Why Oregon Needs Their ‘A’ Game for Liberty U.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Analysis

After watching highlights of most of Liberty’s 2023 football games–I come away with a healthy respect for what they have built, in particular on the offensive side of the ball. While most are critical of an “all-Group 5” schedule, I think many missed how Liberty nearly beat a then No. 19 Wake Forest in 2022 by a slim 37-36 loss. The Flames shocked an SEC Arkansas 2022 team on the road that was 5-3 when they played in a 21-19 victory. So the narrative that they cannot play with a Power-5 team is false, as this 2023 team is better than last year’s Flames.

In short, Liberty was selected as the best of the Group-of-5 teams, thus it can be assumed that the best G-5 team could give the Ducks a tough showing. Their combination Option offense, coupled with pulling power plays and downfield long-balls is high scoring, and truly difficult to contain as they attack sideline-to-sideline, as well as deep downfield.

The Flames are a team that could shorten the game with clock-chewing drives, limit the number of possessions both teams have, and yet still have quick strike capability. They are fun to watch…unless you are the opponent. I am not going to give you a deep analysis, but more of what my impressions are from my viewing of the Liberty Flames.

The videos below are short, with a few plays each to give you a pregame look of what to expect January 1st.

The first video above shows us elements of the Liberty offense that would be familiar to many Oregon fans. They like to run what I call the “Straddled Triple Option” that I created a video of a decade ago, and was a staple play in the 2009-2012 years. It features an Inside Zone Read in one direction, coupled with a Speed Double Option going the other direction. Thus the defense can’t sell out to over-pursuit as the play can go to either side.

First play above: The Inside Zone part of the Straddled Triple Option is going to the right, but notice when I froze the frame for a few seconds to note both guards are pulling to the right, yet the QB and pitch man threaten the perimeter in the other direction.
12 seconds: This is the same play to the other side, with a great cut-back by the running back that we saw at Oregon often. Note the pulling guard No. 52 paving the way..
34 and 43 seconds: The same Straddled Triple Option, only utilizing the pitch man this time.
51 seconds: Same play only with the QB keeper. Kaidon Salter is a very good runner, a Darron Thomas or even Reggie Ogburn type.
59 seconds: A play-action pass of this same action, that turned into a scramble. Their quarterback Salter is good.

The next video above gives you a glimpse of their passing attack, of which most is off play-action.
First play above: This is a familiar play, as the last two Oregon coaches implemented variations off this play. The tight end for the Flames, No. 15 is an excellent pass receiver who gained separation on linebackers and safeties easily.
11 seconds above: Their QB Salter can throw an accurate long-ball with a defender in his face. Often he would let the WRs make a play and come down with it, with many athletic touchdowns as a result.
24 seconds: Salter is dangerous running on the edge, but can also create great plays as you see here.
37 seconds: The Liberty quarterback can also thread the long balls when needed. A defense has to stop the run first, thus it only takes a second for a Flame receiver to get past a corner or safety.

The video above is evidence of the weakness of Liberty, as they are 103rd in the nation in pass defense, while playing nothing but G-5 foes. I believe the Oregon offensive line can protect Bo Nix well, thus this could be a big game for Tez Johnson, Gary Bryant, Traeshon Holden, and perhaps a coming out party for Jurrion Dickey? Tight Ends should spring free as well because Liberty has to focus on stopping the Oregon rushing attack.

The real question for many of us is the quality of the trenches; I believe that we will have our way with the Liberty defensive line, as that is the hardest area for a G-5 school to recruit to. However the play-by-play announcer for the Flames stated in one telecast how the Liberty offensive line averaged 320 pounds! Whoa…and they move so well that someone is pulling every other play?

Our defense is going to have their hands full; they must stay on their assignments to defeat an option offense, and they must defeat their blocks whether on the playside or backside of the play. The misdirection stuff can slow down a defense’s reaction time, and thus even the playing field with a defense that has more athleticism and speed.

I believe our offense will score easily enough, but they may need to speed it up in order to have enough possessions. Can the Duck defense make enough stops throughout the game? Let me know your thoughts on the only free, civilized Oregon message board and forum available because…

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

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo courtesy of Liberty Athletics

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