Archive for the ‘Oregon Ducks football’ Category

Spring Fish Wrap – Quack Attack Edition

May 18, 2009

Time for a look at opponent number five on the WSU schedule, the Quack Attack. And let me just ask, first off, what do the Coug fans think of Oregon? I think it’s a real love/hate thing with them. I think we love them when they embarrass UW on a yearly basis, as they have for the last several seasons. I can’t help but admit that it’s fun to watch them steamroll the purple-n-gold. But on the flip side, it’s probably true that WSU fans on a regular basis? Yeah, they pretty much despise the green-n-yellow. A cocky NW rival who are rich, powerful and absolutely in LOVE with themselves, they aren’t an easy bunch to wrap your arms around. They probably come in a solid second in “self-worship” in the PAC-10, just behind USC and slightly ahead of UW? I know, that sounds like petty, jealous crap from a have-not school like WSU. But it is what it is.

That out of the way, how does Oregon look, after their first Chip Kelly-led spring session? Let’s take a look…

2008: 10-3, 7-2 in the PAC-10, good for a 2nd place tie with Oregon State. After humiliating the hated in-state rival Beavers in a wipeout of a Civil War….and killing the Rose Bowl dreams for said Beavs in the process…..Oregon culminated a 10-win season with an entertaining victory over Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl, a 42-31 thriller that saw over 1,000 yards of total offense combined!

Now 10-3 was great, but there were some struggles early in the year. Even though the running game was strong, the QB situation was spotty at best in losses early to Boise State and a 44-10 crusher at USC. But that all changed when JC transfer Jeremiah Masoli took control of the position. The Oregon offense hasn’t slowed down since.

FANS ARE: Quacking about their successful ’08, so much so that visions of a PAC-10 title are dancing in their heads for ’09. And maybe they are a little nervous about losing Bellotti, the all-time winningest coach at Oregon at 116-55. While Phil Knight has been a huge help – let’s not kid ourselves, the locker room bells-n-whistles and fantastic facilities are a huge boost to recruiting – Bellotti really built an impressive program in his 13 seasons at the helm. But they are also somewhat calm over the idea of Kelly’s leadership. While not exactly a blowhard, Kelly does have some cocky confidence about him. He even ridiculed the UW chest-thumping over their spring game results, criticizing the idea of the first-stringers taking on the backups. Even though he’s never been a D-1 head coach, there isn’t much doubt among the Oregon faithful that the time is right, and Kelly is ready for this.

LAST YEAR vs. WSU: A huge 63-14 whipping behind the woodshed. The Cougs turned it over four times, but Oregon simply overmatched them in talent and speed. It was over early as Oregon sprinted to a 14-0 just 3+ minutes into the game as the Cougs coughed it up on consecutive possessions to open the game.

It was 35-7 at the half, and that was all she wrote. The Ducks would rush for 346 yards in a game where pretty much everything went wrong for WSU.

OFFENSIVE SYSTEM: Oregon is clearly the kings of the spread read-option offense, at least on the west coast. Not as pass-happy as the spread offenses like Oklahoma or Texas, Oregon is a machine on the ground. It’s not the easiest system in the world to pick up and play, as we saw with some early-season QB struggles from all the bodies they shuffled in and out of the position last year in the quest to replace Dennis Dixon. But when things settle down, and they are clicking as they were late in ’08, the offense is simply a sight to behold.

’08 OFFENSIVE RATINGS: Led the PAC-10 in scoring offense (41.9 ppg), total offense (484.8 ypg), and rushing yards per game (an amazing 280.1 yards per game, more than 80 yards better than second-best Stanford). A middle-of-the-road passing attack, at least statistically, finishing fifth it the conference in passing yards (2662 yards) and TD’s (20).

’09 RETURNING OFFENSIVE STARTERS: Five, including starting QB Jeremiah Masoli.

TOP RETURNING OFFENSIVE PLAYER: It is tempting to go with LeGarrette Blount, the running back who exploded for 1,000 yards and 17 rushing TD’s in his first year in Eugene. But Blount was just part of the running attack, and Jeremiah Johnson actually led the team in rushing last year (1201 rushing yards, compared to 1002 for Blount). Blount is big, strong and has a nose for the end zone, but without a decent QB, it’s hard to imagine he would put up the same kind of numbers. That’s why I’ll go with Jeremiah Masoli.

After some severe up-and-down learning moments throughout 2008, and dealing with a QB rotation where several QB’s were splitting playing time each week, Masoli finally pulled away from the pack late in the year. But after a 7-for-21, two-int game in a loss at Cal on 11/1, Masoli rebounded to play his best football to close out the season. Masoli would throw seven TD’s with only one INT in his last four games, all wins by the Ducks. He also ran for seven TD’s over those last four games, as he truly became a dual-threat headache for opposing defenses. He capped it all with a fantastic Holiday Bowl, where he threw for 258 yards and a score, but ran for 106 yards and three more TD’s.

On the season, Masoli led the team in passing yards with 1744 yards and 13 TD’s. He also took care of the ball, throwing just five INT’s in 239 passing attempts. Pretty impressive for his first year in the Oregon offense. But also added 718 rushing yards, as well as 10 rushing TD’s for the year. And Masoli not only has the wheels, but he is tightly packed with muscle at 5-11, 215. And check out the TD run vs. Okie State that still has Oregon fans buzzing:

Fast and strong, he’s like another dual-threat success for the Ducks. While he might share the load a bit in ’09 with some of the other QB’s, there is little doubt that Masoli will carry the offense next season.

DEFENSIVE SCHEME: A 4-3 attack, and they will get after it with blitzing from their linebackers. They also love to put the strong safety in the box, close to the line of scrimmage in the “rover” position. Having an extra safety almost like a linebacker puts more pressure on their corners, but they like to roll with a lot of one-on-one coverage on the outside anyway.

DEFENSIVE RATINGS: Strong against the run last year (119.4 ypg, second only to USC), they surprisingly had the worst pass defense in the conference last season (270.2 ypg). And it wasn’t even close, as Stanford was ninth, giving up 226.7 yards per game. But in a strange twist, Oregon actually led the conference in sacks, with 40, and finished third with 16 interceptions. So they were a play-making type defense, but with the big plays or big risks came some big rewards for the opposition.

RETURNING DEFENSIVE STARTERS: Five

TOP RETURNING DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Linebacker Spencer Paysinger

This wasn’t an easy choice. While Oregon might not have a huge quantity of starters back in ’09, they make up for it in quality. TJ Ward wasn’t the big name guy in Oregon’s secondary last year, not with returning starters like Jairus Byrd, Walter Thurmond Jr, or Patrick Chung. But Ward surpassed them all, totaling a team-high in tackles at 101, including 5.5 for loss. And D-end Will Tukuafu was second only to all-timer Nick Reed on the team with 7.5 sacks and an excellent 17.5 tackles for loss. However, I’m going with the rising linebacker, Spencer Paysinger, as the top returning defensive player for ’09.


After recording just four tackles as a frosh in ’07, Paysinger had a big breakthrough performance in ’08, winning the weakside linebacker job as a sophomore and starting every game last year. He opened a lot of eyes with 12 tackles in his first-ever start vs. UW to open the year. For the season, Paysinger was second on the team in tackles (95), with an impressive 12.5 for loss. And he finished the year with a kick, including a 68-yd INT return for a TD vs Oregon State.

Paysinger had a strong Holiday Bowl as well, with three tackles for loss. He has excellent size at 6-3, 220, and runs extremely well. Already one of the strongest linebackers on the team, he should have a huge junior year. You can be sure he’ll appear on many all-conference lists heading into ’09.

TOP THREE POST-SPRING PRACTICE QUESTIONS:

1) Masoli looked great at the end of the year, but the WR’s look a little thin. The running game should be fine, but who will Masoli throw to? This is definitely an issue. Masoli loses two of his top three WR targets from last year in Terence Scott and Jaison Williams. And after spring ball, it was announced that WR Aaron Pfulgrad would get his release from the program and would leave Eugene. But there is talent here, including TE Ed Dickson, who should have a strong senior year. And there was some good buzz this spring surrounding USC transfer Jamere Holland, an ultra fast and talented player who could be a big boost to the passing game. But with a running game so superior, it might not even matter that much. This is hardly a pass-happy offense.

2) What about the losses on the O-line? Now this IS a bigger issue. Gone are three experienced senior starters, led by all-everything center Max Unger, now a Seattle Seahawk. They will have to get things sorted out in fall camp, but offensive line has to be the biggest concern of the offense, if not the entire team. It’s hard to replace good, experienced horses up front and not expect some real bumps in the road?

3) And of course, the schedule. And what a schedule it is. Out of conference, they open with a doozy, on the smurf turf at Boise State on a Thursday night special. They also get Sugar Bowl champ Utah at home later in September. But they play just four conference road games this year, and they should be against mid-to-lower tier PAC-10 teams (@UCLA, @UW, @Stanford and @Arizona). In other words, the top-tier teams in the conference? They get them ALL in Autzen Stadium. That means USC, Cal, Oregon State, they all have to go through Eugene.

WSU Football Blog SEZ: Love ’em or hate ’em, Oregon is good. Really good. And awfully entertaining, especially on offense. But now, it’s a new world at Oregon. Mike Bellotti has started the proccss of moving upstairs, handing the headset to the top offensive coordinator around, Chip Kelly. For the first time since the ’94 Rose Bowl season, a new head coach will lead the program. Kelly gets his shot at the full-time head coaching gig that brought him across the country in the first place. Kelly, if you remember, landed in Eugene all the way from New Hampshire when he signed on to lead the Oregon O in ’07. It was an interesting hire at the time, and to come all the way across the country after 13 years at New Hampshire, well, it seemed like there would be more to this story. And what do you know, here we are.

I think overall, things will be relatively the same as they were under Bellotti. They will play the same style of football, with the tough-to-handle offense and aggressive defense. But for this year, there are some real losses that are hard to overlook on both sides of the ball. All-timer defensive end Nick Reed has moved on and taken all those sacks and tackles for loss with him. Patrick Chung and Jairus Byrd have gone to the next level. So the defense has some holes to fill.

But the biggest issue I can’t help but think will derail them a little bit is the offensive line. They have some talented kids in the pipeline ready to take over up front, but man, young or inexperienced offensive lines just always seem to struggle a bit, especially early on. But if they can take care of business early and some of those linemen get some solid game time under their belts, they should be fine. The best news though is that the trigger man is back on offense, and that is just huge for a scheme like this. And with that favorable home schedule, where Oregon is 56-13 in their last 69 games? You have to like their chances to be at least an upper-division finisher, if not a legit challenger for a New Year’s day bowl.

That’s it for today. Enjoy it, and as always, GO COUGS!

2009 Schedule Now Complete; Pac-10 Good After All?

January 5, 2009


After some delays and speculation, including the “future” schedule just showing the 2008 season from the WSU website, things are finally complete. June Jones’ SMU Mustangs will come to Pullman on 9/19, completing the three game non-conference slate for the upcoming season.

SMU pretty much stunk in ’08, rolling out a 1-11 season in their first season under Jones. We’ll take a closer look at them this spring for our fish wrap series, but they struggled big-time. They did hang in there against bowl teams like Houston (44-38), Memphis (31-26) and Tulsa (37-31) but 1-11 is 1-11. Awfully bumpy. SMU was the only Conference USA team to not win a conference game, going 0-8, with their only victory was against Texas State, an FCS school out of the Southland conference.

The schedule also includes the news that Hawai’i will be the Seattle game opponent on September 12th. I don’t think this is a surprise to many, as it was rumored for some time that they would be the match-up in Seattle.


Here’s a question for you – Do you like the Seattle game? Hate it? I have to admit that I loved it at first and have liked it less over the last few seasons. But I think it is a necessary thing now and is here to stay. Even in some down years they have been drawing a decent crowd to Qwest, and it does give a lot of west side alums a chance to see the team. In these tough economic times, a trip from Seattle to Pullman might be harder to pull off next fall. Having the team come to Seattle makes sense, maybe more than ever. I just hope we never see a conference home game in Seattle. Make the conference travel to Pullman!

So that makes it Hawai’i, SMU and Notre Dame at San Antonio for the non-conference games. Then in the Pac-10, we have home games against Stanford, ASU, UCLA and Oregon State, with road games against Cal, Arizona, USC, Oregon and UW. Most likely opening up with Stanford in Pullman on 9/5, but that’s all we know right now. Dates and times TBA.

Moving on, so, how about that weak Pac-10? 5-0 in bowl games, including USC destroying Penn State in the granddaddy of them all. Speaking of USC, did you see what Rey Maualuga did to Erin Andrews before the game??

Whatever. EA ‘s taken a lot of crap for being attractive on the sidelines, from blogs to broadcasters to athletes. But it has to be said – fair or not, it more or less comes with the territory in the testosterone-elevated world where she works. It’s not fair, obviously, but it’s true. We’ve even made fun of her a few times, but nothing too bad. We like her. Quite a bit actually. But that wasn’t a real classy move by Rey. Remember, Maualuga once claimed “he owned the police” after an incident a few years ago in LA. To come up behind her and shimmy, with thousands of people watching? Again, whatever.

But anyway, the Pac-10 went 5-0 in the bowls? How could this happen after such a national beating the conference took in 2008? I think a big part of it is that, quite frankly, the Pac-10 was much, much better at the end of the season than it was in the beginning of the year. And the biggest reason? The QB situation. Think about it for a moment:

1) USC was starting a brand new QB in Mark Sanchez after John David Booty graduated. USC walloped Virginia in their opener, then beat an incredibly overrated Ohio State team in LA. But then they had to travel to Corvallis on a Thursday night and got beat by a fired-up Oregon State team. At the time that loss looked bad, and Sanchez was rather ordinary if not bad for about three quarters of that game. Yet Oregon State turned out to be a win away from the Rose Bowl. It wasn’t looked at as a “good” loss at the time, but by the end of the year it didn’t look too bad. That early-season road loss was their only blemish on their season. Mark Sanchez settled down after that first month of the year, and SC was rarely threatened the rest of the season. And a MAJOR hat-tip to Pete Carroll and USC. Did you know that they just had their SEVENTH season in a row with at least 11 wins!?!? A few years ago we ran with our media guide saying how great it was to win 10 games three years in a row. But 11 wins seven years in a row?? Unreal.

2) Oregon started over at QB, losing Heisman hopeful Dennis Dixon, and it was a big QB roulette early on. They blew it at home vs. Boise State when they played three different QB’s and didn’t even have the starter coming into the season, Justin Roper, due to injury. They were also hammered vs. USC and lost on the road vs. Cal, a team they never seem to beat. But they did end up going 6-1 over their last seven games, including the embarrassment in Corvallis and the Holiday Bowl shootout over Okie State. Oregon was considerably better in the last month of the season, and a ton of their improvement can be attributed to Jeremiah Masoli taking control of the QB position.

3) We know the tale of the Beavs. Two losses to start the year, including their pants being pulled down to their ankles vs. Penn State. But after starting 2-3, they finished with their usual kick, winning seven of their last eight games. We should also consider their tough three-point loss at Utah, a game by all accounts they should have won. The same Utah team that just completed a perfect season by trouncing the uninterested Crimson Tide and Nick Saban. But the Beavs had QB issues early on with some erratic play, including some injury issues from Lyle Moevao. Yet just another nine-win, bowl-winning season for Oregon State. Ho-hum.

4) Cal kind of slogged through the meat of the season, at one point 6-4 and looking pretty shaky. But they would win their last three, including their bowl game over Miami, to finish with an impressive 9-4 record. That said, their QB play was up-and-down all year. Some games they had Kevin Riley looking like the MAN (remember how good he looked vs. WSU?) and then other games, Nate Longshore would split the time, and there were moments where they both would kind of wander through games. A weird year for them, but they closed it out on top.

5) Finally, Arizona. They were the only team of the Pac-10 bowl teams who actually had a seasoned starter in Willie Tuitama. After a hot 4-1 start, they almost blew it, at one point at 6-5 and a showdown with ASU looming in what could have been a winner-take-all bowl bid (although that is unlikely. The Pac-10 didn’t fill all their bowl slots this year, so, any Pac-10 team with six wins was going to the post-season). But the Mildcats beat ASU for the first time in four years, and then won the Vegas Bowl over a bored BYU team to finish 8-5.

So there you have it. While the bottom two teams were pretty much automatic wins for every other team in the conference in ’08 (and we know which two teams were in the bottom ten for the majority of the season?!?), the end-result for the conference was pretty damn good. And all five bowl teams finished with a kick. USC 11 wins, Oregon 10 wins, Oregon State and Cal both with nine wins, and Arizona with eight. Not so bad is it?

That’s about it for a Monday. Enjoy your week, and GO COUGS!