Sooooooo, that Washington State game wasn’t super fun. The offensive line was dominated by WSU’s D-line, the offense couldn’t convert on third-down, there were, by my estimation, 37 false start penalties, and Braxton Burmeister looked positively Kemptian at times (ironic, considering earlier that day Kyle Kempt - Cody’s little brother - torched Oklahoma in his first career start). Now, all this is completely understandable - WSU’s defensive front might be the best in the conference, and Burmeister went from wearing a baseball hat and taking notes to playing a top-15 team in the span of a week - but it doesn’t give me a lot of hope for offensive fireworks in the coming weeks, particularly against generally-stout defenses like Stanford, Utah, and Washington.
However, there is plenty to be hopeful about on the defensive side of the ball. Even with the offensive struggles, the defense kept Oregon in the game until the fourth quarter and made a good WSU offense look lost and out of sync. The Cougars had only two drives of longer than 50 yards all night, and scored 20 of their 33 points following Oregon turnovers. The Ducks D racked up four sacks, deflected six passes, and held WSU to 2-14 on third down.
This is so very...un-Oregon.
For years it’s been all offense, all the time, to the point where the many truly good defenses under Nick Aliotti were undervalued and underrated. And now that the rest of college football has caught up to the Ducks in terms of speed, deception, tempo, and explosiveness on offense, wouldn’t the truly Oregon thing be to swing wildly away from the norm, and continue to innovate and lead college football from the front?
That’s right. It’s time for Oregon to embrace a defense-first mentality, and start the next college football revolution. And Oregon’s next opponent, the Stanford Cardinal, is the perfect foil against which to debut the defensive Ducks. What better place to start the ascent to the top of the boring and bruising than the home of punting from your opponent’s 29 yard line? I still have to imagine that Stanford’s idea of a perfect game was their 2012 win in Autzen, a 17-14 overtime win that perhaps ruined Oregon’s best chance at a national title. Wouldn’t it be just remarkable if these defense-first Ducks could go down to the Farm, bottle up Bryce Love, harass whichever dollar-store Kevin Hogan they have starting at quarterback, and win 13-10? It would be absolutely disgusting and unwatchable, and I’d giggle through every second of the mess.
Looking beyond this season, the Ducks are set up well to turn themselves into a defensive behemoth that wins every game 20-10; if we can somehow convince Jim Leavitt to not take the OSU job, he and DL coach Joe Salave’a make a frightening tandem in both playcalling and recruiting (5 4-star defensive players already committed for 2018). And in an offensive world, the trendy school that goes after all the top defensive recruits is a niche that no one is filling at the moment. Oregon’s made its name off doing what no one else is doing, and no one is trying to be Sexy Iowa. Oregon could be Sexy Iowa. Oregon SHOULD be Sexy Iowa. I can picture it now:
November, 2019. Oregon is 8-0, despite never scoring more than 30 points in any game this season. They lead the country in sacks, third-down conversions percentage allowed, and opponent points per game. The Oregon offense is now the single-wing, in order to control the clock and keep field position in their favor. They have established a pipeline of Spanish punters, kids with big legs who weren’t good enough to catch on with a futbol club. They average 9 pass attempts per game, games last less than three hours, and every game is at noon because Oregon is now immune to #Pac12AfterDark. Willie Taggart and the Ducks ride a monstrous front seven and Ray Guy Award winner Sergio Villalobos to the program’s first national championship.
Sexy Iowa. Get into it.