It's no secret that priority number one is speed in the Oregon offense. This version, under the frantic direction of Darron Thomas, has the Ducks flying faster than they ever have. But is it too fast?
There are two main factors that allow us to play at the speed we do: conditioning and depth. Conditioning helps the whole team wear down and outlast their opponents. Depth helps most on the defensive side of the ball, offsetting our offensive time of possession deficiencies. Both of these factors are keys to our success. And let's be clear: we shouldn't just stop using the no-huddle, or even slow down to a rate many other no-huddle teams play. But, for these last two games, we should take our foot off the gas juuuuuust a bit.
Darron Thomas is a redshirt sophomore. He's excitable, and wants nothing more than to run fasterfasterfaster. While this is a fantastic quality, it tends to further the inconsistencies of his youth. Most of his missed throws are overthrows, and it isn't because of a mechanical issue. It's because he gets too amped up from the pace and becomes less effective on his throws. This was magnified against Cal. The Golden Bears defense was able to get penetration and rush DT's pace even more. Now you had a young quarterback who was expected to not only snap the ball quickly, but make his reads and deliver the pass quickly and under duress. Thomas seems to find his rhythm late in games, when the opposing defense is gassed and on its heels. But a crisp DT sustaining drives and making throws at the slightly slower tempo will be just as taxing on the opposition.
On defense, players sub in and out constantly to stay fresh. Our offensive skill players do much of the same. Our pace may not affect them, but it is affecting our offensive line. Unlike other positions on the field, the O-line functions best through familiarity; knowing exactly how the other four guys on the line block is important, especially in our offense. We can't use twelve offensive linemen in a game, and Jordan Holmes is out there for every snap. And over the course of the season, the tempo is taking its toll. Our last two games have been underwhelming performances by the offensive line, and it is due in part to these huge men simply wearing out from the grind of the fastest football season in history. They've been going fasterfasterfaster since August, and the Cal game was the end of a five game stretch without a bye week. At their size, they can be as well-conditioned as the little guys, but they wear out faster. On the nine-twenty drive, they got extra time to compose themselves and finish strong. Holes were made, and the game was won.
Lastly, our speed has gotten us in the national spotlight. Going fast, along with winning ten straight games, has become our claim to fame with the national media. Our offense has been called a blur and a video game, and our team is feeling the need to meet and exceed these already lofty expectations. Chip Kelly preaches speed, but controlled speed. He needs to make it clear to the team that, with two games left in the regular season, control should come before pure speed. Let's not lose control of our destiny.