ATQ was at the Spring Game, grilling, drinking, promoting and enjoying some great football action. The following recounts that adventure.
We had a 3 car caravan meetup up at my house around 8:30am and drove over to the stadium, arriving about 9:05am. Driving along the south side of Autzen, we were directed to Entry 5 where 4 cars were already lined up ahead of us. Getting in line, we plotted out our move on where we wanted to tailgate. Unfortunately, plans were thwarted as we were directed into the left parking spots right near the road. No matter, good spots anyway despite the gravel. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. We all laughed at the clueless weathermen that tried to tell us that rain would be in the forecast for that day. Weathermen, just like Pac-10 Referees. Always missing calls. We laughed again. Little did we know that the last laugh would be on us once we got into Autzen for the game.
As we started to set up our 3 car tailgate, we noticed the guys next to us complaining about something. Apparently one of the parking attendants told them that there would be "no tailgating" at the Spring Game and he was very upset. Word spread quickly amongst the people in the row that tailgating was "banned". It was decided that they really couldn't do anything about it because our row of 10 cars, all with tents, coolers, and green and yellow jello shots (thanks neighbors!) was too many for this supposed security. After quickly moving through 3 stages of the 5 stages of grief, we decided to send the big guys next to us, who were the original bearers of the bad news, to go "talk" to the parking attendant. It was discovered that by "no tailgating", what they really meant was "no alcohol".
--Memo to the University of Oregon: Bad PR Move. Put this fact in your fan festival information next time if this was really the policy. As the hippies say, "it completed harshed our buzz dude".
Several ATQ folks stopped by the official "Swine Flu Free Zone" at the dvieira tent to get some drinks and grub. Takimoto hung out, had some chicken and beer then raced off to join his cohorts in the band. Speaking of the band, hats off to those guys. Not only was there a good crew there, the sound was great considering the echo and they dealt with the rain like champs. A few of the OMB members came around looking to get some information on musical tastes. We at the ATQ tent professed our love for all things Takimoto and advised him that whatever he likes would be fine. Interesting to note, the band is looking to play "I'm On a Boat". I'm hoping that mainstream duck fan out there votes "yes" to that pick because that's just awesome. Qrsouther brought an entourage with him who hung out with us for the game as well. We bugged the people around us about the site but wished we had something to give them...damn dvieira and his laziness on the stickers. Curse you!
After all of the tailgating was finished, it was time to head into the stadium. We dropped our food off with Food for Lane County, marched up the glorious steps under the all mighty Oregon O and into section 32 where we were just too far forward to avoid getting the drenching. The stadium crew was working out the kinks of the video board for this year but things looked to be pretty well in hand. Crowd was estimated at about 12,000 people. Not close to say, Ohio State's spring game, but given the rain we had to endure, I bet a lot of people looked at that forecast and chose to stay home from a game that didn't count. Even when the monsoon hit, not very many fans left. Don Essig even announced that the rain looked to be the worst in 43 years at Autzen. Considering the Stanford game a few years ago, and the infamous Cal game when the student section left, that was saying something to me.
--Dear Cal, please review tape of the Oregon Spring Game so you can fix your field drainage systems. Pitchforks are not standard equipment in dealing with rain. Thanks.
Overall, fun times by the ATQ'ers that made it and welcome to those that decided to check out the site as a result. On with the game.
The teams were split up with the Green (1st team defense / 2nd team offense) versus the White (1st team offense / 2nd team defense). No draft this year which seems to be a trend going on with teams. It makes sense. The guys are kept together to gain a little real world time. I saw Remene Alston before the game on crutches and sporting what looked like a hard cast on his ankle. I heard some talk of microfracture surgery but I couldn't find any information on that one. Any help would be appreciated. Warmups were standard and nothing out of the ordinary stood out to me. It looked like gameday, just without as much pomp and circumstance. There were no punts during the game, probably due to the fact our punting game is not doing so hot right now and the increased risk of injuries from special teams. We saw only 2 kickoffs, one to start the game and one to start the second half. The other thing to note was the use of a running clock in the second half
Justin Roper started off very inconsistent, missing some easy 5 yard throws and a screen pass or two. After some time in the game, he calmed down but the first few plays were a little interesting. He was making some nice 15-20 yard strikes and his velocity has improved. The zone read play got better for him throughout the game as well. He is keeping the ball more often than he did last year and the difference is very noticeable with how successful the plays are. He seems slow because of his long stride but he had some great cut moves that allowed him to get additional yardage. His touchdown pass at the end of the game was amazing although seemed to be "against the rules". He had a great spin move to avoid the pressure but seemed to get tagged twice before finally letting the ball go to the end zone. The pass was good, but plays like that would have been a "sack" in other circumstances in the game. Roper ended up being 22 of 34 with 3 TDs. If it wasn't for the sacks, he would have easily led everyone in rushing. Roper is a very capable backup. We aren't in a Dixon/Leaf situation at all and for that we should all be grateful.
Jeremiah Masoli had a great first half...since that's all he played. He racked up 215 yards passing and 2 TD's. The thing about Masoli that impressed me more than anything was the quick motion of decisions. Very little movement is wasted. A situation is analyzed, a decision is made and immediately we are moving on to the next situation. He has a command of the offense and is very quick in his delivery and decision making. No big scramble plays for him but he did make some nice decisions. One of his drives looked eerily similar to the winning drive against Stanford last year. Masoli is the clear number one, without a doubt. Masoli seems to have developed some chemistry with Aaron Pflugrad who caught both of Masoli's touchdown passes and had over 100 yards receiving. He was also doing a good job blocking down field.
You can't take a whole lot away from the running game's performance because of how well the defense knows the plays being run against them. However, LaGarrette Blount didn't have his best game. He looks a step slow and he just doesn't have the speed around the edge. He is a much better runner between the hash marks. Blount had 14 yards on 9 carries but he had a really great 23 yard catch in space where the receivers deep and he was left all alone. I'm a little nervous about where Blount is because of his huge showing last year at the Spring Game but the offensive line is a bit banged up. I think all of this will get worked out by fall camp. Andre Crenshaw, who didn't get mentioned in most people's write-ups, had some very nice carries and looked fast. He didn't seem JJ fast but he might be starting to turn the corner. His vision is much improved. Kenjon Barber had a great day at running back with 54 yards. He didn't play a tremendous amount but he looks like he's been playing running back his entire career. Chris Harper was also taking some snaps at running back with Roper running the option and he had some good runs. I'm a little concerned by a little too many juke moves. There was one play in particular where he ran about 30 yards to get 5 but the coaches are making a strong effort at getting him involved any way they can. No wildcat today though so we might have to wait until fall camp or games in the fall to see if Chip Kelly whips that one out. Harper ran mostly curl routes underneath and Roper found him a few times. He is getting better all the time.
Ed Dickson had a strong game with 4 catches for 95 yards but he seemed to be having a quiet day. When I read that statistic this morning, I couldn't believe it didn't stick out in my mind from the game. Jamere Holland didn't have a great game catching the ball but Masoli missed him on a couple of bombs towards the end of the first half. He had beaten the corner pretty badly with a 10-15 yard cushion. Masoli just missed him.
On defense, Chad Peppars was having his name called by Don Essig the entire game. Not only was he a tackling machine but he had two blocked field goal attempts and interrupted several other plays. He was out there motoring the entire game and it was great to see him at the rover position. Linebackers were very solid. I'm liking the scheme that Aliotti is using. I'm looking forward to the Boise St. game more and more, just to see how well we can shutdown the tight end seem route. I think we will be much better at it.
Kicking game? Ugh, lots of work to do.
The game itself was a bit of a showcase for the fans and it was great to see the team get some work in during game situations. Our defensive back situation is problematic right now due to injuries but I'm worried about all of the time they're missing. We absolutely need to get healed up over the summer and put in some serious work because we have the potential to make bad wide receivers look really good come the fall. Our 1st defensive ends looked great going around the edges against our offensive line with our defensive tackles doing a good job of clogging up the middle. The snaps from center are much improved from 2 scrimmages ago and should be solid by the time fall runs around. No one really wow'ed me this year like Blount did last year which I'm hoping is just balance on the team. We need our offensive line to gel better, our defensive backs need to get better at covering and our kicking game needs a lot of work. Other than that, things are coming together. If we can figure out those issues (the same issues we've had all spring), we have the makings of a special season.
[UPDATE]: here are some additional notes about the game from JConant - dvieira
Chip Kelly said he liked what he saw yesterday. That's a good sign. I did too, though I believe we didn't learn all that much about Oregon's 2009 team yesterday. Why? First, the offensive line was missing starters C.E. Kaiser and Bo Thran, Darrion Weeks sat out the spring game with a bum knee and Carson York limped off with a foot issue about mid-game. Second, Oregon's secondary was playing 3rd and 4th string guys due to mostly minor injuries higher up the depth chart.
So the defense wasn't facing a Pac-10 caliber offensive line, and the quarterbacks took advantage of some horribly blown coverages on several occasions. Nick Allioti says the young DBs need more "seasoning". I think what he meant to say is they need to know who is supposed to be covering who.
It was a disappointing to see both offenses drive inside the five yard line in the first quarter, only follow with costly miscues - Roper a bad sack, Masoli a fumbled snap - and then blocked field goals. Zero points on both occasions. Roper again drove his team inside the 15 in the second quarter and came up with nothing after a missed field goal. The kicking game is potentially a big problem, though the o-line issues may have accounted for much of that.
My other observations:
- Ed Dickson looked like the best player on the field. Malachi Lewis and Dion Jordan also made some nice plays. The Ducks appear to be in very nice shape at tight end.
- LeGarrette Blount has a lot of work to do over the summer.
- Jeremiah Masoli generally looked very good. Justin Roper had a nice game. Masoli did miss a wide open Jamere Holland twice on deep balls late in the first half. I'm sure accuracy and timing downfield will be a point of emphasis for QBs and receivers during the summer. Darron Thomas is not ready to lead a D-1 team at QB, yet.
- Simi Toeaina was impressive at defensive tackle.
- Aaron Pflugrad had another solid scrimmage. And some of the young receivers - namely true freshman Blake Cantu and Lavasier Tuinei - made some of the biggest plays of the day.
- Linebackers Eddie Pleasant, Bryson Littlejohn, Josh Kaddu and Brandon Hanna made plays all over the field. It seems odd to say at Oregon, but right now we have a stable of quality linebackers ready to step up along side our known comodities of Spencer Paysinger and Casey Matthews. Kenny Rowe also had a very solid spring game, though I believe he was often lining up in Nick Reed's former position at DE.
- Kenjon Barner - he is still considered a defensive back (and a good one), but he looked very natural carrying the ball. He's only a RS freshman and I wouldn't rule out a bona fide position change at some point (only fair to say that his coaches are saying that's not their intent). Barner rushed for 54 yards on 10 carries.
Chris Harper was my focus guy for this game, simply because I didn't like what I saw two weeks ago. With Jeff Maehl back on the field, Harper lined up with the second team offense. He got off to a shakey start, mostly due to a couple poor passes thrown and a drop. As the game moved along Harper asserted himself both at WR and at RB. He had a nice TD catch from Roper late in the second quarter. Route running still looks like an area that needs more work. I thought he looked fairly decent running the ball out of the backfield. More importantly, Chris looked into the game. He didn't seem to get down when things didn't click in the first quarter and as the game went on he was clearly a focal point for the second-team offense.
Last comment - black helmets looked pretty good with the green/black uniforms.