Solving the Mystery

OK, the Oregon Ducks have won five in a row over UW, scoring 31, 45, 34, 55,and 44 points in those games. They run a shotgun, spread option attack that is difficult to stop. They lead the conference in scoring. The are playing option football in a league where no one else does. They are also last in the league in time of possession.

They do, however, have to come to Husky Stadium, and the Husky offense will move the ball. UW quarterback Jake Locker needs a 400-yard game himself and Devin Aguilar, Jermaine Kearse, James Johnson, Kavario Middleton and D'Andre Goodwin (in that order) need to get open and catch the football. They need to set up the run with the pass and give the ball to Chris Polk 20 times either on runs, screens, short check down passes or kickoff returns.

The Huskies need to give Jake the option of running or passing off boots and use designed quarterback run plays: Let him use his legs when he needs to. Whether they are successful or not, UW has to try to ball control because Oregon is a big play offense. Using Locker in different ways is key to getting the third down plays and moving the chains. I think the Husky offense can move the ball and will; it's stopping Oregon's offense that is the big dilemma. But if UW can hold onto the ball themselves, that's part one of how you solve the mystery.

But really, stopping Oregon's offense is just about impossible, but slowing it down isn't. I broke down their games against Boise State, Utah, California, and UCLA and I think the Bruins, Broncos, and Utes did some good things that worked against the Duck attack.

The Ducks are extremely balanced and it doesn't matter who the quarterback is, they will run the zone read play, the stretch play opposite the back and the power play with the tight end in motion, pulling the backside guard. The tailback tends to sit deeper behind the QB on the power.

Those are their three main run plays, and then of course there's the quarterback keep options, and rather than pitch they prefer to pass to the wide receivers. They too have the bubble screen. They move their tight end so much that he is always in the action. He blocks across on the zone or kicks out on the power and slips into the flat off both.

Someone always has to spy for the QB, and option responsibilities are critical. Washington will no doubt mix their fronts and coverages so the Ducks can't always predict what they're in. They throw so much out of the option that you have to stay sound in coverage and option both at the same time. Outside blitzes have worked against them and teams that got up field tended to disrupt their passing, although they get rid of the ball pretty quick and are not throwing downfield as much as they have in the past.

They really try to get their QB and RB in open field situations and that means the Huskies will have to be solid on their open field tackling. UW can't afford to get out over their shoes against LaMichael James, because he will juke them out of their pants. He is only 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, but goes down quickly with solid hits and wrap ups. It's just getting your hands on him that is so tough.

I would imagine Mason Foster will draw a little Ed Dickson duty, as will all the others because he is such a weapon for them. Dickson does take you to the play a lot. Pulling linemen usually don't lie and Washington must play the zone play away from the back on every play and then all the options that come off of it.

The Huskies have to make Oregon use the long field and try to create fumbles (they have had 10 so far): Trail deep through the QB and expect flood patterns with receivers running with the quarterback.

Ideally, Washington has to get three fumbles, one interception, three sacks, and then get Oregon to punt at least four times and get one defensive score. That is the secret to winning this game: Slow down Oregon's offense, win the turnover battle, win the kicking game with the first block of the season (Utah got one in their game), be perfect in kicking and get to the 35-yard line on kickoff returns. Then you can sit back and watch Jake move the ball and the offense win the game.

It will be interesting to see the continued development of the younger kids in this game, especially in the secondary. They need to contain the quarterback on their pass rush and above all they just need to keep it close and then try to steal it at the end.

It's a tall order, but in Husky Stadium it's possible.


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