning’s reign. Here are three areas the Ducks need to correct this weekend at home in order to win out the rest of the season and save Oregon’s chances at a College Football Playoff appearance.
3: Regain Confidence in Coverage
The secondary was very, very up and down in Seattle. We saw Trikweze Bridges flash with some great breakups on key passing downs, and also allow huge plays that led to the game being sealed. The rest of the secondary had some intense struggles with the country’s best receiving corps, even without Jalen McMillan for most of the game.
To be fair to this secondary, they got a bit banged up themselves, and needed to nurse injuries all game long against an offense that showed zero signs of slowing down all game. The front seven played outstanding, and regularly generated pressure against Michael Penix Jr. that didn’t result in a ton of sacks, but often got him off balance or forced incompletions. If the secondary is able to tidy up their play against the best passing attacks they have on their schedule, expect to see this team’s defense make huge leaps forward by the end of the season.
2: Possess the Football with Purpose
Dominating time of possession will always be a part of this team’s winning makeup. Nearly beating the Huskies by 10 full minutes of time of possession last week was a key reason why the Ducks were in it to the very end, and should have been an exclamation point for their victory. In all honesty, possessing the football has been a strength even in losses, and that goes to show how much a handful of calls from our coaching staff and plays that don’t go our way can change the outcome of an entire season.
If the Ducks are able to utilize the same mentality with similar success on the ground, expect to see great things against WSU and beyond.
1: More Calculated Aggressive Calls From Coaching Staff
Lanning is our long-term answer as a head coach, and he’s going to take this team to a championship at one point or another. Having said that, the decision-making this past weekend was inexcusable. Entering halftime missing out on points in the redzone, turning the ball over on downs to give the Huskies a last gasp that turned into a game-winning drive comprised of two plays, and risking missing the playoff in hostile territory regularly with some overly-aggressive calls was decidedly not the way the Ducks were going to win this game.
As much as I can get behind taking every chance we can to get points, and taking control of a hostile environment in any way we can, I can’t live with going 0/3 on fourth down in key spots every single chance we get. Let’s see Lanning continue to bring the intensity and aggressive mentality, while practicing a bit more calculated aggression in these big games. If he can reel it back a bit while keeping this team’s culture intact, there’s a lot to work with when it comes to getting this team to a championship.
Overall, the point is that Oregon’s deficiencies are all fixable. Remember: the Ducks were one missed kick, one fourth down conversion, and one superhero touchdown pass away from this game being a different story. The season isn’t lost because of a couple of mistakes and a missed field goal. Lanning still has a great opportunity to close out the season with some huge wins to enter the Big Ten with confidence, and even reach the College Football Playoff in just his second season as the Ducks’ head coach. Let’s see him rally this Duck team to a huge win over the Cougars, and keep the squad on their a-game for the rest of conference play.
Anyway, enough from me, Oregon fans. What do you think are the prime areas Oregon needs to improve on to close out the season? What’s there left to do on defense? What are you expecting of this offense against WSU? Let us know in the FishDuck Forum with decorum.
Los Angeles, California
Top Photo By: Harry Caston
Alex Heining is an Oregon alumni from the graduate class of 2021. After studying sports business and media studies, he has moved into the field of digital marketing as a copywriter and content manager in the Los Angeles area. Still, he loves his Ducks and goes to local high school games all over the Los Angeles and Orange County area to check out new recruits of the future (and a SoFi game or two with the pros). On any given Saturday, expect to find him doing martial arts, playing the guitar, or screaming at the tv over a missed holding penalty.
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