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
The Oregon Offense
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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
The Oregon Quarterbacks
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
The Oregon Receivers
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?
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.
Wrighster has caught just about every pass thrown his way. Unfortunately
they have amounted to only four passes per game.
The Oregon Offensive Line
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.
Pass blocking as mentioned before, five sacks against Fresno State.
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
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.
Despite the Oregon corners showing the ability to blanket their receivers
some passes are getting completed over their heads to taller receivers.
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
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 lack of a dominating pass rush as discussed earlier.
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
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.
This is all good, especially if the Ducks can keep winning.
The Ducks have committed 20 penalties for 156 yards in two games.
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.