Duck Hunting (A Look into Oregon)

Posted by: Avinash on Friday, September 28th, 2007

The fans in Eugene are more pumped than usual, and why shouldn’t they be? Revenge game, Autzen homefield, a powerful offense that has slaughtered their opponents the last several weeks, including a dominating beatdown in the Big House. Hell, even their mascot looks pumped up, although I keep on thinking he’ll leer down towards the screen and start saying “Oh, yeah?” He will be back for Cal though, which means all fans will have to monitor how Oski responds. My thoughts is that both parties will be pretty hammered and collapsed in a heap by the 4th quarter, especially with Gameday in town.

But now it’s time to get the layman’s viewpoint. We’ve gone through Tennessee, CSU, Louisana Tech, and Arizona, so the natural progression brings me up to some of the best fans in the Pac-10 over at E-Duck. It’s a very confident group of guys, which makes things a little unnerving. But I’m in the same state of mind myself, so I guess one side will be downtrodden by 4 o’clock tomorrow. We talked briefly about Saturday’s game–here are some of their responses.

Seriously, what happened last week against the ‘Furd? Fluke? Or is the Cardinal legit?

I assume you’re asking whether the second quarter was a fluke, and probably not – probably a suggestion that Oregon can be had with some takeaways and any kind of let up mentality that occurs at a more timely part of the game. One really horrible quarter (second), not game.

Well the Cardinal are not legit. We had a mini-meltdown in quarter two where we explored the various ways of fumbling the ball as Jim Harbaugh’s club played with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. We then curbed their enthusiasm in the second half with a brutal finality.

Offensively, they’re legit. Kimble is a really underrated running back. Defensively they have more holes than the plot to Waterworld.

What happened at Stanford, we jumped on them early, the guys all thought it was going to be a cakewalk, and started strutting and preening, and SU hit us in the mouth. We realized we needed to play, and treated them like a DII team in the second half.

You guys are even more confident than the Vols fans were coming into our game. Hell, your fans always seem confident. Where does that come from? Loyalty? Tradition? Or is it something in the air in Eugene?

I’d say its one part senior quarterback, one part Jonathan Stewart hasn’t dinged ye (knock on wood)t. Akili Smith and Joey Harrington were high first rounders for a reason, but Dixon might be better than both. Or at the very least a weird amalgamation of each of their best traits, with Akili’s natural talent and Joey’s brain.

I’d say you guys having been filling the Tennessee role with little self-awareness concerning it. Let’s review: Road meltdown team from year before gets huge chance at revenge in a high profile home game. Many clueless Bears fans chest beating about an impending 2006 redux, despite strong contrary evidence that Nate Longshore is a mediocre road quarterback thus far, and that the Ducks are a far more offensively efficient squad in 2007. Of particular note is that we have gone from rushing about 182 ypg to about 300 ypg under our new, competent, OC. No cause for concern for a banged up and graduation depleted Bears defense, right?

Oregon fans are confident in this year’s team so far to the extent that this year’s team, particularly the offense, has given us some reasons to be confident. Yes we were confident last year for the same reasons, but after your team pounded us, not so confident because we got ourselves some new, and rather unpleasant, feedback. I have read lots of posts from Cal fans ridiculing Michigan’s team this year – one could pose the same questions to you – based on Cal’s defensive play this year to date, why do Cal fans seem so confident your defense is so vastly superior to Michigan’s? Where does that confidence come from? Loyalty? Tradition? Or is something in the air in Berkeley?

Actually, after the LV Bowl debacle last year, most Duck fans were in a “show me” mode to begin the year. But after Michigan, FSU, and the second half of Stanford, you couldn’t help but get excited about this year’s team. Yes, there are still question marks – especially on defense- but the offense has looked powerful and unpredictable and the defense shows flashes of brilliance between stretches of mediocrity. The optimism is cresting with thoughts of a win Saturday over a team that, at least on paper, is much better than the following two opponents.

Mike Bellotti and Jeff Tedford don’t have much love for each other these days, even though things have cooled down. Who deserves more credit for the team’s rise to the Fiesta Bowl in 2001?

Tedford for play calling – Bellotti for hiring him in the first place and putting the ducks in a position with good players motivated to succeed.

The MB-JT feud is 99% BS. Be careful using Canzano as a source, since nobody in the UO atheletic department will talk to him, and he basically makes up all his stuff to sell papers. I have heard out of both mouths that they are good friends, and always have been, and I would take either of their words for it over a hack like Canzano.

Adults would say they deserve equal credit. Tedford for the offensive game planning, MB for plucking Jeff out of relative obscurity when he was toiling as Fresno State’s quarterbacks coach. It is not as if MB poached a fully developed offensive coordinator. Tedford owes MB for the opportunity to beecome who he is today. MB owes Tedford eternal thanks for the ride he helped fuel by being an extremely competent OC. Undeniably, MB made a misstep hiring Ludwig and arguably bought the quick fix in Crowton. Chip Kelly should have been here about five years ago given MB’s previously inspired OC choices.

Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart have been unstoppable the first several weeks of the season. Should the Ducks look to focus more on the running game or begin to airmail the ball out to create separation with Cal?

If the Bears start stacking the box trying to stop the run, then yes. If they don’t, then no. Basic Patton-esq strategy there. You never win by playing into your opponent’s hands.

The good news for Oregon, especially at home, and also due to a depleted Bears defense, is that they will do both. Seperation depends on the Ducks defense forcing the game onto Longshore’s erratic road accuracy.

The big Achilles heel so far of the Ducks is the run defense, which has given up over 160 yards a game. How do you plan to control Forsett, Montgomery and Best and force Longshore to throw the ball? Or do you want the Bears to keep running it?

Our run D is mediocre, to be sure, but we rotate enough linemen that we can have fresh bodies in the late game, and that is why we have such a huge difference between our first half and second half numbers. Also, we have a great pass defense, and it only takes one really good defensive play against the run to put teams in a passing situation, and when that happens, we have a great chance to stop them. Our offense is so potent, that if we can get 2 or 3 stops in the first half, the other team is in a position that they must pass.

The Bears will get yardage on the ground. What they won’t do is get it in consistent, drive sustaining, chunks. Before writing off the Ducks’ ground defense, one should examine the circumstances. We gave up a boatload of yards to Anthony Aldridge of Houston. That was a tripartite problem in my view. First, Art Brile’s offense is beautifully deceptive, whereas we mostly know JT’s. We haven’t seen anything like Houston’s ground game since Utah in the Urban Meyer days. When Houston had Kolb, they were throw, throw, throw. With their new QBs, they relied on loosing a 4.2 burner on the edge and then throw him up the middle on misdirection every chance they got. Second, we are green in the front seven and made assignment mistakes. Thirdly, it was the first game of the season. We haven’t been that bad since.

Against Michigan, we went up against a Heisman trophy mentioned running back. Mike Hart is an All American player. He got 122 or so useless yards.

Fresno State gained 60 net rushing yards, By the end of regulation versus Texas A&M the week before, they had gained over 100. Of note is that this game was our second home game.

Against Stanford, we gave up one really long 60 or so yard run to Kimble. He had about 45 yards in fits and starts for the rest of the game, not many at all in the second half. I don’t like giving up explosion runs, but if limited to one, the yards look bad, but it is still only one TD.

We won’t stop Forsett from racking up some yards, but if the Cal D doesn’t strap it up, Forsett and best can rack up 150-180 useless yards and we’ll take it as long as the red zone defense holds up as it has rather admirably.

The Ducks are infamous for their quick starts and then folding near the end of the season since Tedford left for Cal (lone exception being a 2005 campaign to the Holiday Bowl). Any explanation as to why this happens?

This seems to be a popular topic but it isn’t really true. Unless two years in the last 13 make you infamous. Last year qualifies and 2002 qualifies but that is it.

2002 – started 6-0 then lost 6 out of 7.
2003 – started 4-0 lost three and then won 4 of 5 to finish 8-4. Quick start and good finish, doesn’t qualify for your meltdown theory.
2004 – lost 3 our of the first 4 (definitely not a quick start)
2005 – 10-2
2006 – This is the season that everyone bases a tendency on. The reality is you can’t base tendency on one season.

Infamous? I thought UCLA was infamous for this, and we have been struggling with it as of late. Here you go–2002–trouble replacing Harrington. 2003–Had trouble handling success with a young team and had a mid-season losing streak. We did win three of our last four that season, and went to the Sun Bowl, hardly a disasterous campaign. 2004–Easy, we sucked all year on offense. We started off badly and ended badly so it was hardly a swoon as much as an off year. This campaign is the one that triggered the scrapping of the old offense. 2005, 10-2 is a year almost any program would happily take. 2006 was a very injury plagued year on a generally young team.

What will be the keys to Oregon beating Cal? What would the Bears have to do to finally get the W in Autzen?

IMO, the key match-up is Byrd, Thurmond, Harper and Chung against the Cal pass game. On paper, it would appear to be Cal’s battle for the taking, but then again on paper these four have been underrated. They were the reason behind Chad Henne’s bad day in Ann Arbor a couple of weeks ago. If Jackson and Hawkins go wild, the Bears win easily. If they can contain them, it favors the Ducks winning easily.

That one is rather simple. Either Nate Longshore shows up to make some key plays in the passing game and you hang and possibly beat us, or he doesn’t and we win, if not roll the Bears. Even Aliotti has proven he can limit the run offense of an opponent at Autzen if the offense is helping him out by not forcing him to win the game. Cal fans like to point out that JT almost broke through in 05 with Ayoob at the helm, but c’mon, that was our first game after losing Clemens and you still had Marshawn Lynch. Sadly for Cal, Forsettt is not the holy terror that Lynch was, so Nate has to play the anti-Ayoob or you will lose.

I have seen Cal play 3 times, and UO 4, and I think Cal will need to get lucky. They will need a couple of bad UO turnovers, or I believe UO wins by more than 2 touchdowns. Tennesee ran all over Cal, with a running back (Arian Foster) that wanted to be a Duck but was never offered. Cal fans here seem to be consistently underrating our Oline, which is blowing holes in our opponents, and Stewart is healthy, which he wasn’t close to last year. Cal to date has not seen a RB of his talent since Bush left USC.

Oregon getting some stops on defense, not turning the ball over, and getting our offense as many opportunities to score as possible during the game.

Bears to win need to get turnovers, dominate Oregon’s o-line, and score a lot of touchdowns, particularly if unsuccessful in either getting turnovers or not dominating oregon’s o-line.

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