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The Film Room: Braxton Burmeister’s first collegiate start

Oregon’s true freshman QB debuted against the No. 11 ranked team in the nation

NCAA Football: Washington State at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon entered Saturday’s contest leading the nation in penalties, alongside carrying a roster of injuries. Not to mention, UO started a true freshman at quarterback. But at the end of the day, Oregon didn't play as bad as the final score (33-10) indicated.

Over the first few weeks of the season, we evaluated the entire Oregon team and highlighted each player that stood out on game day. Now that it’s conference season, we will select an individual player to evaluate each week from the previous Duck game.

OREGON’S 2017 RESUME

  • (4-2, 1-2)
  • 43.0 PPG
  • 258 TOTAL POINTS
  • 27.7 PA
  • 30.0 MOV
  • 2,964 TOTAL YARDS
  • 494.0 TOTAL YPG
  • 254.7 PASS YPG
  • 10 PASS TD
  • 25 RUSH TD
  • 239.3 RUSH YPG
  • 4.9 YPC
  • 28:27 AVG TOP
  • 36-for-36 XP
  • 2-for-3 FG
  • 338.3 YAPG
  • 7 INT
  • 24 SACKS
  • 49 TFL
  • 38 PD
  • 3 FF
  • 6 FR
  • 1 SPECIAL TEAMS TD

Key Players: Royce Freeman (790 YDS, 10 TD) and Troy Dye (52 TKL, 7.5 TFL, 3 SACK)

NCAA Football: Washington State at Oregon
Washington State defenders Justus Rogers (37) and Hunter Dale (26) swallow Oregon’s true freshman quarterback, Braxton Burmeister. WSU defeated the Ducks at Autzen Stadium 33-10 to remain unbeaten (6-0) for the 2017 season.
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

BRAXTON BURMEISTER

  • After back-to-back false start penalties opened the game for Oregon’s offense, Burmeister finally recorded his first play from scrimmage as a starter at the collegiate level. It was a read option that the QB kept for himself. He scampered up the left sideline for a gain of six yards. He looked as natural as he would all evening.
  • No. 11 Washington State started the game with zero safeties and eight in the box as they dared the Ducks to throw the ball out of the gates.
  • Royce Freeman amassed 62 rushing yards, but the defense was keying on him and he was battling through a shoulder dinger, as well. Nevertheless, Burmeister’s job kept getting more difficult with the loss of Oregon skill players. It certainly would have helped him out to have Charles Nelson and Dillon Mitchell roaming the field.
  • In the red zone on third down, the Ducks were stuffed on a run attempt by Kani Benoit up the middle. It was a read option that Burmeister handed to his running back. The WSU stop led to UO’s first points of the game, a field goal by Aidan Schneider.
  • The best play of his short career came on the opening play of their next offensive drive. Following a 12-yard punt by the Cougars, Burmeister and the offense had the ball on WSU’s 30 with 3:44 left in the first quarter. Burmeister calmly faked the handoff to Freeman on the jet sweep and proceeded to throw a perfect pass to hit tight end Jacob Breeland in stride on his way to the house. The 30-yard connection was the highlight of the night for the offense. The defense did not believe Burmeister would unleash a pass, so Breeland was basically uncovered downfield.
  • It’s easy to look like an amateur on third down and long. Yet, Burmeister had his moments. On their final third down attempt of the first 15 minutes, Oregon slung a screen pass out to Freeman on the outside. It was a solid play and forced the defense to make a decision. Quick-hitting passes were Oregon’s best bet to gain chunks of yardage.
  • The offense continued to place itself in a hole with 2-of-17 on third down and 0-for-3 on fourth.
  • He was not nearly as loud as he needed to be at the collegiate level. In high school, a quiet quarterback can get away it due to the size of the stadiums, crowds, etc. Autzen is certainly no place to be silent. You could see teammates struggling to hear him. Willie Taggart brought it up after the game, as well.
  • Obviously, he doesn’t have the arm strength of Justin Herbert and not many at this level do. Nevertheless, Burmeister runs better than Herbert. If the offense were to convert a few third downs, the run game could be tougher to slow down.
  • One adjustment I didn’t agree with was the continued uptempo pace. When injuries occur, we often hear the phrase “next man up.” Yet, we never hear anyone talking about the actual adjustments that need to be made with the departure of a certain player. Oregon can NOT afford to be playing with an uptempo attack right now.
  • Without Herbert, UO must shift their focus to the defense. Oregon can’t continue with the three-and-outs in less than 30 seconds. It wears down the defense for the long haul. Sustained, clock-controlling drives are the only way they can succeed without Herbert. The uptempo pace is not fooling anyone in a one-dimensional attack.
  • Oregon’s defense is good enough to rely on, as long as the offense keeps it close and stays on the field. With a freshman runner taking snaps, UO’s offense should keep the no-huddle, but allow the play clock to dwindle. The less the defense is on the field, the more fuel they’ll have for the final 15 minutes. Especially if UO doesn’t sub players, the defense would be forced to keep their original defense on the field.
  • If Oregon can capitalize and finish their drives with points, the Ducks will compete in every contest the rest of the season.
  • With less than eight in the box, Burmeister was solid in the read option. When he handed it to Freeman twice during the final minutes of first half, the running back had space upfield. The bigger the deficit became, the less impact the run made.
  • His footwork needs improvement. It’s also part of learning and living the read option with a spread no-huddle uptempo attack. The great part about Herbert is he stretches the field and opposing defenses with his arm. Burmeister has a responsibility to the defense to play smart and efficiently. It makes the running game that much more difficult to operate when the offense is shooting itself in the foot. We saw this on a number of occasions against No. 11 WSU.
  • He’s a big believer in the sideline vertical deep ball. Burmeister uses the sideline as an assistant against opposing secondary’s. Without the fear of a turnover, he can let it rip downfield. He tried deep shots to Brenden Schooler on more than a few occasions. The two connected on a nicely-executed 39-yard pass play in the final 30 minutes.
  • Continually the offense set him back with false start penalties, especially in the first half. He doesn’t have the arm strength to thread the needle, but his legs allow him opportunities to make plays that Herbert simply could not.
  • Burmeister throws a nice ball with solid spin. He has a decent spiral and his receivers don’t have much trouble handling his passes, which is not always the case with Herbert who throws missiles.
  • On 3rd and 15, Burmeister quickly recognized the chance to run and galloped eight yards as he assumed better field position for the Oregon punt. It doesn’t take him long to diagnose when to run, it’s a natural instinct when he pulls it down and finds space.
  • When a defense gets to know his style, it’s only a matter of time before he can open up the playbook. Getting outside of the pocket when under pressure is essential for someone like Burmeister. Just like you see Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson destroying NFL defenders with their talent outside the pocket, Burmeister will become better when he can extend the play.
  • Right now, he’s adjusting to the speed of the game which will cause some major misjudgments. He may think he has more room to run than he does, which occurred a few times vs WSU. That also comes when you’re playing against next-level athletes.
  • He was starting to make some nice adjustments just before halftime. Unfortunately, the halftime break gave Mike Leach an opportunity to counter and he did. UO was stifled in the second half and didn’t score a point. Not to mention, three costly turnovers by Burmeister forced Oregon’s hand.
  • With a true freshman, the weekly improvements are what’s exciting. We should see a better Burmeister next week if he plays over senior Taylor Alie, but we should also see some new mistakes in his first road game against a ranked opponent.
  • He has the ability to hit receivers in front of him, but he needs time in the pocket.
  • The sideline is Burmeister’s best friend, alongside a focused offensive line that remains penalty-free. If he uses the sideline appropriately, the middle of the field will eventually part like the Red Sea and that is when Burmeister can exploit a defense with his speed and athleticism.
  • If Oregon improves their 12 percent on third down and eliminates the false start penalties, Burmeister could lead a balanced offensive attack in the Bay Area and even surprise some people with his poise on the road.

Oregon (4-2, 1-2) now hits the road for back-to-back Pac-12 showdowns. First up, the Ducks will meet with No. 23 Stanford (4-2, 3-1) in the Bay Area on Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 8:00 p.m. PT from Stanford Stadium via FS1.

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