With blustery conditions, the passing game becomes a crapshoot. It's a lot easier to run than throw anyway, particularly on a night like this one. Don Essig will greet the cheering, rain-slickered crowd with "it never rains in Autzen Stadium," but that's metaphorical whimsy in a place where Duck love conquers all: in reality, it's going to be a nasty and unpleasant night, a tailor-made evening for wool gloves and a flask.
Unleash the Dash: California has given up chunks of yards inside in all three of their games, and that makes it the best opportunity to unveil Thomas Tyner (Gary Breedlove, Eugene Daily News photo).
New offensive coordinator Scott Frost has shown aplomb in switching it up. Week one the Ducks ran for 500 yards, week three three they passed for 471. Time for another switch. Against an opponent with a banged-up front seven in terrible conditions for throwing the football (it isn't the rain--it's the gusting, blustery wind that's the real problem) the challenge should be laid directly to the offensive line. Hand the ball off to the kid. Give him seams and watch him run. De'Anthony Thomas will be his usual effective, explosive self, and Byron Marshall will contribute, but it's time to take the wraps off Oregon's running back of the future, 2013. He's had a month to get healthy after missing time in fall camp. He's learned the plays and knows where he's supposed to be on pass protections (he proved that with a devastating cut block against Tennessee).
Let him run the ball. Give him 15-20 touches. Tyner's run in these conditions all through high school and junior high, and thrived in them. He's 210 pounds, lightning fast, and has great balance and leg drive. It's a night for an explosive, powerful running back. Use him, and learn what he can do.
Defensively, the Ducks will have to defend about 40 underneath throws, hooks, slants, outs, flat routes and bubble screens. Drag routes have been a particular weakness, the 5 to 10-yard routes across the defensive formation as other receivers take defenders long.
Inside linebacker Derrick Malone, the team's leading tackler so far this season, is primed to have a big night swarming to the football and finishing plays. He's athletic and a film study warrior, so at some point during the game he's going to read Goff's eyes and anticipate, step in front of a route where the quarterback loses him under pressure. He'll make at least one pick with a chance for a return.
The Ducks plan to bring pressure and make the first-year quarterback uncomfortable, force some mistakes. They'll succeed. Malone's growing experience, study habits, work ethic and talent come to fruition Saturday night. He's about to become a household name, at least in the Western United States where the PAC-12 Network is readily available. Expect 12 tackles, a sack and an interception. His name will be called early and often.
Dale, I love your articles. This seems like your boldest prediction yet of stats for a Duck, ie, Malone, but I think you are right about his abilities. Malone has been a pleasant surprise given the uncertainties starting the season with respect to the LBs. He still needs some improvement, but he's doing better than I hoped. I hope to see Tyner also, but I also understand the coaches do things for a reason, and given their track record, there's no reason to doubt them now in terms of Tyner (and that wasn't to imply you were)....but I'd love to see him get good playing time to see what he can do. Keep up the great articles. First thing I read each day! Go Ducks!
Dale, I love your articles. This seems like your boldest prediction yet of the Ducks, ie, Malone, but I think you are right about his abilities. Malone has been a pleasant surprise given the uncertainties starting the season with respect to the LBs. He still needs some improvement, but he's doing better than I hoped. I hope to see Tyner also, but I also understand the coaches do things for a reason, and given their track record, there's no reason to doubt them now in terms of Tyner (and that wasn't to imply you were). Keep up the great articles. Go Ducks!
If it plays out like you think Dale, I would expect to see the two tight end set much of the evening. Might be the kind of evening to play Stanford football. We have the personnel. Lets see what Coach Helfrich and Scott Frost dial up. The defense will hold Cal to three TD's or less. Byron Marshall has a good evening.
@oneirishman Appreciate it One Irish. Looking at the matchup, I just felt like these two guys fit the situation.
@SonomaDuck SD, if they go that way, maybe give them a dose of Colt Lyerla carrying the football, especially in the second half.
@greenandyellow Agree, GY. Oregon's secondary could be on a mission. Tipped balls, deflections, overthrows, jump the bubble screens and out routes, look out.
@goducks58 Definitely, gd. They should be primed.
@Stevoduck I think I read that he is ready to go.