A word of caution here from the outset: don’t be too overly impressed by all the offense that we saw on Saturday. I’ve seen spring games in the past that tried, as much as was reasonably possible, to be a game-like competition. That’s not what we saw this year. What I saw was - after reviewing hythloday1’s excellent film reviews - a very vanilla offensive and defensive gaming scheme. VERY vanilla.
I get it, and I totally understand why. The coaches are teaching fundamentals of their system. There are offensive and defensive concepts and schemes that the players may not be ready for. But, let’s be real - even if they are ready for more advanced schemes, Oregon is not about to reveal anything ahead of the opening showdown with Georgia. Have they worked on flavors other than vanilla? You bet your hiney they have...but we’re not going to see it ahead of the fall opener.
Another factor is that the last thing Oregon wants to do is to incur an injury in spring. We did not see many run plays or significant special teams action because of this. Duck fans have no idea how the run game will play out. Run plays lead to significant contact = injury, and we did not and will not see this in April. The result? A lot of passing.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I thought that MC’s approach on passing, and the use of WRs and TEs, was about as stale as they come. While I am encouraged by the passing game of the spring game, that’s almost all we saw. That’s not realistic. That’s not a game environment. Yes, it was good to see, but curb your delight until we see what happens in September and beyond.
With that said, behold a wondrous spring game that was thoroughly enjoyed by fans and players alike:
First of all, a disclaimer - I took studious notes on the Spring Game, but have very little to resource what I saw. If you saw or understood differently, then you may be entirely correct. There were no in-game stats, so I’m not presenting an absolutely “correct” interpretation of this game.
The game opened up with an explosive play; Bo Nix to Seven Mcgee for a huge gain.
Seven would then bobble a pass from Nix, but bring it in for Yellow’s first TD of the the game.
The Green team, with Ty Thompson at QB, got off to a rough start. TT attempted a long pass that was incomplete, then overthrew the 2nd down attempt. On third down, TT connected to Troy Franklin for the first down. Then Thompson had a bad throw on 2nd down. He would make up for it - the line gave him a lot of time, and TT found Chase Cota for the first down. Cota made a nice move toward the center and created space for the catch. TT threw a long pass to Noah Whittington then proved to be out of bounds. The Green side stalled and had to punt.
Yellow took over and Sean Dollars had a couple of runs, punctuated by a 13-yard run for a first down. Nix then passed to Seven McGee, who went out of bounds with a high jump, ending up in Hayward Field. Bo Nix then ended the drive with a TD pass to Dont’e Thronton, putting Yellow up 14-0:
On the kickoff to Green, Yellow had the second of their special teams breakdowns that allowed a big return for a touchdown, but was called back - because, after all, this was flag football today. Thompson whipped out a 40 yard pass to Kris Hutson, followed by a TD pass to Troy Franklin. On the touchdown, we saw one of the few instances of OL movement where the TE pulled to the center to block and cover the box, giving TT plenty of time for the TD pass.
Yellow took over and Nix threw a high pass on a passing play that was intercepted by Jahlil Florence, who took the ball when he and WR Isaah Crocker were in midair. Jay Butterfield then stepped in for Green, but was not able to get anything going. Butterfield’s play initially started cold in the series but then improved. The first quarter ended with Yellow ahead 14-7.
In the early 2nd period, Butterfield opened with a 28-yard pass top Josh Delgado, who muscled in the last four yards for the TD. (Visit hythloday1’s review of WR coach Junior Adams, and you will not be at all surprised by this and other instances of wide receivers fighting for extra yards).
Green kicked off to the Yellow squad, and Bo Nix was promptly intercepted by JJ Greenfield, who returned it 29 yards to give Green great field position. Green then pulled the left guard, for one of the few instances I saw in the game, to set up a 43-yard run to the right by Noah Whittington followed by a Whittington TD run.
On Green’s kickoff, Yellow had a decent return, bringing the ball to the 30. Yellow had a second down run to get first down, but the following pass from Nix had too much heat and was incomplete. On 3rd down and 7, Nix escaped pressure for a nice pass, but this is flag football and it was ruled a sack. This was one of the very few times I saw defensive linebacker movement before the snap. The Green defense was very much in his face this time, and I would not be willing to say that there would have been no sack. The drive stalled and Green took over after a 62 (!) yard punt from Will Hutchinson.
Ty Thompson settled down nicely in making some great throws - first, a 29-yard pass to Moliki Matavao, and then another pass to Whittington for the first down. A third and 22 pass didn’t quite get there, bringing 4th and seven and a Camden Lewis FG attempt, which missed wide left.
Yellow got the ball, and Dollars ran for a loss on a standard offensive formation, followed by a run play that pulled the guard and got a first down. DJ Johnson then batted down a pass and the drive stalled. Redshirt freshman Will Hutchinson then popped off another 62-yard punt.
Jay Butterfield was in again for the Green side, and a fantastic 32-yard grab by Chase Cota was negated by a holding call.
Before the end of the half, Jackson Powers suffered the only apparent injury of the game, but limped off on his own power. The half ended with Yellow having great field position, but going three-and-out on great defensive coverage by the Green defense. Green was up 21-14.
After halftime, Troy Thompson threw a 49 yard pick-6 to Trikweze Bridges. Thompson threw behind the receiver, but also threw behind Bridges, who made a great one-handed catch for the score. When they got the ball back, the Green squad had a couple more nice passes but stalled on an offensive pass interference call, setting up yet another Hutchinson 60-yard punt. Yellow could not generate anything against stiff Green defense, and punted. Jay Butterfield came in at QB for Green. At the 3:55 mark, Butterfield threaded a beautiful TD pass to Chase Cota in between defenders for a TD, but Dan Lanning chose to negate that and go to 2nd down. Yellow defenders disrupted any further advances, and a Green 53-yard FG fell short to end the third period.
In the beginning of the 4th, Bo Nix escaped and threw a TD pass which did not count due to a touch sack. I’m not convinced that would have been a sack in a game situation - one of Nix’s strengths as a veteran starter is that he’s aware of pressure and effectively moves from it. But Nix then tossed a spot-on 30-yard pass to TE Terrance Ferguson, who completely blew by the secondary coverage. Yellow stalled and Camden Lewis hit a 43-yard field goal with 9:06 left in the scrimmage, putting Yellow up 24-21.
At this point in the 4th, there was a significant wind blowing west to east. Green and Thompson stalled on throws that went short and were likely affected by the gusting wind. Yellow took over, and Nix fired off a pass to Dont’e Thornton, who ran 40 yards for the TD.
Green’s ensuing series fell flat, and Yellow took over once again. After a false start, Nix handed off to the motion guy running right, but the Green defense held in place and the play got nowhere. Green then took over after a pass to Sean Dollars resulted in a fumble.
Yellow took over with Butterfield at QB. Butterfield threw to Seven McGee after a nice look-off to the right, but 7 fumbled and that was essentially the end of the game, with Yellow prevailing 31-21.
Bo Nix is the veteran QB, and at this point there’s no reason to imagine that he will not start come fall. My hope is that Lanning is not single-minded in only utilizing Nix at QB, and there’s no indication at this point that will be the case. Oregon has very talented backups in Thompson and Butterfield, and they both need to be utilized. Both showed skills that they did not necessarily show last year; both had impressive plays, both showed that they can accurately pass.
Seven McGee was a 4-star recruit for 2021 who did not appear to be utilized very well in the MC scheme last year. It’s no wonder he entered the transfer portal last year before talking to Dan Lanning. Good for Lanning; he has kept a vital offensive piece and appears to have a valid purpose in mind for Seven. because McGee was a star today that brought back images of DAT on receiving. He was that good, and it’s hard not to believe he will not be that good in the coming football season.
Sean Dollars had very good runs today that were tempered by the lack of run plays. Dollars is likely Oregon’s #1 running back going into the season.
Chase Cota brings back memories of great receivers past. CC will be bringing great things in the 2022 season. He’s a Duck now, and will be all that and more.
DJ Johnson proved to be a force on the end. There appears to be no question that the Ducks defense is going to flourish under the guidance of Lanning and Tosh Lupoi.
Can Will Hutchinson punt? That’s a rhetorical question. Opponents will feel Oregon’s improved special teams this coming fall.
Scrimmage stats are funny numbers, and not really real, but here is a compilation of the spring game statistics.