The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
David Moretti (44) brings down a Bulldog
David Moretti (44) brings down a Bulldog

Posted Sep 12, 2002


Now that the 13th ranked Oregon Ducks have some games under their belts, having beat Mississippi State, 36-13 and Fresno State, 28-24 the past two consecutive Saturdays, it is possible to Formulate some early opinions about the team. It is only fitting that we do so at this juncture as these past two opponents, representing the SEC and the WAC, are likely the highest quality opponents the Ducks will face in the pre-conference portion of their schedule this year.

Furthermore, it is often said in college football circles that the greatest amount of improvement that a team can make is between its first and second games. Accordingly, I have prepared my thoughts relevant to the Good, the Bad and Ugly of Oregon football year to date.

The Oregon Offense

The Good.
First, it is important to say that the Ducks have outscored their first two opponents and provided the points necessary to win the games. They have also demonstrated the ability to not only mount a comeback late in the fourth quarter to win, as they did against Fresno State last Saturday, but to do so after turning the ball over on their opponent's seven-yard line in their preceding offensive series.

The Bad.
The offense appears to be one-dimensional at times with heavy reliance on the running game. And, that wouldn't be so bad if the Ducks were averaging more than 3.9 and 2.2 yards per carry respectively against Mississippi State and Fresno State. The Ducks have only completed one pass that has gone for more than 35 yards, that occurring on a on short crossing route to junior Samie Parker on the third play of the game against Fresno State that resulted in a 70-yard touchdown. Junior quarterback Jason Fife has been sacked five times, all in the Fresno State game. The Ducks only allowed 11 sacks all of last year. The Ugly.
In Oregon's 14 trips to the "red zone" over the last two games, the Ducks have converted only six touchdowns. They have converted five field goals. But, there have also been two fumbles and a missed field goal.

The Oregon Defense

The Good.
Aside from thoroughly dominating Mississippi State, Oregon's defense was able to provide quick stops against Fresno State when the team needed it most - trailing 24-22 late in the fourth quarter. The Ducks are allowing their opponents an average of only 70 yards rushing per game and 197 yards passing per game.

The Bad.
Although Oregon's defense has for the most part controlled the line of scrimmage, it hasn't shown the dominating pass rush expected of it in the preseason. Furthermore, the Ducks at times have not wrapped-up on tackles, particularly in the Fresno State game. The Oregon defense has also not yet faced a first string quarterback.

The Ugly.
Fresno State's first touchdown pass of the game, which first had to overcome a deflection and then what looked liked a sure interception before finding D. Gilbert in the end zone.

The Oregon Special Teams

The Good.
Oregon's sophomore kicker Jared Siegel ranks third in the nation in kicking field goals. He has made all of his attempts with the exception of one, blocked during the Mississippi State game. His longest, a personal best, was 47 yards. He has also converted all but one of his point-after-tries. Oregon is averaging 18 yards and 22 yards in punt and kickoff returns respectively. Junior cornerback Steven Moore has proven to be a very competent backup punt returner to senior wide receiver Keenan Howry who currently ranks 18th in nation in punt returns.

The Bad.
The Ducks rank 105th in the nation in net punting averaging 27 yards. Oregon's coverage schemes appear to be somewhat suspect allowing an average of 24.3 yards on kickoff returns and 15.2 yards on punt returns.

The Ugly.
Senior punter Jose Arroyo has only been able to put one punt inside the 20-yard line in 10 attempts. Last year, Arroyo was able to put 23 punts out of 62 attempts inside the 20-yard line and 11 punts inside of the 10-yard line.

The Oregon Quarterbacks

The Good.
Jason Fife has earned the starting job and the quarterback position is not being played in committee. Fife appears to have all the qualities necessary to be not just competent but a force in the position. He has a very strong arm, very fast feet and the confidence and respect of his teammates. He also has orchestrated a come-from-behind scoring drive to win a game reminiscent of his predecessor Joey Harrington. Redshirt freshman Kellen Clemens appears to be a solid backup who is progressing despite receiving the fewer repetitions.

The Bad.
Fife still lacks experience and is guilty of making first year starter mistakes including missing his read progressions, overthrowing his receivers, and causing penalties, and turnovers. But hey, nobody's perfect and Fife has shown continued improvement from his first game to the second despite facing more adversity.

The Ugly.
You pick one. Fife's personal foul at the end of a play against Mississippi State or his fumble on the Fresno State seven-yard line with 4:25 left to play in the fourth quarter and his team behind. Both errors are coachable and probably will only be truly ugly should they happen again.

The Oregon Tailbacks

The Good.
Junior Onterrio Smith has run for 124 yards in each of his first two games. These yards have come against good defenses with solid fronts and in situations where his opponents have taken special measures to neutralize him. Senior Allan Amundson and freshman Terrence Whitehead appear to be competent backups.

The Bad.
Smith's average yard per carry has dropped from over six yards last year to 4.4 yards against Mississippi State and 3.1 yards against Fresno State. Look for this statistic to improve significantly after the next two games against Idaho and Portland State.

The Ugly.
Smith was needed to carry the ball 35 times against Fresno State despite having a tender hamstring that has plagued him since fall camp. Amundson and Whitehead didn't see a huddle in the Fresno State game. It's also reported that Whitehead is having some difficulty staying academically eligible.

The Oregon Receivers

The Good.
Oregon probably enjoys the greatest combined talent among starting receivers in the program's history. Samie Parker, Keenan Howry, senior Jason Willis and junior tight end George Wrighster are all proven targets that have not disappointed. This year they have scarcely dropped a ball. And, there have been some spectacular catches even in the short space of the first two games. Who can forget Parker's one-handed grab against Fresno State to convert a third and ten late in the third quarter and preserve a touchdown drive? Or, the 27-yard touchdown reception and ramble made by Wrighster at the beginning of the second quarter in the Mississippi State game?

The Bad.
Coming out of fall camp and through the first two games a number of Oregon receivers have been hit with the injury bug some worse than others including sophomore Keith Allen, junior Gary Daniels, redshirt freshman Demetrius Williams and Howry.

The Ugly.
Wrighster has caught just about every pass thrown his way. Unfortunately they have amounted to only four passes per game.

The Oregon Offensive Line

The Good.
Oregon has enough experience and depth to field a very good offensive line. Multiple players can play multiple positions. Junior guard Joey Forster and junior center Dan Weaver have been standouts. Sophomore tackle Adam Snyder has shown glimpses of great things to come. For the most part, Oregon's line has controlled the line scrimmage in the first two games.

The Bad.
Pass blocking as mentioned before, five sacks against Fresno State.

The Ugly.
Penalties. The offensive line has been involved in at least eight different penalties in the first two games including illegal procedures, false starts, and holding totally over 50 yards.

The Oregon Defensive Secondary

The Good.
Junior free safety Keith Lewis and senior rover Rasuli Webster have been among the team's top six tacklers in both of the first two games. Each has come up with an interception and two pass deflections. New starters Steven Moore and true freshman Aaron Gipson have more than held their own at cornerback contrary to preseason fears. Moore has six pass deflections and one interception plus 7.5 tackles. Gipson has 5.5 tackles and one quarterback hurry. Backup cornerbacks sophomore Charles Favroth and true freshman Marques Binns have also played well.

The Bad.
Despite the Oregon corners showing the ability to blanket their receivers some passes are getting completed over their heads to taller receivers.

The Ugly.
Lewis was just a whisper away from converting his blocked punt against Fresno State into a touchdown instead of a safety. The ball rolled through the back of the end zone before he and his teammates could get to it.

The Oregon Defensive Front

The Good.
I can't find anything negative to say about the Oregon linebackers. It was really their doing that the defense held so well against Fresno State late in the game. Senior linebacker David Morretti and junior linebacker Kevin Mitchell are the leading tacklers on the team with 17.5 and 14.5 tackles each respectively. Morretti has two sacks, a fumble recovery and a quarterback hurry. Mitchell has a sack and a pass deflection. Senior outside linebacker Garret Graham has also played well. A lot of the success that the linebackers have had can be laid at the feet of sophomore defensive tackle Igor Olshansky who has really plugged up the middle. True freshman Haloti Ngata got some spot playing time late against Fresno State and didn't disappoint recording a tackle and a pass deflection in limited action. Depth on the defensive line has been a concern due to injuries but personnel such as Ngata are slowly returning and should give the team some additional fresh bodies to help step-up the pass rush.

The Bad.
The lack of a dominating pass rush as discussed earlier.

The Ugly.
It is likely that the Oregon defensive line will average more in weight and speed than the opposite Idaho or Portland State offensive lines.

The Oregon Team Chemistry

The Good.
Leaders are emerging. Jason Fife is to be counted as one as are Onterrio Smith, David Morretti, Kevin Mitchell, Keith Lewis, the receiving corps and others. The Ducks have successfully carried over from last year that penchant for believing in themselves and each other. Backups are accepting their roles and making the most of the opportunities when they do play.

The Bad.
This is all good, especially if the Ducks can keep winning.

The Ugly.
The Ducks have committed 20 penalties for 156 yards in two games.

Note:

Autzen Stadium has recorded 18 consecutive crowds above capacity. This record is in jeopardy if the Ducks are unable to sell 1,800 reserved seats still available for the Idaho game.


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