It could be that the dominating 50-point explosions and relentless offensive fireworks shows that used to be Oregon football are behind them.
Not the confetti shower they were looking for: the Ducks brought down the balloons on an 11-2 season and the Alamo Bowl Trophy, but bigger prizes will continue to elude them unless they improve on the lackluster offensive execution of this season's stretch drive (Ryan Kang, Oregon Daily Emerald photo.)
In the games against Stanford, Arizona, and Texas, the Ducks scored a total of 25 points on 13 trips to the red zone. This is a summary of Oregon's execution in each of the last five games:
|Longest run||Longest pass||Penalties||Turnovers|
|Stanford||20||312||Marshall 21 yds||Huff 26 yds||10-81||2|
|Utah||44||433||Tyner 27||Addison 57 (td)||10-80||0|
|Arizona||16||506||Thomas 20||Hawkins 30||8-66||3|
|OSU||36||568||Tyner 40||Huff 44||6-40||3|
|Texas||30||469||Mariota 33||Baylis 27||11-87||0|
For a variety of reasons the Ducks have been less explosive and effective offensively over their last five games:
1. Injury to Mariota
2. Inconsistency on the offensive line
3. Opponent's talent and game plan
4. Overconfidence/lack of focus
5. Play-calling, and the loss of the innovation and imagination Chip Kelly brought to the Quack Attack.
6. Degree to which opponents have "figured out" the Oregon scheme, and become more accustomed to the tempo and pace with 9 teams in the PAC-12 running variations of the no-huddle spread.
7. Discipline and execution
Breaking down the why and the solutions of this puzzle is the challenge Oregon coaches have over the next four months. When Spring practice starts, they'll set to work on creating a more productive offense for 2014. The Ducks set a school record for total offense this season, but in the last half of 2013, nobody feared the Oregon offense. At times, it looked like an anemic remnant of the dominant force it has been for the last five years.
I continue to believe the Ducks are a great team , but they lack focus and discipline. Some of that is their youth. If they come out next year and focus on 1 game at a time, i think they will be fine. they have to recognize that they will get everybody's best shot and each game matters. they can not take a game off or go into any game thinking it's an easy win. We all know that the Ducks could have beaten Arizona 9 out of 10 times...but there is always that 1 chance. Not focusing, having too little discipline and making stupid mistakes ---any team can beat you when you do that. With solid leadership from Mariota, which i believe he will provide, lessons learned by Helfrich, attention to details and taking it one day at a time....the Ducks can only be limited by themselves! They can have a goal of winning the National Championship....nothing wrong with that. But to get there, they need to know they can not just show up- they have to play with intensity and focus every single game, even against opponents they will beat 8 or 9 times out of 10. ( plus we really do need a competent backup QB) Looking forward to next year!
Penaltys were the Norm for this team and that's not being FOCUSED at the task at hand and that's simple, BE BETTER THAN THE MAN IN FRONT OF YOU, Oregon seemed to lack this focus even when they were way ahead, but as far as Stanford goes, lets not talk about the last 4 Games because really are they worth talking about NO. The Ducks lost out on their main goal and that was the NATTY, and you shouldn't have players disrespecting opponents like saying were gonna score 40+ on their Defense or before playing a Team that the score should of been the other way around because of a couple of players comments which you as the HC cannot have from even one of your better players, because it says disrespect where Oregon should still be playing at a HIGH Level because this is the BEST Talent they've ever had and something from within not from the opposition stopped this Team from reaching their Goal. Oregon should still be the odd's on favorites to be 1 of those 4 Teams to make that Playoff, but the BIG Question is this can Coach Helfrich get them to play ball as a unit and for each other or WTD approach which seemed to missing this year. Texas was a terrible Team and be thankful it wasn't a better Bowl opponent because Execution wins Games and Talent sure helps but this off season Helfrich would be good to pick some players to be his Leaders of this Team which were sorely missing this year and keep people in check.
It is interesting to me how many times I have seen comments in articles about the lack of Chip Kelly's innovation on the team (which of course is true at least to an extent). When CK left many people were happy they wouldn't have to suffer through CK's stubbornness in continuing to call plays that weren't working. People were praising Scott Frost earlier in the year. Also, earlier in the year Fishduck was pointing out several new wrinkles in the offence, so it is not true that no innovation has taken place this year. We can always find something to be unhappy about. We were unhappy with CK's stubbornness. Now we are unhappy with Helf's lack of innovation. The list above is accurate. There is a variety of reasons we haven't played up to expectations over the last 5 games.
These problems are things that the coaching staff is well aware of. They are going to try to make adjustments in the off season and give it another go next year. We will see how they do. Helf and Frost are in positions they have never held before and they know growth and improvement are something that they expect of themselves. Recruiting seems to be still on an upward trajectory so that is good and it shows confidence in the current coaching staff. It is pretty obvious that the great recruits we are getting do not think that Oregon is a has-been team. They want to be a part of something great and that is their expectation. It should be ours too.
It all started, as I sat in the stands in Palo Alto, first possession by the Ducks - "False start, repeat third down". 3rd and 2 became 3rd and 7 and then we went three and out. The announcer said for at least the next two hours: "Gafney for seven yards on the play, another first down for Stanford". We would have gotten ran over by the Spartans.
Starting to watch the Rose Bowl right now. This is the 100th Rose Bowl. It is a shame that it was not considered important by some Ducks. I sure wish I was there right now watching the Oregon Ducks play Michigan State.
Didn't see penalties but that was as responsible as anything for Red Zone issues. Frost also said after the game the running game needed to improve. Everyone wants the Ducks to be good at everything but execution takes practice and the renewed emphasis on the passing game probably cost practice time on the ground game.
As far as Kelly, there is a reason why he is now a successful NFL coach, the guy is special. The Ducks aren't going to find another like him so complaining about it isn't going to help. Helfrich and Frost aren't his caliber but they seem to be good enough to stay in the upper echelon of college football.
Yes, the O line... Marshall was not a number one back. never will be. Tyner's development was too slow. DAT is not a back who can carry it more than 10 times/game. bottom line our running game was not producing when we needed it. when MM became a pocket passer and our run game dried up, our offense stalled. O line needs to improve and tyner needs to step up and BE THE MAN.
The injury to Mariota is certainly a huge factor, as having him injured just made the other problems you pointed out even bigger. Other teams have figured out the scheme, it was bound to happen. This puts the Ducks back where all the top contenders are, depending on talent, and execution.
I think, without meaning to necessarily, the team did lose their attention to detail, and focus to sometimes, a large degree. It really might have been inevitable. Chip was a force. Helfrich could not be more different from him personality wise. Helfrich, rightly didn't try to copy Kelly's persona, but his is not a commanding one. The line and runningbacks were definitely down from seasons past, which really is understanable. Oregon fans have long known that DAT was not a back like James or Barner who could tote the rock 20-25 times a game. But it was either him or Byron Marshall, or freshman, Thomas Tyner. A bit of the slack was taken up by increased production in the passing game. But Oregon is a run first scheme, and the lack of effectiveness showed dearly.
The defense has been analyzed here many times, so I'll just submit again, how really interlinked its effectiveness is tied to how well the offense is going. When the offense isn't productive, the D suffers big time.
Next season, will again be a challenge, a James type back isn't around again, but I think a more experienced Marshall/Tyner set, and a possible really strong addition in Freeman, behind a year older line, should be better. The passing game loses Huff, but it looks to be a very strong unit again.
The shock factor is no longer part of Oregon's attack, it comes down to getting it done.
Good points, sherry. The way this season played out, with the stumbles in November and rallying for wins at the Civil War and in the bowl game, gives the Ducks a great foundation for next year. They finished on a positive note and they will also have that strong reminder about the importance of focus and discipline.
More discipline in practice is the key to better execution in games, absolutely. Ducks should have strong leadership next year and some great young players stepping in, tremendous athletes like Prevot, Robinson and Mattingly, Seisay, Daniels and Tyree Robinson, the Amoako brothers, Arrion Springs. Also looking forward to seeing what the talented group of young receivers can do.
Good thoughts, Jon. The recruiting close and selection of the new defensive coordinator are the next key steps, along with the coaching staff's effort to evaluate and improve on what they did this year. Leadership within the team becomes crucial in the winter months. Train, get stronger, and focus.
I was there as well. What a long night. I was shocked that we did not take the field goal in the 1st quarter that could have put us up by 3 points and you never know how that would have affected the momentum. I think Helfrich learned from that and I was happy to see us kick two early field goals against Texas. I must admit that I find myself rooting for the Spartans today.
It looks that way, doesn't it? Ducks have to get tougher and stronger, and adopt a defensive scheme and philosophy that maximizes their athleticism and speed, allows them to be attacking and aggressive in the front 7.
Cardinal looks tough and prepared so far, with a 7-0 lead, physically dominating at the line of scrimmage. They make the perfect foil for the Ducks, and ensure that the PAC-12 is going to be one the most talked-about, premier conferences in college football. There's a new article out on Stanford's strength training program which I haven't had time to read yet. Great atmosphere at the Rose Bowl today, which has still retained its magic. The fact that the Ducks squandered their chance to be here should provide them with extra motivation in the off season, and help keep them focused next fall.
Penalties fall under discipline and execution, definitely an issue for the Ducks this year, those nagging false starts, holds, and personal fouls that kill drives and give new life to the opponent. All the Ducks coaches can do is continue to employ the Kelly principles and develop themselves and their players, compete with the juggernauts that are emerging at Stanford and UCLA.
@JoeBarthlow Marshall is a great back. You have to have an oline to run behind. The Duck oline this year was pathetic: Not strong enough to move people out of the way or sustain blocks, a six inch problem between the ears for penalties and discipline. That's coaching and that is what was lost with the transition from Kelly to Helfrich. The focus/discipline this team used to have is gone. Helfrich gets his next year because everyone is saying, gee, 11-2 is great. Not enough are looking at the right games. The first eight were absolute gimmees. They were 0-2 in the games that mattered the most. The win against Texas was because of the defense. The high flying offense got 1 td. One freaking td. Some great offensive minds the Ducks have collected to run the Ferrari!
Marshall got 1038 yards this year. That's pretty impressive. His production slowed down when MM got hurt and defenses didn't have to worry about MM running the ball. O line was less than stellar, maybe a little overrated. It seemed that when MM got hurt the teams mojo went with it. Like the captain abandoning the ship senario. Dale pretty much summed up all the problems that existed. It wasn't any one problem on it's own as much as the accumulative amount throughout the game. Take away one or more and things could've turned out different. A healthy MM in the Stanford game would've made a difference. Or in the AZ game maybe the Coach getting the teams heads on straight. In the TX game had MM's helmet not been ripped off when he ran out of bounds. And Locke wouldn't of had to come in and botch a very likely TD. This was a very talented team that kept shooting it's self in the foot all season. Actually surprising that they ended up 11-2 with as many problems they encountered during games.
I like the way Tyner was running in the last few weeks in terms of accelerating to the hole and finishing runs driving forward. He needs to continue to improve in strength, balance and vision, but it was a solid freshman year for him. Marshall run for 1,038 yards and 6.2 a carry; he had 5 straight 100-yard games Cal through UCLA. Reminds me a lot of Terrence Whitehead. A solid back, maybe not a great one.DAT is done, I think, and Budda Baker and Tony James replace his skill set, I believe, with far less distraction and a greater capacity for leadership. The offensive line must be more cohesive and consistent next year, some underlying issues there.
You nailed it. I would only add Frosts inexperience at OC. There were some pretty questionable calls over the season. Especially in the redzone. I also think DAT was under utilized.
I especially like your last sentence, "The shock factor is no longer part of Oregon's attack; it comes down to getting it done." That's the reality. Next season, the running game should improve, the passing game should improve (impressive array of young receivers should be ready) and the defense could improve under a new coordinator and with those young linebackers ready to take bigger roles. Mattingly, Robinson and Prevot are all exceptional talents, and if they develop and apply themselves, it could free Malone to play outside linebacker where he can really be a force; the guy makes a great effort and really ranges sideline to sideline, too small to stay in the middle.
I think the leadership within the team will bring home that message about focus and attention to detail. Grasu, Mariota, and Johnstone will lead that effort, as will Addison, Malone, Washington, and Ifo, if he returns.
the difference between arrogance and humility. There is a possibility we will be bad on defense for a while. Also need to worry about USC, ASU, and Washington. Thank God Sanky is leaving.
I kinda did too--all that smug superiority and posturing was getting to me. They earned the win, a great college football game at the Granddaddy. One of the good developments of the late season was the emergence of Wogan as the Ducks' FG kicker for the next 3 years. Now that he's won the job, has to work on his consistency, but a good start, taking those points when they are there. Now the coaches have to work on that red zone game-planning and execution.
Easier to improve from 11-2 to where they want to be than 8-5, but you make valid points about the need to improve discipline and execution. I like Marshall's game. He ran with authority and purpose, though there wasn't much there in the Alamo Bowl. Tends to dance a little still when plays break down. Get what's there, even if it's a yard.
Ducks suffered a bit at guard this year, and Lousi should help them shore that up. Definitely agree that the loss of Mariota's running ability wrecked the rhythm of the offense, but I also agree that they can't run him the way they did at Texas for a full season. They won't keep him healthy, I don't think. The threat of Mariota's running is as effective as his running. 7-8 carries a game is about right, with very few hits.
@Dale Newton@JoeBarthlow The biggest problem Marshall had was the coaches' desire to keep putting DAT in at RB. Marshall was on schedule to rush for 1700 yards this season...until DAT came back and disrupted the rhythm. That he had to go into the Bowl game to get his 1K yards is a mark of how disrupted our running game was by that switch.
The Red Zone thing seemed to me to be a combination of play-calling and execution. Fumbles and penalties inside the 30 are poison. Frost is not Chip Kelly in his ability to scheme and counter-scheme; few coaches are--the Ducks have to make up the difference with execution and collaboration, focus and preparation. Hopefully the momentum of the Civil War and the Alamo Bowl will stay with them, along with the lessons of November as well.
Also Gaffney is leaving Stanford. Luckily we don't play ASU or USC next year so the transition to the new DC may help.
Plus, at slot he spreads and stretches the defense, becomes a weapon defenses have to account for. That's where his future lies as a pro, similar to DeSean Jackson, I believe. Has to learn to get in the way as a run blocker, but he can do that. Coaches also need to talk to him about attention, effort and leadership. Has to dial in to achieve his goals for the future. Became a distraction at times this season.
DAT posted an Instagram photo today that shows a cartoon image of himself emblazoned with the slogan "One More Year" so he's saying there's a chance. If he does return, the coaches need to craft a clearer role for him, get him in the slot, out in the pattern, bubble screens, crossing routes, fly sweeps, trail man on the triple option, motion. Get him the ball 12 times a game in space and utilize what he does best. Speed kills, but needs a running lane to do so.