Who are you and what have you done with the Oregon Ducks?
Aside from last year's post-Dixon-doldrums I can't remember the last time I saw an Oregon team so incapable of throwing the football. I think I've moved on from the angry, bitter, head-hunting frame of mind which possessed me in recent weeks, but in its wake I've been overtaken by a stupefied, mind-numbing response.
I don't get it.
I don't get how an offense seemingly unstoppable for most of last year has now been rendered inept. I don't get how an offensive coordinator anointed less than a year ago has now become simple and predictable. I don't get how players who once collected awards and accolades like sand at the beach, are now afterthoughts on a team lacking weapons and explosiveness. It would be easy for me to point fingers, name names, and sling blame at parties presumably responsible, but who am I to say who or what's the problem?
I will say this; I miss the "old Oregon Ducks." The Ducks that used two-back sets like the I-Formation and Pro Set. The Ducks who threw passes to Tight Ends up the seam and receivers to the post. The Ducks that used inside and outside screens to keep defenses honest. And the Ducks that kept defenses off guard with balanced attacks encompassing all of the above.
Am I saying I'm ready to scrap the spread? No, but I am saying I'm ready to scrap the spread we're running now. While I understand we're dealing with young quarterbacks, is it really THIS complicated? So complicated that you can't gain more than a hundred yards a game through the air? I'm sorry, but if man can put himself on the moon, a piece of equipment on Mars, and the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series ,then the Oregon Coaching Staff should be able teach a quarterback to read a defense, a receiver to run a route, and All-Conference player to catch a pass.
The Stanford "Color/Trees" are coming to Autzen today bringing a level of respectability not seen in quite some time. They're 4-2 in the conference and 5-4 overall. A win gets them bowl eligible for the first time since 2001 and I'm guessing they're pretty fired-up at the prospects of doing that in Eugene. So how does Oregon stop that from happening? I've got some suggestions:
Take the training wheels off and let these quarterbacks sink or swim. It's hard to on-the-job-train when you never get out of "training," and into the actual job.
Stop the run. Sounds simple but simple is not a strength of Nick Aliotti's defense…allegedly.
Pressure the quarterback. If I have to see another converted third and long due to an opposing signal-caller's endless time in the pocket I'm going sob uncontrollably. Rush four down-linemen, stunt, blitz from the defensive backfield, do anything outside of nothing to apply pressure. If once you don't succeed, try, try again…just not the same thing two, three, or twenty times straight.
Try some play-action. Talk about a lost art; I understand that play fakes in the passing game are more difficult in the spread option due to a lack of pass protection, but it worked last year. It's the easiest form of deception in the game, let it rip.
Use the home crowd to your benefit. Translation; play with some enthusiasm. The "Autzen Majic" has dwindled of late, it's time to remind teams that Rich Brooks Field is not where visiting teams come to win games.
Jump on the Cardinal early. When was the last time an Oregon team dominated early? I'd love to see a three score lead in the second quarter to smother any hopes of an upset.
Six relatively easy ways to win today's game. This isn't USC it's Stanford. It isn't a road game it's at home. And this isn't complicated, it's basic.
It's now or never Ducks, and never say never.