Each week yours truly will grade all facets of the Ducks’ performance based on a standard A-through-F grading system; I’ll be looking at the Offense, Defense, Special Teams, Coaching, and maybe throw in a wild-card category, who knows?
This week, Oregon vs. Ohio State
505 yards of total offense; 236 passing, 269 rushing; 35 points. Against the #3-ranked team in the country in one of the most difficult road environments you’ll ever see, Oregon’s offense acquitted itself nicely Saturday in the ‘Shoe, averaging 7.1 yards per rush, converting on 8 of 16 third downs, and keeping OSU’s defense on its heals for most of the day. After seeming to be a liability in the less than thrilling opener against CSUF, Oregon’s previously shaky offensive line performed yeoman’s duty, opening huge holes for Verdell & Company to run through. They also kept the Buckeyes’ vaunted front seven out of Oregon’s backfield, holding OSU’s defense without a sack of quarterback Anthony Brown. Also of note, despite playing in front of over 100,000 raucous Ohio State fans, Oregon’s line was called for but a single false start penalty, a credit to their discipline and poise.
Individually, CJ Verdell had a whale of a game, rushing for 161 yards on twenty carries— that’s 8.1 yards per, y’all— with two rushing touchdowns. He also led all Duck receivers with three catches for 34 yards and a touchdown. Much maligned quarterback Anthony Brown quieted the nay-sayers with a stellar performance, going 17 for 35 with 236 yards passing, two touchdowns, and, perhaps most importantly, zero turnovers. He also scampered for an additional 65 yards rushing on ten carries to keep the Buckeye defense off-balance. Brown looked composed in the pocket and in complete command of the offense yesterday, keeping mistakes to a bare minimum. The tremendous play of the O-line meant that he regularly had time to survey the field and go through his progressions, finding eleven different Oregon receivers for receptions. Special honorable mention goes to tight end Cam McCormick. McCormick, who due to injuries hadn’t played a down since the season opener in 2018, had a big third down catch for 16 yards midway through the second quarter to help move the Ducks out of the shadow of their own end zone. The drive would ultimately stall, but his mere presence on the field gave his teammates a noticeable boost.
Conclusion: it’s obvious that offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead played it pretty close to the vest last week against CSUF, as Oregon threw formations and plays at OSU that we didn’t see last Saturday. No unforced errors, very few penalties, a quality start from Anthony Brown, and tremendous O-line play.
Final Grade: A
Point: Oregon’s defense gave up 612 total yards of offense to OSU.
Counterpoint: Oregon’s defense only gave up one play over thirty yards; against Minnesota the week prior, the Buckeyes had five, including four for touchdowns.
Point: Oregon’s defense allowed 32 first downs.
Counterpoint: Oregon’s defense held OSU to 6 for 15 on third down conversions, and 2 for 5 on fourth down conversions.
Point: Oregon’s defense gave up 28 points.
Counterpoint: Oregon’s defense forced three punts, three turnovers-on-downs, and picked off C.J. Stroud late in the fourth to seal OSU’s fate.
On paper, Oregon’s defense looks leaky as a sieve. But what the stats don’t show is that this team played with the heart of a lion in the face of tremendous adversity Saturday. Knowing that they’d be playing Ohio State, in front of 100,000 fans, without not just Dru Mathis but Kayvon Thibodeaux AND Justin Flowe, no one would have been surprised if the Ducks’ defense would’ve folded like a cheap beach chair. But they came out and from OSU’s first possession established that they were for real. Yes, Stroud threw for 484 yards— but OSU only ran ten plays inside Oregon’s twenty yard line; of the Buckeye’s 612 yards of offense, only 128 of those were on the ground, on 31 carries— an average of only 4.1 yards per. The Ducks didn’t get much pressure on Stroud, but they made it count when they did, with no plays bigger than DJ Johnson’s sack to end the game. Bottom line, the Ducks played a nerve-wracking game of Bend-But-Not-Break defense against perhaps the best offense they will face this season, and they came out on top.
Verone McKinley was arguably the defensive star for Oregon, with six tackles, two timely pass break-ups (including one to end OSU’s best drive of the first quarter), and the interception that sealed the victory. Mykael Wright had a solid game, with a team-leading ten tackles, and had the unenviable task of covering pre-season All-American Chris Olave much of the game.
Conclusion: Lies, damn lies, and statistics— numbers don’t tell the whole story here. The Ducks defense played one of the gutsiest games I’ve seen in years. They EARNED this victory.
Final Grade: A-
Solid but not spectacular; no home-run plays, but no mistakes, either. Camden Lewis did his job admirably, hitting all five of his PAT’s and keeping OSU’s return game honest with four touchbacks on his six kickoffs; Tom Snee’s final 39.0 net punting average won’t wow anyone, but he did hit two inside the twenty yard line, and his hangtime kept the Buckeyes from any big punt returns; Kris Hutson had a couple of shaky kickoff returns for a 19.0 yard average, and Oregon had no punt return yardage; Oregon’s kick coverage allowed two returns for a 29.0 yard average, and -8.0 punt return yards.
Conclusion: No fumbles, no long kick returns, no missed kicks or blocked punts. Solid, solid, solid.
Final Grade: B+
Hats off to Head Coach Mario Cristobal and his entire staff for this win. Keeping this team focused and ready to play on the road, against the number three team in the nation in Ohio State, despite all the distractions regarding Kayvon Thibodeaux and Justin Flowe, and all the questions after such a lackluster showing against CSUF, was truly a herculean task. But Mario C showed that he and his coaches were up to the challenge; offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, whose play calling came under much scrutiny last week, called a tremendous game, and while defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter’s troops were seriously depleted, they battled and ultimately came out victorious. Special honorable mention to offensive line coach Alex Mirabal, whose group made such monumental strides from their first game to yesterday as to be almost unrecognizable.
Conclusion: Cristobal’s in-game coaching acumen has been questioned repeatedly over the years; I believe yesterday he answered his critics with a true Signature Win.
Final Grade: A
Oregon’s uniforms: they looked amazing on television— definitely a keeper set, A+.
Oregon’s fans: there was definitely a sizable Duck contingent amongst the sea of red in Ohio Stadium. Kudos to them for making the trip, A.
The gameday broadcast: I HATE FOX. I HATE Gus Johnson. Thank the gods for Jerry and Jorgy, B.