Oregon ran the ball at exactly a 2:1 ratio outside of garbage time, and even that was probably too much passing. Considering the poor weather and the fact that UW does exactly one thing well which is defend the pass, Oregon probably should have kept the ball on the ground at more like a 3:1 or even 4:1 ratio. It seems like the Ducks figured that out by halftime - outside of garbage time, Oregon had a 50/50 run-pass split in the first half, but in the second half it was over 85% rushing.
This was the fourth straight week of Oregon rushing at a 75% or better success rate, which is unprecedented in my experience - 30 successful designed runs vs just 10 unsuccessful ones, given the down & distance. They averaged 6.5 yards per carry outside garbage time and eight, or 20%, went for 10+ yards, which is an outstanding explosive rushing rate.
The Ducks had ten more successful rushes than total passing plays, excluding garbage time. If my editor would let me, I would make every video in this article just successful runs, because they’re the only thing that really mattered in this game - any team that rushes this efficiently and explosively will control every game they’re in. Here’s a representative sample:
(Reminder - after pressing play, you can use the left button to slow any video to 1⁄4 or 1⁄2 speed)
- :00 - By this point Oregon had motioned out the back like this as a way of determining zone or man and lightening the box but then running the quarterback several times; UW surely knows what’s coming but they can’t stop it, and Oregon in the second half was more confident running on 2nd and long. Nice work by #78 C Forsyth to help out on both combos of the two d-linemen.
- :09 - Per their tendencies, UW has a pretty light box against 11-personnel on 2nd & long, so much so there’s not much work for a couple linemen. Great blocks anyway, particularly that seal by #8 TE Matavao on their 5-star OLB, and a really nice juke of the DB by #26 RB Dye for extra yardage.
- :29 - This starts off with the entire left side of the line tripling their best DL, then the center and LT come off to take the backers. The LG either comes off or gets shed, and he gets the tackle - five of the eight failed rushes looked like this, a big DL just beating an OL, rather than a run blitz or backer making the play.
- :37 - I’m not sure if the OLB who backs or the safety walking down is the read defender here, but either way it’s the right read (I don’t have any incorrect RPO reads in this game) since there’s room for the freshman #21 RB Cardwell to run down the hash. Nice bend here getting around the line and then inside the DB.
Yet again Oregon used a planned offensive line rotation, with two configurations they swapped out every other drive. Both of these groups had #56 LT Bass and #71 RT Aumavae-Laulu on the outside. On the inside, the first set used #77 OL Moore at LG, #53 OL Walk snapping, and #74 OL S. Jones at RG. Then the second set brought in Forsyth for his first game in weeks, moved Walk to LG, and brought in #70 OL Jaramillo at RG. This pattern lasted until the 11th possession: that started with Moore at LG, Walk at RG, and Jaramillo at RT, but Walk left the game with an injury after that play; from then on Forsyth took over snapping for the rest of the game, with Moore at LG and a mid-drive rotation between Jones and Jaramillo at RG.
As expected, passing performance in this game was underwater (no pun intended) - 7 successful designed passing plays vs 13 failed ones, or 35%. The Ducks passed for 5.5 yards per attempt, and just two, or 10%, went for 15+ yards.
On my tally sheet, I break down those 13 failed plays as four on Brown making an inaccurate pass or I believe a poor decision, four on bad blocking by the offensive line or at the perimeter on a screen, four on UW’s pass defense just making a good play, and one drop.
Adjusting for expectations — the weather, the opponent, and the standard amount of bad luck — I conclude that Oregon underperformed where they should have been in the passing game by three or four plays, which I put half on Brown and half on blocking (the line also has to take some blame for four false starts that backed Oregon up and probably resulted in more passing than what was called for). I’m puzzled why Oregon even attempted to throw this much, and I think it was telling that immediately out of halftime they went on a six-play touchdown drive, all of which were successful runs.
Here’s a representative sample of the passing offense:
- :00 - We saw this play a few times in 2020 but this is the first time they’ve run it in 2021, where the QB shows keep to draw down the ILBs and then pops it over them to the TE. I think the play is there but Brown throws an inaccurate ball. I can’t be sure but this looks like it slips in his hand.
- :06 - Good protection, nice throw, dropped right into the zone coverage hole in the triangle between the nickel, ILB, and safety. You wouldn’t think there was an ounce of rain on this play.
- :13 - The pass is completed here, but it’s hurried by poor protection and it’s very unlikely that #19 TE Ferguson would pick up the 1st down. With more time in the pocket I think that #4 WR Pittman would get open on the over route from how the DBs are aligned and from what I know of UW’s coverage structure, though this broadcast was particularly irritating in rarely using the high angle or any replays so I can’t say for certain.
- :21 - This is pretty remarkable for a few reasons: it’s one of the few passes in the second half, it’s a comeback against quite possibly the best corner in the league, and it’s thrown perfectly calmly despite a pass rusher in the QB’s face.
The Huskies elected to pass far more frequently than the Ducks did, 58% of their meaningful snaps, and given the inefficiency of their passing attack exacerbated by the weather conditions, that probably constituted the second biggest factor in determining the game outcome.
Oregon successfully defended 21 designed passing plays vs 8 unsuccessful defenses, or 72.4% given the down & distance. That’s an exceptional number and probably unsustainable, a unique product of the opponent and conditions. The Ducks allowed just 4.4 yards per passing attempt, which is an excellent defensive number, but four passing plays resulted in a gain of 15+ yards (though I’m counting one thought-provoking pass interference flag in that) or about 14% explosive passing, which is just an okay figure.
Six of UW’s passes or about 20% of their passing playcalls were screen passes. Their three successful screens gained a combined 40 yards, which represented almost a third of their total passing yards. That’s both a higher frequency and productivity at screens than the rest of their season that I’d charted, and constitutes the only real adjustment I saw from the Huskies’ offense for these game conditions. Other than that, Oregon’s pass defense performed just as expected, with plenty of pressure, locking down the outside and deep parts of the field, but somewhat soft on short dumpoffs.
Here’s a representative sample of pass defenses:
- :00 - Oregon moved #5 OLB Thibodeaux around to different alignments in his “Joker” role; here he’s inside two-way #12 DE DJ Johnson and attacking the LG (probably their weakest o-lineman, though that’s not saying much, and he’s got quite the hook). The pass is low and the WR has to dive back for it with #0 CB James right on his heels, this was ruled complete but short of the 1st down.
- :10 - Thibodeaux got very few one-on-one pass rush opportunities against UW’s tackles, since they usually had two blockers on him when he lined up outside, as here with the TE and LT. But that just opens the rest of the line for Oregon’s other pass rushers, as #3 DT Dorlus and #50 DT Aumavae quickly get into the backfield to hurry the throw into #1 ILB Sewell’s underneath coverage.
- :16 - This was a very unusual formation for UW - they’re in 13-personnel but with all three TEs split out and the RB as the X-receiver on the top of the screen. The personnel gets Oregon to deploy their heavy set with three down linemen and one or maybe two fewer DBs than they’d like to use against a 5-wide. Still, proper leverage by #29 OLB Jackson and #2 OLB Wright is keeping this screen from getting outside so it’s just up to Sewell to trigger hard and fast on the ballcarrier, but he hesitates for reasons I don’t understand so the play gets past him.
- :23 - Still, half of UW’s screens went backwards, as on this play where the DBs are properly identifying the motion. Wright spots it at first and #19 DB Hill signals for #23 DB McKinley to spin down as the strong side has switched. Hill and James destroy their blocks and earn the TFL.
In rush defense, Oregon also performed just as expected, which is to say a modest efficiency number but excellent explosive rush prevention. The Ducks successfully defended 11 designed rushing plays vs 10 failures, or 52.4% defensive success. But they surrendered only 3.2 yards per carry on designed runs, which is an excellent number, and allowed only one 10+ yard run (for 14 yards), a 5% explosive rushing rate which is phenomenal.
Virtually all of UW’s successful runs went down on my tally sheet as “yaco” running in which their slippery backs fought forward for extra yardage after contact - the offensive line simply wasn’t opening any real holes against Oregon’s front through which they could achieve chunk yardage. Oregon’s backup linebackers who’ve been pressed into service have improved a lot, particularly #33 ILB Bassa, a true freshman converted safety who I think played his best game. Here’s a representative sample:
- :00 - Good job by Bassa and #91 DT Kr. Williams to close the inside gap (the LG congratulates Bassa for beating him with a real clap on the shoulder). The back bounces outside but Thibodeaux and #32 DB Happle give him a hard stop to prevent the 1st down gain.
- :08 - Aumavae has this stretch zone beat getting on the right side of the RT, but the back slips through his arms for an extra few yards.
- :15 - It’s gratifying to know the Ducks do film study at least as much as I do, here understanding that 100% of the time when this TE motions into a balanced under-center formation it’ll be a run to his side, and properly slanting off the snap. There are nine white jerseys at or around the tackle.
- :24 - The defense is positioned properly to stop this play, but freshman Bassa is getting driven back by a senior LT, and Happle can’t really wrap up properly with that club on his hand.
In last week’s preview I described UW’s run game as efficient but not explosive, relying mostly on yards after contact rather than strong offensive line play, and the passing offense as the reverse, with low efficiency but the occasional explosive pass that they’d used to dig themselves out of holes late in games. All of that held true on Saturday, especially the passing numbers where three of their four 15+ yard plays were in the 4th quarter. I don’t usually include interceptions in opponent previews because they’re not often representative, but UW’s quarterback had thrown enough that came down to poor decision-making that I thought it was worth inclusion on Friday, and it seems I was right to do so. I thought that their star tight end was still a big threat despite his low targets this season, rather than him being ineffective or injured, and sure enough he got his most catches in FBS play in this game. I was expecting more holding flags for UW’s offensive line and am surprised we didn’t see any, but then again, maybe I’m not that surprised. The Huskies’ rushing formational tendencies were exactly as predicted (I was tickled by one commenter who said they felt like Tony Romo calling out UW’s run plays before they happened after reading my preview). I thought their wildcat runs were a significant enough part of their offense to warrant inclusion, and they had one pretty memorable attempt.
Defensively, I think I described their structure pretty well, but they got a couple of DBs back from injury and so a few player-specific predictions didn’t pan out, though it seems most UW writers and podcasters were surprised by those as well. Obviously UW’s vulnerability to frequent rushing held up, as well as their efficiency against the pass, so much so that I consider Oregon’s decision to pass as often as they did in the first half to be baffling and have no explanation for why I didn’t predict it. I said preventing explosive rushes is the best thing UW’s rush defense does, but Oregon ran 7 percentage points better than the Huskies were allowing in their previous games, which was a bit of a surprise for me.