A Return to Duck Offense:
I know that I have been clamoring for a return to a more simple offense that gives the QB options. I think we saw something of a return to that. We had heavy doses of OZR runs with TBJ and put Herbert in positions to make the right read in the passing game (although more to come on his ability to read the game). More importantly, as I said we needed in my last post, the coaching staff called plays for Herbert that let him find an open man in space and allowed the skill player to make something out of it. Pharaoh Brown’s 3rd and 3 catch and score comes to mind immediately. We lined up Mundt and Brown together on the line ostensibly as blockers. We run Royce in the backfield prior to the snap. Mundt is to the outside of Brown and runs a 3-yard in route and sits down in the middle of the zone, occupying two linebackers. Jalen Brown runs a short in route as well, occupying the corner (who he then blocks), which leaves a sole safety (who brown stiff-arms) on his way to a 72 yard TD.
The effect is two-fold – we get our skill guys (who are our best asset right now) into space to make plays and we give Herbert some confidence in the throwing game (also by rolling him out of the pocket on several occasions). You could see that confidence snowball as the game went on. I also loved that we utilized several wheel route plays – moving our back in the backfield to the boundary and utilizing blocks upfield. TBJ had several of these. When defenders bit on TBJ, we had our WR who was supposed to be blocking – in this case Jalen Brown – wide open.
There were also very few straight-line, beat your man throws in this game – these throws ask a lot of the QB and came in heavy doses against teams we played earlier in the year (generally with Dakota Prukop over or underthrowing his man). The only ones I can think of is Herbert to Charles Nelson for a TD in the 1st quarter and then over the middle to Pharaoh Brown in the 2nd quarter (where he took a huge hit). Similarly, it felt like most of our big gainers on the ground were not IZR runs with Royce pounding his way through a hole up the middle. A lot of them relied on moving the OL out into space and utilizing a WR block and attacking the angle. This is important not only because TBJ is laterally quick, but also because we have a young OL and letting them dictate where the play is going to be made by making it easier for them on the outside will give them confidence. We also showed multiple back sets and provided Herbert with options, something I was clamoring for the past few weeks. A lot of credit to the RBs who made something out of nothing (we had an inordinate amount of hit and spins this game).
Take a bow. 512 yards of total offense, breaking Bill Musgrave’s school record for total offense and matching his passing record. The future looks bright for us and I’m hoping that this year is simply a rebuilding year. I thought this was somewhat telling and am hoping this bodes well for us:
Tight end Pharaoh Brown, who set career highs with seven catches and 129 yards in the first half, noted Herbert’s almost shy persona is similar to Marcus Mariota. Quarterbacks coach David Yost compared Herbert’s preternatural "feel" for finding the open man to Chase Daniel, a Heisman Trophy finalist Yost coached as Missouri, and said Herbert is more advanced in that way than NFL first-round pick Blaine Gabbert, another Yost protege. A handful of times each week, Yost will ask Herbert to explain why he threw to a certain receiver. "He would say, ‘I just felt he was open,’" Yost said. "We knew early in two-a-days we thought he had a chance to be a really high-level quarterback and that was pretty apparent to Coach Helfrich, myself and the rest of the staff. I think the players noticed it, too."
I hope we have our guy for the next 2-3 seasons and can build on the other facets of the game that need improvement (OL play and defense getting comfortable).
Who is this team?:
If you think about it, this team is 3 close losses away from being bowl-eligible. We could have beaten Nebraska (who was ranked #7 going into last weekend btw) had we not shot ourselves in the foot with 2pt conversions. We could have beaten Colorado (a team on the rise in the Pac-12) had we not called a fade on our first play from scrimmage in the red-zone with 55 seconds and 2 timeouts left. We could have beaten Cal under similar circumstances, but for a bad interception in 2OT. We deserved to lose to the washington teams (I believe it was a combination of malaise from our previous losses against Nebraska and Colorado that was our undoing against WSU and washington being the real deal this year). If that’s the case, this is a two-loss team who is still possibly in the hunt for a better bowl game.
What does it mean? We’re young. We have a QB who looks like he could be the proper heir to Marcus. We have a young OL who is learning with every game. We are loaded at the skill positions still, although we will likely lose Pharaoh Brown, Royce Freeman and Darren Carrington to the draft (as well as Devon Allen and Dwayne Stanford). We still have a very a loaded schedule for our next 3 games – USC, stfnardo, and Utah and the Civil War is not necessarily a gimme this year. Win out and we go to a bowl game. Win 3/4 and we may still make it there. A bowl is an absolute must in my opinion, not because we need to go to the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl or the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl (yes these are real names), but because we get extra practices. Extra practices are tremendous for young guys to gel.
Things I Liked:
- Seeing Pharaoh Brown come back and dominate like he used to. If things continue in this way, I can see Pharaoh getting drafted with relative ease.
- Getting takeaways – we had a couple and they were pivotal and we need to keep the trend going. Schooler is a breath of fresh air.
- Kalana Apelu has hustle and I love seeing him scrap for his place on this team. He is a former walk-on and it feels like he’s been coming with the goods for the last couple games.
- Our kicking game is tremendous. Schneider, Wogan, and Wheeler are all tremendous talents. If we had these guys back in 2010, we would have won a few national championships.
Things I didn’t like:
- Defense giving up 17 plays of 10 or more yards. We ended up bailing ourselves out of those situations with timely interceptions + sacks, but we still left it late (they were in the red-zone at 35-47 and could have made it something of a game late). Those opportunities will not present themselves as much against better opponents.
- Needing to kick FGs in the red-zone – if we’re going to win more games, our red-zone TD efficiency needs to get better.
As usual feel free to drop your comments in below and tell me if I’m completely off my rocker.