How Do You Shoot Down a High Flying Duck?

Ever go duck hunting? Well if you have, then you know you've got to lead them a little or basically fire your shotgun ahead of ducks and let them fly into the shot. Your first thought though, must be how high are they flying? That's obvious because if you shoot too early, you'll never get there and you're sure to miss.

That's probably what the Huskies are faced with in order to beat the Oregon Ducks. Saturday.

You're going to have to lead them a little and maybe fire two shots in a row just to make sure they wound them. Then when the ducks hit the ground you send the dogs in and let them finish the kill and bring the dead birds back gently in their mouths. It's the ground game that counts, and if you have a good dog then he is already on his way to finish the kill.

If you ask almost every Husky fan which game would you most like to win on the Husky schedule, I'll bet the majority, if not every single one, would tell you - OREGON. They have become our nemesis, our tormentors, and our most bitter rivals. If the Cougars are the Huskies' main rival, and USC is our traditional conference rival, then the Oregon Ducks can only be described as the most hated and envied rival. There is no way Washington's football program will ever be "back" until they can consistently beat the Oregon Ducks.

Oregon is a special football team built around the concept of speed. They have dominated the northwest since about 2004 or so and have beaten the Huskies the past seven years in a row. In every case it wasn't even close. For those seven games the Ducks have scored 300 points to the Huskies' 120.

Last year the Ducks played for the national championship after winning the Pac-10 championship. Winning this year's contest would certainly be as big as any single game in the last thirty years of Husky Football.

So, how can they possibly get it done? Well, first of all, you've got answer their speed and tempo - especially when you're on defense. Then you have to score with them, win the turnover battle and capitalize on those opportunities. Washington will need to get 2 to 3 fumbles and an interception, and they will need to have something big to happen in the kicking game. The Huskies will need a least one touchdown from either their defense or their kicking game in order to stay in this game and give themselves a chance to win it in the fourth quarter. Conversely, they can't give up any interceptions or fumbles and absolutely can't allow any long kick returns. Washington needs to be the team scoring in the kicking game. They will want to get four turnovers and they will win the game.

Last week the Ducks essentially won their game against the Cougars in the kicking game when they returned a kick for a touchdown and blocked a punt for another. Without those two kicking scores they may have lost to the Cougars. No doubt the Huskies will study that game and realize the Ducks can be beaten. Of course, one could say the Ducks were looking by WSU to Washington, but maybe they'll be looking by Washington to Stanford and USC, who are both up next on the Ducks' schedule.

Assuming that Washington's offense protects the football they should be able to move the ball against the Oregon defense, which is not as good as it was last year. In the second half Washington will need to run the football and control the clock (Oregon is ninth in the conference in rush defense). Keep getting first downs and keep the Oregon offense on the sidelines - that will really do more for the defense than anything. In the first half the Husky offense simply needs to answer and the defense simply needs to get stops. Then at half time both sides of the ball should think about doing some absolutely different things. Save something, because once the Ducks think they know what you're doing they will counter quickly with something else.

If the Oregon offense does something good then they like to hurry up and do something else in their repertoire and often times it's already been called or decided. Washington will have to have a base call and change it up during the game.

Oregon rolls their players on defense and Washington will want to roll theirs as well just so they are fresh for the end of the game. They attack you in the kicking game and Washington should do the exact same thing.

The defense needs only to get stops: Whatever it takes to get out of a drive and only give up three points or less. Make the Ducks punt. Make the Ducks turn the ball over. Make the Ducks settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. Don't give up the real long runs or throws that the Ducks seem to live off of. You do that by taking proper angles and tackling well. The Ducks like to strike quickly, and if they do then they will they will often go for two and force you to play a spread PAT system where they can out-man you on a screen play or try to trick you with an option run or throw play. Against the Cougars, the Ducks blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, then immediately lined up and went for two.

They also employ their hurry-up offense throughout the game as they rarely huddle up but always line up on the ball and run another play before you can get set or send a defensive signal in. This is the essence of their whole "trickem" offense. They don't allow you to substitute according to situations or personnel and often call a play before you're even lined up. The whole process is designed to unsettle defenses by making them hurry and forget their reads and how to stop Oregon's basic three run plays - which also of course includes options.

I've watched five of Oregon's games so far from this year and sincerely believe Washington can pull off this upset because they too have speed and may be able to match Oregon's speed in space. The Washington defense needs to tackle well and wrap up, but other teams are starting to figure out the tempo problem and the Huskies have no doubt recognized the same chinks in the armor.

On offense, the Huskies have a War Daddy in Chris Polk and the Ducks know if they can't match his toughness then the UW offense could grind them on the ground. The Ducks have some really good quick backs but they don't have a Chris Polk.

Would a Washington win be an upset? Of course. Are the Oregon Ducks a really good college football team? Obviously! Can they be beaten this Saturday? Sure they can, and I know a team who would love to do it.


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