Tiki's Game Analysis: Oregon

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, the Hoos weren't likely to win the game. And yeah, even the 22 point spread seemed ambitious. But, it seemed to me that the coaches did not put their players in a position where they could be successful. Still, the defense was outstanding at times, and the offense showed spurts. (OK, only one spurt.)

Disappointing as that was, it wasn't all that surprising. Parts of the equation were a bit of a surprise, but the overall outcome was foreseeable. Oregon is simply far too talented and athletic a team to be upset by a young team like Virginia. The Hoos are a work in progress, while the Ducks are a well-oiled machine.

On the 5th play of the game, Oregon QB Marcus Mariota took a shotgun snap, paused for a moment, and then ran 71 yards untouched up the middle of the field into the endzone. This was indicative of the differences between the two teams. The Hoos have a QB who is among the fastest players on the team, a guy who, physically, can make that play. But because of the difference in scheme, style and execution, that play isn't going to happen for the Hoos. From a defensive standpoint, that play should not have caught Virginia off guard. Mariota rushed for over 750 yards last year, including an 86 yard run. Ideally, the middle of the field would not be left so wide open for him. But the Ducks have so many weapons on offense, and are so good at spreading the defense across the field, that the Hoos basically had no choice there. Sure, they could've had a spy on Mariota, but that would've meant leaving something else open, and the Ducks would've simply taken advantage of that.

That last part is a huge difference. The Ducks have been running the same basic offense for 7 years now, and they've gotten pretty good at it. In those same 7 years, the Hoos have been through 4 offensive coordinators, each with their own ideas about the offense. None of those offenses have been particularly good, although the Bill Lazor led offenses were decent.

Year

Offensive Coordinator

Rushing Offense

Passing Offense

Total Offense

2007

Mike Groh

79

90

101

2008

Mike Groh

108

69

105

2009

Gregg Brandon

112

105

118

2010

Bill Lazor

77

25

37

2011

Bill Lazor

54

55

46

2012

Bill Lazor

96

37

62

2013

Steve Fairchild

89

97

106

(all stats courtesy ncaa.org; 2013 stats are through 2 games)

When the Ducks line up, everybody is on the same page. They are very good at attacking whatever the weakness of the defense is. If the defense is in a nickel, they'll go with a run play. If the defense is in press coverage, they'll look to throw a deep pass. If the defense is spread out wide, they'll run the QB draw. If Mariota doesn't like what he sees, he'll change the play and run something else.

The Hoos, on the other hand, are still learning their offense. Sometimes, the QB and the receivers aren't on the same page. This, unfortunately, leads to interceptions such as David Watford's third INT, which looked like Watford simply threw the ball to the Oregon DB. Obviously, that was not his intent. He had made a different read than his receiver had, so there was nobody there for his throw. This is the kind of thing that happens with a young, inexperienced QB.

Maybe Watford has the freedom to change a play, I don't know. I don't recall seeing him do it. When the play is called for the 20th WR screen of the game, and the defender in front of the blocking WR is a defensive end, that play isn't likely to work. A 185 pound WR isn't going to be able to block a 250 lb DE. That play shouldn't happen. Watford either doesn't have the freedom to change that play, or he isn't making the correct reads. If he changes the play into something that forces Tony Washington to cover Dominique Terrell or Darius Jennings, even if it just a quick slant, it is much more likely to be successful.

As I mentioned in the preview, it can be difficult to determine what a successful defensive game is against the Ducks. Obviously, giving up a 71 yard TD on the 5th play of the game is not a success. But overall, the Hoos weren't too bad on defense in the first half. Oregon had first half scoring drives that started at the Virginia 14 and the 40. If you give an offense like that such good field position, they're going to score. The defense forced three 3-and-outs and 2 turnover-on-downs in the first half alone. Oregon had 9 drives in the first half, more than half of which ended in a punt or turnover. Last year, Oregon scored on nearly 60% of their first half drives, and just 23 of their 98 first half drives ended in either a punt or turnover on downs. The Hoos defense had done an admirable job, and yet the score was 28-10.

Down the 18, the Hoos came into the second half needing a miracle to win the game. It's time to pull out all the stops, go for broke, right? They tried, once. The first play was a deep ball to Adrian Gamble that was well over his head. Two plays later, the Hoos were punting. The next drive, the Hoos went right back to the dink and dunk offense that had averaged a whopping 4.5 yards per play in the first half.

As always, I'm disappointed that the team lost. But having little expectation of a win, I can't feel too upset about that. I am, however, upset that the coaching staff was scared. From the start, they coached to keep the game respectably, not to win. The offensive playcalling was terrible. Sure, Watford wasn't great. But the team averaged just 5.6 yards per completion. We didn't run a single read-option. No trickery of any type. I suspect that they didn't want to show future competition what's in our playbook. But that, to me, says that they entered this game knowing they weren't going to win. And you can't coach like that. I'm disappointed.

As always, some notes from the game:

  • Down 45-10 late in the 3rd quarter, the Hoos faced 4th and 1 from their own 34 yard line. They punted. You're down 35 points and it's 4th and 1. Why are you punting? At that point, who cares if you turn it over on downs? Mike London had given up on the game by that point, which is not the right attitude to send to the players. He was trying to keep the margin of defeat down, as opposed to giving his team its best chance to win.
  • Along the same note, the players had not given up, despite the message from the coaching staff. I liked the effort from the entire offense, stopping Dior Mathis from scoring on his interception return. For a 300 lb OT to make the tackle 100 yards away from where the play started says something about the entire team. All 11 players were chasing Mathis down, despite being down by 35 points.
  • Not that it mattered, but I was disappointed in the officiating. They missed a blatant halo violation on Dominique Terrell in the first quarter. Then they made the same call against the Hoos later in the game. The hit on Terrell was much worse than the hit on Chad Delaney. There also seemed to be inconsistent enforcement of downfield holding and pass interference (by both the offense and defense).
  • A week after some great special teams play helped the Hoos upset BYU, the special teams were a bit of a letdown this week. Alec Vozenilek had some good punts, but he also had some terrible punts, including one blocked. While the Hoos blocked an extra point, they also got caught napping on the game's first extra point, which Oregon faked and run into the endzone for a 2 point conversion. On the other hand, Dominique Terrell still looked good returning punts. Also, both Khalek Shepherd and Taquan Mizzell looked close to breaking KRs. I have a feeling one of them will this season. Kick coverage was also pretty good, especially considering the talented returners that Oregon has.
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