Week 12 Recap: Oregon vs Utah

FINAL: Oregon 30, Utah 28

OFFENSE

@WildKingdumb – Grade: B
WE ARE BACK!  Sorta.  Kinda.  I don’t even know.  I do know we had 575 total yards.  The o-line had their best game of the year by far and with performances like that you have reason to get one of those Grinch like grins at the thought of next year.  Justin Herbert threw for 324 yards, and Royce Freeman (129 yards) and Tony Brooks-James (78 yards) got a ton of tough yards.  To me it wasn’t so much the total yards as the way they got them, Oregon attacked the flats well and voids behind the linebackers.  They had Utah guessing and were 50% on 3rd/4th Downs.   I applaud the Oregon staff from moving from Prukop to Herbert, and I applaud them letting Justin take his lumps, each failure and success with make him that much more dangerous next year. 

@JonathanAdams – Grade: A  Sing it, Lego people!
Obviously I’m grading on a bit of a curve here, because scoring only 3 points during the first 44 minutes of a game is not A-quality work by an Oregon offense. But posting touchdowns on the last four drives of the game is most certainly an A+ effort. On those last four possessions, Justin Herbert was 11-for-15 for 145 yards and three touchdowns, plus he ran for 37 yards and one score including a ridiculous 12 yard Mariota-esque escape during Oregon’s game-winning drive. Speaking of running the ball, Oregon’s rushing attack was very good on Saturday, posting 251 yards on the ground vs. a defense that came in allowing just 130 yards per game.

And honestly, they get an A from me mostly because that last 16 minutes was FUN. It was nice to really enjoy watching the Ducks play football. Hasn’t been a lot of that this season.

@GoDucksTroll – Grade: B
Having three points at halftime was not ideal. But the Ducks were moving the ball, and Royce Freeman was looking like Royce Freeman. In the second half they started putting it together, and Herbs was able to capitalize on more than just screen passes. He’s got a great rapport with all the tight ends, and the combination of Evan Baylis and Johnny Mundt played great. Our OL also had their best game of the year, limiting the drive killing penalties and blitz pick-up issues that had been haunting them.

On the game winning drive I almost couldn’t watch, but I had faith in Herbert giving us a chance. That game winning catch by Carrington was a thing of beauty.

Player of the game: Offensive line. 250 yards rushing against one of the best defensive fronts the Ducks have seen this year, and after surrendering two sacks on the opening drive they managed to protect Herbert from a vicious pass rush. Herbert had better movement in the pocket to help them out, but they still deserve kudos.

DEFENSE

@WildKingdumb – Grade: A
I’m going to toot-my-own-horn here: TOLD YOU.  I have no idea who that’s pointed to.  But hey, it felt great to say.  I have kept saying “we don’t need a ‘Bama level defense to be successful, we can give up yards… we just need to get turnovers and play well in the redzone”.  This is what I call the ‘Aliotti Philosophy’.  I guess technically we were good from the redzone because two of the 3 offensive scores (plays of 24, 12, 30 yards) game from beyond the redzone.   

Ok let’s look at how truly amazing this win was in terms of big plays.  I took un-scientific notes of the game and this is what I saw in terms of plays Utah were getting on offense:
Plays of 10 yards or more: 21
Plays between 9-6 yards: 14
Plays between 5-2 yards: 11
Plays of 1-0 yards (including incomplete passes): 17
Negative yard plays: 5

In case you didn’t read that correctly, UTAH HAD 20 PLAYS OF 10 YARDS OR MORE AND ONLY SCORED 28 POINTS.  But shockingly the Duck defense had 22 plays of 1 yard or less which seems, well… great.  (Reminder: this Utah team ran 97 offensive plays against CAL, only scoring 23 points, and lost.)  Oregon held Utah to 5/12 on third down which is again, pretty great.  As a dude watching the game on my coach at home, it looks like the D is playing harder, they are shedding blocks and playing downhill, they are not over pursuing as much which shows they are trusting one another.  They have a long way to go, but man if this is the performance they get from 3rd sting D-linemen wait till guys are healed up. 

@JonathanAdams – Grade: A
Here’s something I didn’t think I’d write this season: Oregon’s defense kept the Ducks in the game until the offense got rolling. Again, grading on a curve here because giving up 6.7 yards per play is not ideal. But they forced a huge turnover late in the first half, and just kept bending but never breaking. Looking at the box score, I kind of don’t understand how they did it, but allowing just 21 points to a top 12 team on the road after being a hot, hot mess all season long is a stunning turnaround.

(And they didn’t give up any points on the final drive of the first half or the first drive of the second half. It’s a Thanksgiving miracle!)

@GoDucksTroll – Grade: A-
The best defensive performance of the year, despite more shaky tackling. They made clutch plays when it counted, and the following guys played great: Justin Hollins, Johnny Ragin III, Troy Dye, Jalen Jelks, Ugo Amadi. Big plays by all of those guys. There is going to be some nice returning talent for next year’s defense. 

Player of the game: Justin Hollins. The defensive line all deserve credit, from Mondeaux making plays to Wayne Tei-Kirby’s fumble recovery, but Hollins had his best game as a Duck and was a force off the edge. 

SPECIAL TEAMS

@WildKingdumb – Grade: D
Dillon Mitchell is new to returning punts so congrats on the big 45 yard return.  For the touched punt that became a touchdown… WHAT IS A PLAYER SUPPOSED TO DO THERE AFTER THE WHISTLES BLOWN?  If he dives to get the ball and hits a defender after the whistles blown it’s a personal foul… if you don’t get it and they do it’s a possible touchdown?  This is a flaw in the rule that makes NO sense especially if player safety is at the center of so many new rule changes.   To get back to Mitchell, I will guarantee that will not happen to him again so luckily the Ducks overcame that mistake as well as the missed field goal. 

@JonathanAdams – Grade: D
Missed a short FG and gave up a touchdown on a muffed punt return (bad call on the review, but still. Just let it go Dillon Mitchell!). Mitchell’s 45 yard punt return to set up Oregon’s first TD was the lone bright spot.

@GoDucksTroll – Grade: D-
Dillon Mitchell’s 45 yard punt return was great, his fair catch fail and subsequent Utah touchdown was painful as can be. But Mitchell is going to be a good one, that guy is a smooth athlete. 

Aidan Schneider’s miss was surprising, but he also did make a 47 yard field goal which still seems like a miracle to me after years of suffering. 
Ian Wheeler punted well for a chance, but did you see Utah’s tricky punting? I want to see some of that on the Ducks. 
Player of the game: Wheeler averaged 10 yards more per punt than usual, on a day of crappy special teams play that is the highlight. 

COACHING

@WildKingdumb – Grade: A+
These guys were ready to play.  And the word for me today when it comes to wrapping up this performance was the Ducks was: DISIPLINED.  Only five penalties for 37 yards.  The effort on defense is growing week to week.  The offensive drives to end the 1st half and the game showed truly inspired play.

The Oregon offensive coaches had a pretty straight forward game plan.  I liked the new ‘fake option’ with Herbert running with the RB and TE as lead blockers, Washington has been running this same play over the last couple weeks.  But other than that they were running the ball pretty traditionally up the middle with, and to the edges will pulling guard/center.   Passing game worked well today with good route combinations and again amazing work by the o-line.  The Ducks punted in traditional spots and didn’t do anything too risky.  This isn’t very sexy, but the Ducks were deadly efficient on Saturday and that is reason to have some hope for next week and next season. 

The effort of this team versus Utah flies in the face of the narrative that “the players have given up on the coaches”, I am not saying I agree with that or not, but you add that to that the interview by Pat Kikenny and you get the feeling that there is support for this staff inside the halls of Oregon by the Athletic Department.  When it’s all said and done I stand with Ty Burrell.

@JonathanAdams – Grade: A
The players never quit even when down double digits late in the 3rd quarter, and it’s pretty clear that the coaches haven’t lost the locker room. It’s a small thing, but taking a knee on the extra point after the game-winning TD was a really good call.

Now to the question of “did this win save Helfrich’s job?” I won’t go into whether I think the guy should or shouldn’t be fired, but I will say it would be extremely poor management by the various decision-makers if Helfrich can avoid being fired because Darren Carrington wears a size 10 cleat instead of a size 12. And the reverse is true — Helf shouldn’t be fired if the replay official decided there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the call that DC was out-of-bounds. The big bosses need to look at the overall landscape, and not just focus on one or two games in November being decided, literally, by a few inches.

@GoDucksTroll – Grade: B
I’m surprised that Helf was able to wheedle this type of performance from a team that looked like it gave up. After complaining of vanilla play calling we got to see a trick play that resulted in a touchdown. The offensive play calling took advantage of Utah’s aggressiveness while the defense didn’t use the 15 yard cushions that have been exploited by every team we’ve played. 

We don’t know if this staff will be back next year, but if they are I’m confident that they will field a better squad next year. 



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