Oregon is 53-7 in the last five seasons. They've won two BCS bowls and been to four in a row. They've finished 3rd, 4th and 2nd in the country, and they're currently 7-0, ranked 2nd in the AP poll, 3rd in the BCS.
Kirk Herbstreit, the lead analyst for ESPN, says Alabama, Florida State and the Ducks are head and shoulders above the rest of the teams in the country.
Saturday night Oregon beat Washington State 62-38, a game that was 62-24 when the starters went to the bench with 13:01 to go. The Duck coaching staff remains committed to a practice of developing the twos and threes and reducing the risk of injury for starters in decided games. Marcus Mariota has played five fourth quarters in his college career, and the commitment to playing a deep roster in blowouts has paid big dividends for the Ducks: Pharaoh Brown, Rodney Hardrick, Derrick Malone and EricK Dargan started their careers that way, just as Torrodney Prevot and Reggie Daniels are now.
Today the PAC-12 Conference announced a fine of $5000 for Nick Aliotti for remarks he made about WSU head coach Mike Leach after the game, criticizing Leach for staying with the starters and pursuing a passing record, scoring two touchdowns late in the game against the Oregon reserves.
Aliotti's costly outburst aside, the Ducks did a lot right in beating the Cougars by 24,.
1. They established the inside running game early, and ran the football with authority.
The Ducks outrushed the Cougs 383-2 in this game, and a lot of those yards came in the inside zone read. Byron Marshall begain the game with three hard carries for a first down, getting a great block from Tyler Johnstone on 3rd and 3 to get the ball out to the 35. Two plays later, Marcus Mariota sprinted 57 yards with a zone read keeper for the game's first touchdown. Johnny Mundt sealed off the edge to create the running lane.
2. They got off to a good start defensively, with two stops to begin the game.
The defense had problems with the Cougar dink-and-dunk passing attack in the first half, holding them scoreless in the third before giving way to the subs after Terrance Mitchell's pick six early in the fourth. But they began this game forcing a punt and gaining a turnover on downs near midfield on Washington State's first two possessions, and that allowed the offense to build a 13-0 lead. Brian Jackson broke up a pass on the first defensive stand, 3rd and 7 on a turn-in route to Vince Mahle. The next time the Cougs had the ball, Terrance Mitchell broke up a slant route to Gabe Marks, then Halliday threw wide on 4th down, allowing the Oregon offense to take over at their own 45.
3. Marcus Mariota got off to a crisp start in the passing game.
He started the game 7-7 for 102 yards, getting the ball out quickly and crisply to a variety of targets, establishing the passing game to both sidelines and in the seams, including gains of 17, 14, 21, 19 and 19 yards. The offense had great rhythm from the beginning. The big play was a 21-yard post route to Huff on 2nd and 6. With great time to throw Mariota threw low, safely away from the defender, and Huff made a sliding catch, hugging the ball to his chest. From there Marshall scooted inside 13 yards down to the three, behind more good blocking from Mana Greig and Johnstone, punching it in for the first of his two tds with two more inside runs, the Ducks running their quickest tempo. Grasu and Cameron Hunt made the hole.
4. The kick coverage team continues to be solid. Matt Wogan had three more touchbacks.
He can get the ball deep more often, but sometimes Tom Osborne calls for him to pin the ball high at the goal line, inviting a return that stops short of the 25. For the season the unit has held opponents to 21 yards a return, with a long return of 35 yards, no costly breakdowns.
When the Ducks face a premium returner like Ty Montgomery, look for Wogan to plant the ball deep. He's had 16 touchbacks so far this season, averaging 62.1 yards a kickoff. Alejandro Maldonado and the punt team has limited opponents to 4.3 yards a return with a long runback of 12 yards. Maldonado's parked 8 inside the 20 without a single touchback, saving the defense yards of field position.
5. The Ducks special teams continue to be a strength.
They're even 4-5 on field goal attempts. The two-point conversion group, however, seems to have lost its mojo. They're only 2-3 this year. Remarkable to think that Oregon has amassed 53 touchdowns, setting for field goals just four times.
Washington State got an answering drive on their third possession, but the Ducks contested every play. On the personal foul penalty on Malone, it was a knee-jerk reaction by the officials: Malone made a clean tackle in the field of play, leaving his feet to get to the quarterback. Their momentum carried them out of bounds. The Ducks gave up a 39-yard screen pass play on this series, the Cougs longest play of the game. For the rest of the night they would have one other long play, 31 yards to Gabe Marks, two others of 25 and 24 yards, by Mayle and Cracraft. The Ducks had scoring plays of 66, 57, 37, 30 and 26 yards, a 35-yard pass reception by Marshall, a 26-yard pass play to Mundt.
6. Mariota, maligned by some observers for a pair of fumbles, did a great job of buying time and finding an open receiver on his 23-32 passing night.
He found Huff for a 17-yard touchdown, Mundt and Marshall on the two long completions, all on plays where he left the pocket and evaded the rush, putting pressure on defenders to come up and contain the run.
7. In the Ducks third possession, Mariota showed great touch and patience.
Downfield receivers covered, he checked through four progressions and laid it off to Marshall in the flat for 19 yards. Both Marshall and Tyner have good hands, and their quarterback does a good job of taking a little off the throw on the swing routes, making it easier to gather in stride and accelerate.
On the next play the sophomore Heisman Trophy candidate laid a ball over the linebackers and under the defensive backs, hitting Daryle Hawkins on the back shoulder along the left sideline for a 19-yard gain. It was a big-time throw, the two quick first downs getting the ball to the WSU 26. He then threw he first incompletion, just missing Huff out of bounds in the corner of the end zone. It didnit matter, though, because Grasu and Hamani Stevens cleared a nice hole for Marshall on the stretch play, scoring his second touchdown on a 26-yard run for 20-7 lead. The drive took 4 plays, 49 yards in 49 seconds. If you went to the kitchen for a bowl of pretzels, you missed it.
8. On the Cougars' 4th possession, the Ducks forced a three and out.
First down was a swing pass to Teondray Caldwell, and Boseko Lokombo and Avery Patterson did a great job of squaring up on the running back, framing him with perfect team tackling fundamentals, using the sideline as a third defender, holding him to three yards.
9. On second and seven the Ducks collapsed the pocket, Taylor Hart stripping Halliday for the sack.
The Ducks had a chance for a scoop and score but couldn't find the handle, the ball skittering out of bounds for a 7-yard loss. This was good team defense also, the three defenders cutting off the WSU qb's escape route and chopping the ball out of his arms as he's flushed. On 3rd and 14, Halliday throws an out route to Rickey Galvin for 8 yards, and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is right there to shut the play down for no yards after the catch, and the visitors have to punt the ball back to the Ducks.
10. Defensive leaders are playing very well, and consistently. The #1 defense has given up 69 points all season.
For the game, Avery Patterson led all tacklers with 8. Malone had 7. Tony Washington's 6 tackles included 2 sacks, and Joe Walker had 6 off the bench and on special teams. He continues to improve and earn a bigger role. Of the Ducks 20 sacks this year, 17.5 are by the defensive line (including hybrids Prevot and Washington.) Walker has one and Malone has 1.5. Washington has 6.5 sacks through seven games, and three forced fumbles.
The Ducks had an answer for everything the Cougs did Saturday night. It was the most useless 557 yards passing in history.
Photo credit: Byron Marshall set a career high with 192 yards rushing on 21 carries with 3 tds. Running decisively and with great confidence, "Smash" displayed an extra gear and increased shiftiness, breaking three long runs in the game. Gary Breedlove photo, Eugene Daily News.
Thanks to all for the warm wishes...Dad is home and on the mend...highlight video for Wazzu game should be up Thursday...
Dale, how are you not a coach or professional writer? You have so much knowledge and insider info, you make the other outlets completely obsolete. However, I can't see your reasoning in picking Utah to run the table. Maybe you see something the rest of them don't? I fought tooth and nail with people on this, but have always defended your stance. Hope you see the results from both sides.
Thank you for adding some perspective, Dale. Lowe's block was an amazingly tough and heady football play. But let me ask you, did it even look like tyner was running that hard to you?!?! Haha I mean he hit that open field and it looked like he was coasting and the defender still couldn't get within 5 yards of him. For an 19 year old kid, he has some special gifts that is for sure. Very glad to see him bust a big one finally.
"It was the most useless 557 yards passing in history." You nailed it, Dale. To that may I add, except for stats and records, it was also the most useless 101 snaps and 89 pass attempts on record.
Still waiting for this incredible team to fully show up in all phases for 4 quarters. Maybe this Saturday?
In a nutshell, the Ducks started strong, played hard, and scored almost at will. There were a few "mistakes" made, like the uncharacteristic fumbles, but those happen in football and provide opportunity for improvement. MM is awesome at improving. Excellent article Dale.
With that said, I disagree with the take on Oregon's defensive game plan, not so much addressed by you in this article but one that keeps popping up in comments and on my television.
Oregon's game plan was obviously containment of the air raid, and it worked well. In spite of all that jazzy short yardage passing (89 throws!), Oregon's 1st team defense allowed just 17 earned points, and 7 of those were penalty aided. It wasn't a close game by any stretch of the imagination, even though the game seemed to be in contention well into the third quarter. It wasn't, because Wazzu did not have the ability to drive the field. They could only dink and dunk, and that is never going to beat a team of this caliber.
Hey Dale...I know you would have probably linked my highlight video to this post but I had family to take care of Sunday and Monday (Dad was in hospital, okay now and back home) but for all the fans who might be wondering about the WSU highlights, I should have them on YouTube by Thursday...
Good article BTW...
@DuckDucks When did I say that Utah would run the table? I don't remember writing that; the Utes are a middle of the pack team. The Ducks, Seminoles, Tide, Baylor Bears and Ohio State are the teams with the best chance of finishing the season undefeated, I'd think. Every once in a while I leave out a word or substitute one word for another; it's a hazard of cranking out so much content and being old. But seriously, when did I say that?
Thanks for reading the blog and your kind words. I enjoy writing it and the response has been gratifying.
@Mahunashizzle That wasn't his top gear, but he was pulling away from the defense after Lowe cleared the perimeter. Tyner showed good patience letting that play develop, and you're absolutely right, Keanon made a devastating block, knocking one defender into another. The 66-yard burst should give Tyner the confidence to trust those gifts and run more decisively in the coming weeks.
@rgyle Steve Tannen and the post game crew made the point that the Ducks haven't played a perfect game yet this season, but you want that game to come against Stanford or Alabama. That's true enough, but executing in all phases increases the chances you'll do so in the future.
@Dale Newton I'd love to have the one signed by Ahmad. He was one of my heroes growing up.
@Duckbill Yeah, that really was a great block. When I watch Oregon's receivers and then watch another team play, I'm always amazed at the contrast between the two. Other teams receivers go out and slap some pads, but they do not sustain the blocks like Oregon players do. There are a few notable exceptions, like Alabama, but it is rare.
@zduckfan The two touchdowns at the end really skews the perception of the defenses effectiveness. The Cougs added about 130 yards and 14 points against the scout team, and as you pointed out, there was the gift td on the scoop and score. Bottom line is, they still won by 24.
Hey Mr. Mad Mike, first and foremost I just want to thank you for consistently putting together by far the best Duck highlight videos out there. You truly are a Duck Stud. That said, there are few things more important than Duck Football, but family is one of them. Take care of your Dad first and worry about the highlights later. We can wait.
@DuckStud We all knew it must be something important if you didnt have the highlights up! Cant wait and thanks for all you do!
@DuckStud Mike thanks so much for the update. Glad to hear your dad is okay. I checked five times for the highlight video, hoping it was up. When it is, I'll definitely link it--the guys love those.
@DuckStud Always worth waiting for Mike, and family always comes first.
@Dale Newton @rgyle Perfect schmerfect. If beating everyone by 21 or more and being the first team since darn near Abraham Lincoln to score 45 or more in their first 7 games isn't perfect, I don't know what is....
Yeah, they had some fumbles and a couple of 3 and outs, but they're blowing people away by 21 or more!!!!!!!!!! HELLO!!!! They're pretty darned good. lololololololol We have gotten sooooo spoiled. Whaddaya want, 100 to nothing, 100% completion percentage, 5 backs with 100 yards and free ice cream for everyone in the stands?
Sorry rgyle, just had to laugh a bit. it's been a crazy day and yes I would like to see them have a really great game against everyone from here on out. Every dog has his day, and it's about time for a Pac-12 Heisman candidate and national championship.
I watched the fusky game a few weeks ago with great interest. They were improved, year over year, with much more talent on the field. They were at home, seeking redemption for the previous loss to Furd. They kept it close and never gave up. We blew them out by 21. Last year it was by 25, in our house, against a fusky team decimated by injury.
This week, Oregon faced a much-improved Wazzu, year over year, with much the same result.
I'm not one to buy into the transitive properties of college football, and I think last year's teams are usually best if left in that moment when talking about this year's games.
However, it is valuable to consider these two games and last season's outcomes. Why? Because both teams were, by anyone's account, vastly improved versions from the teams Oregon played last year, yet the outcome remained the same.
Even with the mistakes. Even with the penalties. Even missing a couple of star players and a little controversy mixed in for kicks.
I don't think it's heresy to believe that, although "Oregon hasn't played anybody yet," we might have learned something useful about this year's Ducks. We can say with a higher level of confidence that the Ducks are improved as well. As always though, UCkLA will be the next test, and Furd will be the mid-term, and then comes more prep work until finals week with little brother.
The defense against Wazzu was effective, with or without the stats tacked on at the end. Aliotti was right, Oregon got the W and got it in a butt stomping. I'm seeing signs that this team is more Borg-like than some would give them credit for. We shall see as time goes on.