Tako Tuesdays: One Bold Move Deserves Another

This week, Tako Tuesdays presents a look back at the defining moment of Chip Kelly's first season at the helm of the Oregon football program, the moment that truly cemented his status as Big Balls Chip.

In the 114 playings of the Civil War, there have been a number of fantastic games. But the 2009 Civil War was the greatest game in the history of the rivalry. Not only were the stakes the highest ever, but the game was an absolute classic. There were six lead changes. The teams spent all but 6:06 of the game separated by one possession or less. The Beavers threw for over 300 yards, didn't turn the ball over, didn't miss a field goal, and lost. And the end of the game, on both sides of the ball, was shaped by the bold moves of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly.

10:13 left in the fourth quarter - OSU, down 37-33 after a Morgan Flint field goal, quickly marched downfield, moving 49 yards in the first three plays of their drive. After a fantastic three-play defensive sequence by the Ducks (run for no gain, pass for 2 yards, sack for a loss of 7), the Beavers were faced with a 4th and 15 from the Oregon 27. OSU kicker Justin Kahut was 4-4 on the night, including a 45 yarder. A field goal would make it 37-36 Ducks with over six minutes left. But Beaver coach Mike Riley decided to roll the dice, sending the offense out on the field. Sean Canfield had James Rodgers open near the first down marker, but one-hopped the throw, turning the ball over on downs. Coach Riley attributed the decision to go for it on the Ducks' offensive pace and aggressiveness. 

Mike Riley - "On 4th and 15 we did not know if we would get another opportunity and if they scored a touchdown it would be over."

Oh, how right he would turn out to be. 

After burning 2:40 off the clock in five plays, the Ducks were faced with a 4th and 3 from the OSU 33. They had three choices:

  • a 50 yard Morgan Flint field goal - out of the question. Flint was only reliable from <40 yards and the giving up field position wasn't worth the reward of making it a 7 point game. 
  • punt, and try to pin the Beavers deep - possible, though this was Jackson Rice, true freshman edition. He had already shanked one earlier in the game, and a ball into the endzone would be a 13 yard net punt. 
  • go for it - the bold choice, but the common sense one. Get three yards, and go to the Rose Bowl. Come up short, and your defense still has 70 yards of field behind them.
For many coaches, going for it on any fourth down is a risk, but mostly to their reputation. Failing to convert a fourth down means that the coach made a poor decision. Chip Kelly has shown that his main concern is putting his players in the best position to win the game. And that 4th and 3 play? It almost didn't work. The Beavers got a great pass rush on Jeremiah Masoli, and it took a bold play of his own - lowering his shoulder and running through OSU's Lance Mitchell - to pick up the first down. 



After two botched rushes and a superhuman run by LaMichael James on 3rd and 15, the Ducks were faced with another 4th down and short. This was a no-brainer. One yard, and we're Rose Bowl bound? Let's do it. 

On the first fourth down play, Coach Kelly hedged his bets by calling a play with options. He called a pass play that got Jeremiah Masoli into space, where he could make a play with his legs if needed. On the second fourth down, he called another play with a number of options: a zone read, with a slot option. The Beavers front seven committed inside, and Masoli smartly kept the mesh, sucked two defendes in,  and pitched outside to Kenjon Barner. Barner easily got to the edge and picked up the first down, and the Ducks were headed to Pasadena. 



Dangit. Now I'm depressed again. Is it September 3rd yet?

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