With the exception of a couple botched plays at extraordinarily inopportune moments, Oregon’s offense performed nominally for this season. Excluding the final drives of both halves, overall the Ducks had about a 73.5% per-play success rate given the down & distance and about 23% of plays were explosive, including two of the longest passing plays of the year.
Oregon’s first two drives were fairly run-pass balanced, but by Oregon’s third possession, the Ducks had gone to a heavily run-based attack with some big play-action shots. Three factors went into this decision: first, the Huskies’ defense simply wasn’t stopping the run; second, their pass rush gave Oregon’s tackles more trouble than any other team this year (including Georgia’s); third, by the fourth quarter when they were up by four points they wanted to bleed almost the entire clock and finish with a touchdown that would have put them up by two scores and allowed them to run out the rest of it (which probably would have worked if not for a bad snap wasting a redzone down followed by #10 QB Nix getting hurt running the ball).
That run game was as successful as it has been all year: 36 successful designed runs vs 11 failures, or 76.5%. They gained 6.6 adjusted YPC and more than 23% of rushes gained 10+ yards. Here’s a representative sample of Oregon’s rushing offense:
(Reminder - after pressing play, you can use the left button to slow any video to ¼ or ½ speed)
- :00 – This is the play that #53 OG Walk got rolled up, he sat out the rest of the game. #0 RB Irving makes the guy who Walk was to block miss, but it’s a long enough developing play for the safety to get to him before the line to gain. Oregon picked up this 4th down as they did on every other attempt with the exception of once in the redzone when they kicked a field goal, a major strategic error.
- :08 – As they’d shown on film all season, the defense’s OLBs and DTs are liabilities in stopping the run and can be easily blocked, while the DBs and ILBs can be run through for extra yardage as #22 RB Whittington does here.
- :29 – Empty set, very wide double stacks, the defense should have seen this QB draw coming. The only one who can stop it is the boundary ILB but he’s not big enough to take on #58 RG Powers-Johnson.
- :49 – I’ve got more than a dozen nearly identical plays to this on my tally sheet. Pretty simple inside zone, not a great block by #78 C Forsyth (though he’s upset about something), but it doesn’t matter since #0 RB Irving powers through the DT for five yards.
The passing offense mostly focused on efficiency plays to stay ahead of the chains, though with two deep shot touchdowns to reclaim the lead when they went down three points. Oregon had 11 successful designed passing plays vs 6 failures, or about 64.5%. They gained 11.6 adjusted YPA and 23.5% gained 15+ yards. Here’s a representative sample of the passing offense:
- :00 – Good six-man protection with #84 TE McCormick’s assistance here for a long-developing route to #11 WR Franklin coming from the other side. As long as the protection holds up this play is undefendable in the Huskies’ structure since both the corner and box safety are going to run with the X and the ILBs are always going to be pulled in by play-action.
- :13 – The corner route to #2 WR Thornton is breaking open, but Nix senses the pressure that #56 LT Bass is giving up and gets rid of the ball.
- :26 – Running over this DB is not a problem for #1 WR Hutson.
- :39 – My apologies for the cutoff snap, the broadcaster had a hard time adjusting to tempo in this game. This was an emblematic play though, both edge rushers are getting through but the post to Thornton is open due to play action and the Huskies’ poor single coverage, and Nix delivers.
Oregon was probably bound to be underwater against the Huskies’ passing offense given their respective success rates going into this game, but this defensive performance was far worse than their previous records would have predicted. The Ducks successfully defended 14 designed passing plays vs 23 failures, lower than 38%, and surrendered 10.3 adjusted YPA with almost 30% of passes gaining 15+ yards. That means the pass defense performed 8.5 percentage points worse in efficiency, 2.4 adjusted YPA worse in yardage, and more than 10 percentage point worse in explosiveness than the Huskies’ previous eight FBS opponents (only two of which have winning records).
Oregon played a pretty soft zone coverage all night, hoping to get the QB to check down to less productive throws, but a pass rush that almost never got home essentially allowed him to pick it apart for consistent chunk yardage. When Ducks switched to man for a couple of plays, they found that they didn’t have enough speed in the secondary to cover more than two of the Huskies’ four excellent wideouts and paid for it with some long gains. Here’s a representative sample:
- :00 – I’ve been watching the Huskies hit this exact runaway route on 3rd & long for the better part of three months of charting and it was pretty disappointing that the Ducks were playing a deep safety and an ILB with the wrong leverage against it. This receiver is undefendable in this structure and this playcall is the vast majority of their selection in this down & distance.
- :11 – It’s a waste of #13 DB Addison’s range to have him bailing this deep if the Ducks are going to play zone here. They should either have #0 CB Gonzalez locked on the Z with Addison spinning down onto the motion man, or Addison should just stand his ground off the snap.
- :25 – This was the type of throw I figured Oregon would give up, a little in-breaking route against #1 ILB Sewell, it’s sort of built into the numbers at this point and it was the rest of it that was the problem. Still, this QB is no real threat for a draw so Sewell shouldn’t drift past the line to gain.
- :37 – Finally a man blitz, long overdue. Oregon has speed at the DBs and they really just needed some pressure to force a throw into coverage, which Addison provides. The commentators though Oregon dodged a flag here; I think they’re nuts, this is a textbook break-up with no restriction prior to the ball’s arrival.
The rush defense performed about as expected: 11 successful defenses of designed runs vs 9 failures, or 55%. They allowed 15% to gain 10+ yards, which is a little higher than expected, but stuffed a lot more than both teams’ previous records would have indicated. That brought the adjusted YPC down to 4.2, which is an above average number. The Huskies had a relatively efficient run game going into this weekend and they leveraged it to keep the Ducks’ defense honest – it didn’t get them a whole lot on the ground, but it bought them plenty of space in the passing game. Here’s a representative sample:
- :00 – Bad exchange here between #2 OLB Johnson and #33 ILB Bassa. Once the TE goes in motion inside then either Johnson needs to establish outside leverage (though it’s hard to communicate that) or Bassa needs to know that Johnson is going in and his job is to contain the bounce. Neither happen and the back gets the edge.
- :14 – Nice job by #95 DT Ware-Hudson and #10 ILB Flowe to destroy their blocks and make this TFL, a fairly predictable outcome given this o-line’s struggles in run-blocking.
- :26 – More than half of the Huskies’ successful runs were to the outside, away from the line. Good trigger by Addison here but a miss wrapping up.
- :34 – Paradoxically, letting the Huskies get into short yardage was often productive for the Ducks, since they’d stick to the run and Oregon would win in the trenches. Nice stop here by former Husky #55 DT Taimani, back in the lineup after missing some time with an injury.
Last week’s preview predicted the Huskies’ defensive performance pretty accurately, in that the edge players’ pass rush was the only unit that got any traction against the Ducks. I noted that they had done a good job to date in preventing explosive rushing but suspected that was inflated by a weak schedule and due to end, which was the case.
The general prediction that the Huskies would need to pass their way out of this game certainly came true, and most of the routes and passing targets that they used to do so were detailed in my preview. However, they were much more willing to try deep shots than my article predicted, and two quick scores on big plays to receivers that I specifically noted as being underutilized really put the Ducks on their heels. I also described the QB as not much of a scrambler and he got out of an early 3rd & long with a sack coming into a run for a 1st down. The former I’ll accept as a miss since I should have elaborated on the conditions that produced those things and allowed for why they might change in a close game against a run-heavy team, but the latter I think is just more evidence on Oregon’s wholly absent pass rush this year. I spent a lot of time grappling with the question of the Huskies’ rush efficiency, which after Saturday I think turned out to be underappreciated aspect of their upset in that they did just enough to keep the Ducks’ defense honest and opened up the passing offense even more.