Wednesday, December 4, 2013

consummatum est

consummatum est

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Win the day? Long gone

After the debacle in the desert, I had hoped that the leaders of the Oregon football team might figure out that they had begun to stray too far from the mentality that led to a 46-7 record over 4 seasons, including a 33-3 record in conference play.

Well, it looks like those days are gone forever. Mark Helfrich cannot grasp the concept; apparently.

Today, Kerry Eggers has a quote from Helfrich that says:

"It's more important this week for us to play better, for us to execute, to compete, to play our way."
Do you see that? The head coach of the University of Oregon has said that one game is more important than any other. And that is a problem. The moment you allow yourself to say that Game A is more important than Game B, you also allow yourself a different preparation mentality for each game. If Game B is less important, so too is the preparation for Game B.

As a power lifter, every single set I perform has to have the exact same set up, the exact same form; everything has to be the same. So when I am warming up, I approach the bar at 135 pounds the same as I do for 550 pounds; consistency is what makes greatness possible. Inconsistency breeds mediocrity.

Former Heisman front runner Marcus Mariota has joined the parade of players lending more weight to a rivalry game than other games telling Eggers:

"But no, in all honesty, talking around the community, this game does mean a lot," the sophomore quarterback from Honolulu said. "It means a lot to the state. It's an honor to be able to play in it. To be able to represent this community the best we can is what we're going to try to do."
Look, I love rivalries as a FAN... but that is who rivalries should be for; the fans. Media can talk about rivalries; fans can talk about them as well. The moment players begin to add special value to one game versus another, they begin to breed inconsistency.

The only game that matters more than any other game? Right now, it is the BCS title game. Next season it is that first playoff game, followed by the second playoff game.

After reading the talk about this week's Civil War, I am more convinced than ever that Mark Helfrich has abandoned the Win The Day mentality where each game was "the Super Bowl."

I doubt that translates to a loss this coming Friday; but it does not necessarily bode well for the future.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

There is no armour to have chinks

Today's game, while it had plenty of execution errors that lay at the feet of the players, was not about the players. It was about coaching.

Right now, Mark Helfrich looks to be in way over his head.

When you have a Ferrari, and give the keys to someone who has never driven a car before, you probably ought to expect a car wreck.

The last three games have been exactly that; a car wreck.

After the Stanford loss, I said that the practices this year have lacked the discipline of previous years. I heard that from someone who would absolutely know and it shows on the field.

This team is acting without discipline at just about every turn. Players are talking out of turn; coaches are talking about things that were not talked about under Chip Kelly.

Mark Helfrich looks like a deer in the headlights. He is trying to be Chip Kelly in the interview room, but seems to be going through the mimicking motions on game day. The flow of the offense is clearly different as they have, pretty much, abandoned the run first attitude of the Oregon offense.

There was a lot of talk about the "Oregon Way" earlier this season when an unnamed defender put notice to Thomas Tyner that he was just another cog in the wheel and not a superstar. Unfortunately, there are signs that the Oregon Way has been lost in translation this season.

The Oregon Way is not about telling players not to be superstars; it is about an ever present overpowering focus on every detail. Kelly reeled in players that talked out of turn. And Kelly made the "Win The Day" mentality a daily approach to everything this team did on and off the field. Every game was the Super Bowl.

Helfrich has abandoned this as well. Well, maybe Helfrich hasn't in his own mind, but he HAS allowed his team to abandon this mindset. We have heard coaches talk about rivalries and revenge. We have herd players talk about being disappointed in the Rose Bowl, apparently forgetting that a Rose Bowl berth means the team has WON a conference title.

To be fair, I understand the thoughts that Josh Huff and De'Anthony Thomas were trying to convey; in a season where the team (and fans) truly believed that they were headed back to the National Championship Game, losing out on that opportunity IS disappointing. The difference is that under Kelly, no one would have talked about the title game in the first place.

Helfrich has allowed the team to soften in their approach to many things. And that has followed on to the field.

Can the problems be fixed? Yes. But it's going to take a little bit of personality transplant from the staff.

The Pac-12 has had a tremendous influx of coaching talent in the past couple of seasons and the rest of the conference is starting to catch up to the Ducks. If Oregon wants to continue to be a factor in the national title discussion every year, the coaches are going to have to up the ante on themselves.

Win the day? These coaches need to win the off-season. Otherwise, Oregon could find themselves in the same territory as Washington within a year... perennial bowl team which is not a factor in the conference title race.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Weekend recruiting thoughts

This past weekend, the Ducks hosted four official visitors. While three of those visitors, Budda Baker, Chris Brown and Oregon commit Morgan Mahalak were expected, the fourth was not expected.

Glen Ihenacho (a name former Duck Cliff Harris would have to love since it ends in "nacho"), a safety from Serra High School in Gardena, California, surprised most fans with his visit.

There had been reports that his team mate, five star all-everything athlete Adoree Jackson would be in Eugene for his fifth and final official visit. Unfortunately for Duck fans, Jackson, feeling fatigued from having made trips on the prior two weekends, decided to stay home.

While Oregon is not out of the running for an official visit, let's not overlook his team mate.

Some might question why the Ducks are bringing this player in so late in the process when few had talked about him prior to his arrival.

There are plenty of reasons that he may be visiting, many of which are neither good nor bad; just the reality of college football.

Oregon currently has a commit from junior college defensive back Dominique Harrison and a four-star recruit from San Anotonio, Arrion Springs.

While Springs seems solid, it could be that other targets are looking less likely. Oregon has been linked to players like Mattrell McGraw and Montae Nicholson for that third defensive back slot thought to be available.

It could also be a sign that Oregon intends to possibly take four defensive backs with this class. There is an increasingly likely chance that the Ducks will lose one of their two standout cornerbacks as an early entry to the NFL draft. In fact, there is always the chance both would choose to leave.

While the Ducks will be fine next year with backups Troy Hill and Dior Mathis having plenty of experience, Oregon will need to restock their depth for the future.

Ihenacho is not some run of the mill high school defensive back. He has a legitimate offer list and has good size. He seems to be the type of player that can play as a nickel back or free safety.

Tuesday, for Duck Sports Authority, I will take a look at his film in our next Prospect Analysis piece.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Growing from within

Yes. I am a hard cat to understand at times. Many times, I don't really understand myself... I just live and react.

The reality is that I am a person who takes many things far too seriously. When I write, I am cool with criticism of the content. What I am not cool with is criticism of my process. While I am not someone who works in the field of traditional journalism, I approach everything I write, even my blog entries, with a certain integrity in mind.

I would never, under any circumstances, make up a source. Nor would I ever print anything I felt to be skeptical or untrue. This is especially true of anything that casts the Oregon program in an negative light.

To have someone even hint that this might be the case is something I will respond to emotionally. Yes. I get it, people will disagree with my writing. Sometimes my opinion will differ from theirs. And, you know what, that's okay. I have never once taken umbrage to critical commentary about the specifics of what I have to say.

What I do take offense to is someone questioning my integrity. And, yes, I take that personal.

So? Sue me.

The reality is that there are many things I am thinking about as a method to create the kind of distance I need from an audience in order to sustain that ability to slough off what may be said about a story.

This whole episode has helped me as a person to learn where my mistakes have been. I have been too close to my stories at times; too close to my readers at other times. I have invested a lot of time and energy into providing as much information as possible.

I could not even begin to tell you how many hours I spent attempting to perfect the HTML code for an article; or even this blog! I take everything I write very seriously. From the presentation to the words themselves. Writing is a process and it is an art.

Am I the best? Well, I would tend to say that the lack of knocks on the proverbial door would indicate the demand for my skills to be somewhat lacking. I recognize I am just another guy who writes a blog. But I still take it serious and my integrity should NEVER be in question.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Talk about ridiculous

A few years ago, there was an hour long special called "The Decision" about Lebron James' free agent choice... today, we get an hour long special about a high school kid picking a college?

Talk about ridiculous.

I have, thus far REFUSED to participate in the twitter promotion of this event and will continue that refusal.

Somethings are just TOO ridiculous to be a part of. Yes. I write for a Rivals website; yes, I was asked to promote it. I will not formally denounce it on twitter to respect my ultimate employer, but I have to vent at just how sublimely stupid this whole process is getting.

Will it ever end?

Please. Apparently, some people cannot read.

This is a PERSONAL BLOG... does anyone get that? Really? Because what I write here is NOT a "story" that is made for the same kind of public consumption as my "work" for the site. These are simply longer versions of my opinions.

Simply put, I used this as an extension of a message board. And, guess what, when i write things on a personal blog that get attacked, I take that differently than my actual FREAKING ARTICLES. Are people too STUPID to know the difference? Apparently so.

Oy. I am done with this topic and am getting VERY tired of this whole thing.

Earlier this season I sent a tweet out that said the 2013 season was going to change everything for me... guess that has proven to be true... and it may cause further changes.

For the most part; I am done with a lot of things after this season.

Tailgating will be forever changed for us; as will game day experience.

Yes; I write for a website. But those articles and my blog are a different animal. I am very tired of ALL of this and just want it to stop. That may mean bigger changes are coming.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A farewell to brothers in arms

So I am playing with two different titles in two different genres here, but the point will be made.

Yesterday I came to a difficult decision that maintaining a message board presence on the only Duck recruiting site that I personally use, Duck Sports Authority, had become too cumbersome. I deleted a thread I had started and announced through this blog my intention to no longer spend my time on the message boards.

I want to take the time to explain that a little deeper; and hope that this message gets back to the members who remain active on DSA Stadium Club and the Casanova Center message boards. Feel free to link this post and or copy and paste.

I may go back and explain myself.

Let me start by saying I have been a member of DSA for nearly 10 years and have met a lot of very amazing people. The DSA Tailgates have given me plenty of opportunity to meet people who share my passion for and intelligence of Duck football. I was simply a member of a large community of Duck fans.

In my capacity as a member, pretty much, most people saw my comments for what they were worth; an opinion. Rarely was a disagreement anything to get up in arms about. We were all brothers in arms cheering for the same football team. Disagreements were nothing more than differences that we sometimes had to just agree to disagree.

Two years ago, that began to change. It was never my intention to become a "writer" so to speak. I was commenting on several different message board threads, including Rob Moseley's Register Guard blog, about things I had read about which contradicted, to some degree, information that had been released about the Will Lyles saga.

That's it. It would have stopped there, by A.J. asked me to do more; so I did. I have been friends with AJ for nearly as long as I have been a member of Duck Sports Authority.

The duties began to grow in 2012 as we had a little bit of a DSA retreat to plan how we would approach the season.

As soon as I started accepting a press pass to home and road games; I became a writer and not a poster.

But I had maintained my DSA nickname of "ducks39" until earlier this year when Rivals kind of forced the change. At that point, though I did not recognize it, I was no longer "just" a poster or "just" an admin; I was a paid member of the press. Nonetheless, I continued posting like a regular member of the DSA community.

Yesterday I recognized that I was no longer just a member of the board. Even though my post was through my personal blog, it was not viewed as it was intended; just a long post I preferred to put away from the message boards. Instead it was viewed as if written for DSA.

When it became clear to me that I no longer had the immunity of a DSA poster was the moment someone asked if TMZ was in my future and then compared me to Canzano.

Everyone should know that I am not, nor will I ever be, a "muckraker." Yet, there it was.

Yes, those comments in the thread were personally insulting and untrue. Those were the reason I deleted the thread. Personally, I could care less if other posters disagree with me. But to call me a muckraker; to imply I should work for TMZ and compare me to Canzano was a personal insult. It made the thread unproductive as all I could see was a backlash of people competing to prove either side of that muck raking argument. There was no value there so I made a decision.

Maybe I should have just "locked" the thread. But the choice has been made and I cannot undo it at this point so it is something we will all have to live with.

But back to my point. I am not leaving the site; I am not leaving the boards completely. I will still be there to post my official stories in the appropriate message board. If there is a specific question about something, I may pop in to answer the question.

What has become clear, though, is that my position, as a writer for Duck Sports Authority and changes the manner in which I am viewed on the site. That's okay, I probably should have changed my approach long ago.

I held on a little too tight and lost the edge a little.

I will no longer get involved in conversations like before and will no longer link to my personal blog.

I hope everyone understands that this is just the next evolution of my existence on DSA. If ever comes the time I stop writing for the site, I will likely come back as a "regular" member and re-involve myself in regular conversations. In the mean time, my approach will be a little more distant.

The disagreements are fine. I am okay with people not agreeing with everything I say. In fact, I expect there to be differences of opinion. However, in order to separate my personal emotion as a member of the message board community and my responsibility as a writer for the site, I feel I must step back and accept that my role changes the manner in which I can participate.

I hope this helps explain why I have made my decision.

If there are any questions, please feel free to contact me via twitter and I will try to answer them in that manner.

Thanks to all my brothers in arms at Duck Sports Authority. My friends outside of the boards will remain my friends. DSA Tailgates are still open to all members; even the ones who think I should be working for TMZ and compare me to Canzano! You will still see three articles per week from me and a game analysis piece. We plan to start providing podcasts again soon. I am not going away from the site, I am simply backing off as an active member of the message board community.

Personal Anecdote from the life of a power lifter

One of the great things about having a blog that is mine, I can post about things completely unrelated to Oregon football!

Today is such an occasion.

Over the past 6 weeks, there have been some struggles for me away from football and work. Several weeks ago, I had a tooth become infected that caused a bunch of other issues.

I have maintained my body weight at a competition level of 235 pounds for nearly 15 years. As a competitive power-lifter, this was something that was difficult for me, yet important.

Then; suddenly; my weight began to drop for no reason. I thought I had been maintaining my same dietary intake even through the tooth pain. I had the tooth extracted which caused one day worth of change, but I had already lost 10 pounds by then.

The following Tuesday, as I got to the gym at the same prescribed time as always, I was down another 3 pounds for the week. As I looked down, I noticed a large lump on my left arm right by my elbow. There had been some minor pain in that arm that day, but I thought it was simply the muscle being tight from an awkward sleeping position.

After struggling with my lift that night, I went straight to the doctor. At the time, I was a little bit worried. Significant weight loss; big painful lump on my arm that appeared from nowhere. Okay, I admit it, I was more than a little worried.

I was skeptical when he said "don't worry about the weight loss, come back in two weeks if you keep losing weight. The lump is soft fatty tissue, probably a lipoma and the pain is tennis elbow."

Uh, sure doc.

Then he suggested not lifting weights for a couple of weeks. Well telling me not to lift weights for two weeks is like telling anyone else not to breathe for two weeks.

So, I worked through it. Slowly but surely, the pain in my arm has started to fade. The lump actually appears to be getting better, even though lipoma's are not supposed to just "go away" and my weight has rebounded to the point where I am back to 235 pounds again.

So tonight, we are in the second week of a 13 week wave program and it was a great workout. Near the end of the workout, on the fourth set, my training partner and I played a little game of bench press poker.

I told him I was about to change my last set and go up by 10 pounds. He hates it when I up my weight without telling him; so he decided to up his weight... he saw my 10 pounds and raised me by 10! Uggghhhh...

But it went great. Here was my rep scheme:

365x4, 385x3, 375x4, 415x3 (the last set was supposed to be 395... damn me and my competitiveness!)

That last set was FUN! (Not really, but it was awesome to get through that weight.)

So, yeah, I was happy with our workout tonight!

Mucraking? Me?

Not likely. that is the simplest answer I can give.

In the thread yesterday that I deleted, there were some comments comparing my story about discipline to John Canzano and the Oregon fans perception that he uses mucraking, yellow-journalistic style to create stories.

I am not one to debate that he and I have had our differences of opinion on occasion. In Flock Talk a couple of weeks ago, I derided his tactic in the release of the players letter criticizing Oregon fans. I never thought it a good story given he had more information that he chose to with hold in order to create a more salacious headline.

Now, to be fair, we do not know if it was Canzano himself, or an editor that chose to with hold that information. Often times, editors will change online stories to get those hits without the knowledge or consent of the writer. Technically speaking, they are his bosses and do not need his permission.

My article is a sensitive subject with Canzano. He wasn't very talkative when I broached the topic outside Stanford Stadium last Thursday. Oh well. I told the story I had from the other side of the coin.

Yes, when it comes to the discussion on the DSA Stadium Club message board, I took my ball and went home. Was that the most mature thing to do? Not likely. But, you know what, it was a thread I started; so therefor my ball. While others may not like it, I have the right to take my ball and not play anymore.

The reality is that the burden of trying to do too much simply wore me down and I made my decision. Some people will like it, some won't. It should be noted that any other threads discussing this choice were not deleted. Not my ball.

But comparing me to Canzano for a BLOG entry about discipline is asinine. Simply put, any one who makes that comparison does not want the truth.

First, headlines in the Oregonian and other mainstream periodicals are designed to get play; not just locally but regionally and nationally. Newspapers make money doing this.

What does my blog "make" when I write something? NOTHING. Barely anyone reads the stories. In total, after 48 hours, that story has 431 total hits... and that includes mine. I did not do much to publicize it other than link to it on the DSA message boards. Sure, others have linked to it... but still, 431 hits in 48 hours is hardly a blip in the real world.

The reality is that most people think that all sources should either be named or they are worthless. Well, gee, if you want inside information, you occasionally (close to always) have to go with an unnamed source. If I had named the people that told me about practices, two things would happen.

1) They would lose their inside access
2) I would lose my information

Neither of those are a method to maintain a source.

One commenter said that this differed from other pieces I had written because the research was more thorough in other pieces. Really? I used an unnamed source (family member) in the original Lache Seastrunk series. In this article, I used statistics to compare this year to last year. And I used an unnamed source.

The reality is that this is something some people don't want to hear. As a Duck fan, anything that paints the team in a negative light is not supposed to come out of this writer's words? Sorry; doesn't work that way.

This is a BLOG; I say what I feel; I say what I know. There is a reason I did not make the story an official story. Don't like it? Not my problem. The truth is what it is. I have been talking for WEEKS about the issues I had been seeing in film review.

Yes. I record the games. Yes, I rewatch the games using slow motion and freeze frame to see these issues.

Just because you do not want to hear the problems does not negate their existence.

Muckraking? Me? Not even close. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Most maligned player in Oregon history?

The last home game brought about a moment I am most embarrassed by; the booing of a college player. Has there ever been a more maligned player in Oregon history than Alejandro Maldonado?

Criticism of players is fair game in my opinion; it is what we do. But as George Wrightster told me last week, it is okay to criticize the performance, but not to insult the person or his family. Booing a college player, to me, extends beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior.

While there is scholarship money provided, and I will be the first to say that the money is close to sufficient compensation for their work (excepting that the scholarship should reflect true cost of attendance), these are still NOT professional athletes.

The common theme is that "he (Maldonado) cost us (Oregon) two shots at the National Title in a row."

Um, no he did not. Sorry to say, but anyone who thinks that Oregon was going to get a rematch with LSU in 2011 is drinking a really good SPIKED kool-aid. It would not have mattered had the Ducks beaten USC in 2011, the perceived manner of their defeat to LSU combined with Alabama's perception would have kept Oregon out of the title game regardless. Stop using the green goggles; just wasn't happening.

As for 2012, why don't people blame Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (who dropped a sure fire pick 6); or De'Anthony Thomas (whose missed block stopped a would be touchdown)? Both plays would equally have changed the outcome of the game.

We could also blame Chip Kelly whose refusal to try anything new resulted in repeating the same situation hoping for a different result.

The difference from a fan perspective is that each of those other players has dozens of opportunities, so one mistake seems less important. A kicker, meanwhile, is in for so very few plays that any mistake is magnified.

I get that.

It's just too bad that Oregon fans feel the need to belittle someone who committed to playing football as a student-athlete and simply came up short in a couple of magnified instances.

This week Mark Helfrich ended what is perhaps the most over-scrutinized two plays in college football since the words "wide right" were etched into the psyche of Florida State fans.

With the promotion of Matt Wogan, Alejandro Maldonado's Oregon placekicking career is virtually over; barring injury.

I want to take the time to thank Maldonado for his efforts and perseverance. It takes a strength most of the boo-birds cannot muster to keep coming back from failure and trying.

For those of you that booed him; well, I am glad I don't sit next to you.

Myopia runs amok

So, just a funny anecdote that in many ways disappoints me after having defended Oregon fans.

I see some commentary today about the "smirk" on David Shaw's face during the game last Thursday and how much Oregon fans dislike his demeanor.

Wasn't it less than a year ago that those same fans would defend the "smirk" on Chip Kelly's face during games and after? Wasn't Kelly one whose demeanor made fans of other schools so angry that Oregon fans would argue bitterly that they just did not understand him?

Please. What exactly is David Shaw supposed to do when a game goes as good as he could have expected, be apologetic in his appearance? Somber? Cry?

Get over it.

End of an era of sorts

This has been weighing on my mind the entire 2013 season.

I love football. Specifically, I love college football. When I started this blog, it was as a response to a request from other Duck fans to put all of my thoughts on a specific topic in one site. So I did.

After that, the story, thanks to the NCAA, refused to die for more than two years. During that time I was asked by a friend for more formal stuff; and I took on that challenge. I have written a lot of stuff over the last two years. Mostly positive stuff along with occasional negative stuff.

What I have noticed is my passion for a sport I love begin to diminish; that is bound to happen.

But it is not diminishing simply because I write about the team. I only have so many hours in a day and I have been trying to get too much into each day which has begun to drain my mental resources.

I have spread myself too thin.

So, I have been contemplating methods to take off some of the load without giving up the things I enjoy. Writing happens to be something I enjoy, so i don't want to give that up.

It occurred to me today, as I was slacking on some of the work that actually pays my bills to respond to a thread I had created, that I knew where the area I could cut back was... and it was right in front of my face.

I spend far too much time monitoring our message boards, trying to respond to everyone and be a resource. But, you know what, that is not my job; nor is it part of my writing obligations for the site. And it can get quite draining to always feel like I have to spend that time on the boards.

Worse yet is that my opinions, because of my role as a writer, get taken at a different level. What I write here is considered an extension of my writing for Duck Sports Authority. While that should not be the case; it is the case. I have been commingling my opinions with my writing duties and that creates a lot of confusion for everyone.

So, today, I have decided that any and all thoughts I have outside of my articles will be shared here. And no where else. I will, of course, continue to have a live game thread for every Duck game I cover for the site; but that's it in the comment world.

That means if you want to know what I am thinking, you have to come here.

I deleted a thread today because it was simply unproductive and was not generating the kind of conversation it should have generated.

So, you will see me post my stories on the appropriate message board. And you will see commentary in love game threads. But that's it for me and comments. Want more? Gotta come here.

By the way, ALL thoughts shared on here will have the comment section blocked . This will make my life so much easier to deal with. No more monitoring or responding. I am done with that.

From now on, you get my articles, and that's about it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

More chinks in the armour

"Practice? We're talking about practice?"

Yes, Allen Iverson, we are going to talk about practice.

Iverson was famously quoted after missing some practice time and, while some diminish the importance of practice, I am not wont to do so.

Coaches often bark out that they want to see you practice like you're going play. They want the same kind of focus, energy and attention to detail as they are going to expect in a game. The best players can rarely practice half assed and "turn it on" for a game.

While speed and aggression may be turned up just a notch on game day with the emotions of the competition, focus, attention to detail and discipline do not magically appear on game day; they must be part of your preparation.

Football is a unique sport because it involves 11 players who all depend on each other to be in the right spot, at the right time in order to be successful. If less than 10 percent of a unit makes a mistake, the play will likely fail.

At the beginning of a season, there are often kinks to be worked out. Teams need time to get the feel of a game going and start firing on all cylinders. The NFL has pre-season partially for this very reason (the other reason, of course, is player evaluation to make roster cuts) while college football has non-conference games to help with this rhythm. While no one wants to necessarily see the slaughter of an inferior team, those games help make teams better.

At teh beginning of the 2013 season, the Oregon Duck football team was not only breaking in several new players, as all college football teams do every year, they were also breaking in a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator. Though things looked good on the surface through the fist several games; but there were cracks that did not show much until the Ducks played Stanford.

I don't think the Stanford game was lost because the "Ducks aren't big enough." Utah does not have anywhere near the talent or depth along either the offensive or defensive line, but they handed the Cardinal their lone loss of the season.

This story is not about the Stanford loss; but about the bigger problem that leads to the losses.

While coaches say that you play how you practice, that means there can be a lot of inference about a team's practice habits based on their game performance.

The 2013 Ducks, simply put, lack discipline on offense; specifically the offensive line. Watching the UCLA game on tape, there were plenty of mistakes that went unnoticed because other players overcame those mistakes; that can happen when a team has the superior offensive players and a speed and depth advantage.

What happens, though, when a team that lacks discipline comes across a team that has the same talent level, but more discipline? Well, the team without discipline tends to lose that match-up.

I have heard from more than one person who has been inside a practice session this season that this team does not practice with the same kind of discipline this year as in years past. It shows.

Jake Fisher has had more 15 yard penalties than I care to count; most of them are discipline issues and not effort penalties. He has seemingly committed at least one such penalty in every game he has played this season.

The Duck football team is 115th in the nation in penalites; only seven teams have more yards per game in penalties than Oregon. That is a lack of discipline.

Other areas where Oregon is markedly less effective this season include red zone efficiency where the Ducks scored over 90% of the time last season with a TD ratio of 80.8 percent. This season those numbers have dropped to 75.9 and 68.5 % respectively.

The difference is even more striking on fourth down conversions where Oregon converted 64.5 % of the time in 2012 and are converting just 45.8 percent this season. The list could go on, including what the defense allows in those situations. Suffice it to say, though, that the 2012 team was better in just about every manner.

More troubling, though, is that it was not the players who were the problem last Thursday. The coaches asked us to blame them after the game. They should be blamed. The lack of discipline on this team is striking and is at the core of the teams problems this season. Many of those problems were masked by margins of victory so lopsided that the signs were missed by many.

Marcus Mariota, at 100%, can overcome so many problems. His ability overshadowed those deficiencies. His inability to do so Thursday was magnified by significantly better competition.

No, Thursday's debacle lay squarely on the shoulders of the coaches as it should.

The Ducks were moving the ball effectively during the first two drives. It seemed as if, once the team fell behind 14-0, the coaches pressed some sort of panic button; and the players responded to that panic.

Teams play how they practice; teams mimic their coaches emotions.

On Thursday, much of the cracks in teh armour came to light.

Fear not, though, as the head coach and offensive coordinator are VERY young and will learn from this game.

I do not get the impression that we are back to "Bellotti Ball" with this staff. Mike Bellotti was "old-school" in his approach to football. He punted on fourth down, kicked field goals from 42 yards in, unless he was "forced" into fourth down conversion attempts.

Mark Helfrich has a little too much Dan Hawkins and not enough Nick Saban in him. I expect that to change.

You can be sure that Helfrich is smart enough to recognize the lack of discipline now. It's easy to overlook when your closest game is a 21 point victory on the road. It is impossible to ignore when you get dominated for three plus quarters.

If he ignores it now, then there are bigger problems ahead than the size of any lineman. Let us all hope that the size and physicality of the Oregon offensive and defensive linemen are our biggest concern.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The REST of the story is yet to come

Duck fans have been all over the internet tonight discussing the letter John Canzano posted tonight from an unnamed former Duck player who had a very bad experience in the stands this past Saturday.

Well, Duck fans, remember, there is always the Other Side of Duck in just about every instance.

Once again that is true.

I cannot say who wrote the letter as I am not completely privy to his identity. However, I can say that I have extended an offer to meet and talk with him to get a better version of his feelings out there instead of this letter that was printed.

First, I can say that yes, this IS a real letter. And yes, the letter was written by a former player.

Through a mutual friend I know that there is some regret here for how this was presented and the manner in which it has spread.

Remember, we ALL get emotional at times and say things or do things we wish we hadn't. There is no delete button for the spoken word and once a letter is received, you cannot unsend it... that is a harsh reality.

The young man was emotional and upset and spoke from his heart. But he was also exploited for the benefit of a columnist.

One thing is true, however. For a young man who did work his tail off on the field; who heard the cheers in their generic form, to stand with the fans and hear up close the negativity that stains the lapse between the cheers has to be devastating. Sometimes the reality of the close up is a harsh reality. It is easier to listen from a distance.

But this is also a window to our soul. We Duck fans always say, once a Duck always a Duck. That must be more true now than ever before. Whatever this mans name, he is a former Duck. He will always be a Duck.

We have bad fans. Most of us have always known this and kind of shrug it off with a "nothing I can do about it" mindset. The reality is that the fans who were sitting around him now know what themselves in this description. Will they care? Who knows. They may not even remember their boorish behavior.

There is a chance, however, that someone in that section will recognize their boorishness and make a change for the better. Wouldn't that be something?

A calling of a different nature

So, I have to confess, I have had a sort of existential crisis ever since Flock Talk last week.

At the end of my story on Colt Lyerla, I said that we should care everyday.

Afterwards, I had to ask myself honestly if I were acting in the manner I described. Did I care every day? Was I doing anything to make the world a better place?

Some will say that the mundane makes the world a better place. Good parenting. Working. Being a good husband.

While there is some truth behind that sentiment, that really does very little to help the world. It helps myself. It makes me feel good about myself without taking any risk.

I have a gift. I have a voice that I can express through the written word. But I write about sports. Very rarely does anything I can write have any true impact. Oh sure, on occasion I can write a piece that might have social relevance, but that is not often and it is a very fleeting moment in time that is quickly forgotten.

The next day in the sports world there is always another story.

As I have contemplated just how I could take whatever gift it is I have been possessed with and make that gift count, I have been quite miserable at times, and barely tolerant at others. I felt like a hypocrite. I wrote eloquently about caring and here I was with my head in the sand.

I struggled with the fact that some people who I considered hypocritical were more involved with helping society than myself. Sure, they could be doing it for the notoriety and to keep their names everywhere. After all, I consider most of us that choose to write somewhat narcissistic. More so for those that are in multiple mass media outlets. Nonetheless, they are making a difference.

Today, after struggling for several days and contemplating where my future lay in terms of writing, football and the Ducks, out of the blue, I received an invitation to make a difference.

I cannot divulge everything, but I am excited as I think there is a story to tell that can have an impact. This is not a football story. And the happy endings are not the stuff of Hollywood.

But the struggles, pain, confusion and subsequent healing are truly inspiring. And that is the word I feel today. Inspired.

I am excited and looking forward to this challenge. It will be a challenge because the story is a heart-wrenching tale and I will have to dig deep to really make this story profound on a level that helps.

But this challenge lay ahead of me and I am excited again!

Former player sounds off

Today, local columnist included a slightly redacted version of a letter he received with its origins from a former player. John Canzano was ambiguous at best describing the player to protect his identity, likely at the former players request.

While some would love to speculate that the letter was fiction; the work of a rival fan whose only goal is to embarrass the fan base, reality says that this is highly unlikely.

I know many think that I have some personal vendetta or issue with Canzano, and, well, that just simply is not true. I have not always approved of his content or style and have expressed such dissatisfaction openly.

On only one occasion has john ever said something to me or about me to which I took personal offense; and I met with him and quickly resolved that issue.

While I wouldn't exactly classify as as friends, nor would anyone likely consider as colleagues, we have a cordial enough relationship that I feel comfortable greeting him in the press box and exchanging whatever pleasantries seem appropriate.

When I first started writing on this blog and then for Duck Sports Authority, there was also speculation that many of the traditional journalists had some sort of disdain for me, I can say that I have found that to be mostly untrue. Most of the traditional journalists, those who work for newspapers, went to journalism school, etc., have treated me with a great deal of respect for which I am immensely grateful.

Reading today's letter from the unnamed former player smells nothing like a fabrication. But it does give some insights into a world many of us do not truly comprehend.

Now, the writer tells us some deeply worrisome facts about the fans he experienced.

Quite honestly, there are a lot of bad fans... but I think this former player probably needs to take a reality check. A football game is a cross section of America. There are dumb people everywhere and you have to deal with them every single day. That's part of life.

The bigger problem is that he has made himself no better as a person than those he criticizes in  this letter. By assuming that all Duck fans respond in the manner he experienced in a small section of the stands, he belittles himself in the process. No. Not all fans act like those around him did Saturday. No, not all fans stand by and let that happen.

I sit in the stands (rarely now, though) and have not experienced the same degree of stupidity... but I also have learned to filter out much of the stupidity that surrounds us every day. If i had not done that, I would have gone insane a LONG time ago.

"Eff the fans?" Okay. And how does that make you feel? How's that working for you? Reality is that, without the fans, there are no scholarships. Look no further than non-revenue sports. If not for Title IX, there would be considerably fewer athletic scholarships handed out.

You have to take the good with the bad. That's what true fans do every year. Do we stop going to games after the first loss? No. Did the fans stop supporting the team last season after the Stanford game? No.

So you ran across some idiots, and because of a few idiots you are willing to disparage all who share a similar affiliation with the team? That does not reflect well on YOUR maturity. Life isn't perfect. There are bad people everywhere.

You can go into a cocoon, or you can revel with those who are the better fans, or you can give up entirely.

I would have hoped that your coaches taught you better than to give up.

Come to a tailgate with me and you will see a different type of fan.

In fact, I challenge the former player to have a real discussion' openly' with fans in a town hall forum. No anger; no paranoia; just a cross section of fans who can show the proof that not all fans are as he saw on Saturday.

Other former players have already talked openly about the subject. Former Duck Nick Cody was open through twitter that he knows the problem, but has a different approach.

"I've been treated badly by fans of many schools. My own included. But never hold it against the school or fans as a whole."

Isn't that a much better approach than to lace a letter with nothing but profanity in an angry response?

I say absolutely.

Look, there are bad people in this world. There are bad people inside Autzen; and Reser, and the Coliseum and every other football stadium. Over the last several years I have travelled to many stadiums around the country. LSU fans were in denial when I told them about the experiences I had in Dallas. They simply would not believe how poorly I was treated.

Fans in Knoxville, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Phoenix have all been overwhelmingly courteous in how they chose to treat the visitor from Oregon. That does not mean that there were no bad apples.

You have to choose how you respond to the negativity that surrounds you in this world. You can close your eyes, get angry and vow to never again acknowledge the negativity through your own denial, or you can choose to celebrate the goodness that IS out there.

I have been int eh same section for 15 years; watched the family behind me grow up; the two sons were like 10 and 7 when I started sitting in those seats. Now they are both college graduates and incredibly generous, respectful people.

So some fans were drunk and obnoxious. So?

What did this player think fans did after a bad play? Cheer anyway?

Football is an emotional sport. As someone who played at the college level, was a strength coach at the college level and has been a season ticket holder for 16 seasons and fan my entire life, I can say that it is very emotional for everyone involved.

Fans invest a lot of time and money in this sport and take everything that happens as a part of that investment in their soul. I know that players don't want to always hear this, but fans feel the losses too. Fans spend a lot of money and scream their lungs out trying to help the team in the only way they can. They too feel frustrations and they too will voice their frustrations.

It's heat of the moment stuff.

Does this excuse boorish behavior? Absolutely not. But to expect football fans to respond like they are at the opera is a little naive at best.

So I reiterate my open statement; meet with a group of fans. Talk to more people than the small cross-section of fans you experienced last Saturday. Maybe you will find out that rash judgements serve no one.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why Kirk Herbstreit is wrong

Herbstreit has long had love for the Oregon program.

Today he stated that he thought that, right now, Florida State deserves the number two spot more than Oregon in the BCS.

I say he is wrong and I can prove it with two words: Boston College.

Boston College is ranked somewhere in the 70's or lower by computer polls; they are currently 3-4 with their three wins over Villanova, Wake Forest and Army; teams who have combined for a record of 11-13 this season.

Boston College; the same team that lost to a very bad USC offense and mediocre USC team by a 35-7 score. That would be the same USC that stands at 5-3 and lost to Washington State 10-7 earlier this season.

Florida State won against Boston College, but in the process escaped hving allowed 400 yards of offense, 200 rushing yards and 34 points to a middling ACC team.

Boston College also took Clemson to the limit with the Tigers escaping 24-14.

What this tells the untrained eye; the ACC is nowhere near the quality of the Pac-12 conference. Simply put, Oregon's 28 point victory over a considerably better team than anything Boston College has faced tells me who the better team is in this instance.

Sure. I am biased. But that does not mean that I am incorrect.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Flock Talk: Insidious fall

The insidiousness of drugs. Destruction.

This week, former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla was arrested for cocaine possession. As writers, fans and scouts talk about the topic from the sterile world of their own, you wonder just what each person knows or feels.

It is oh so easy to criticize; to look back and provide lectures on the opportunities that were given and either ignored or not understood.

We have been told that this is not about football; it is about life; the life of another human being which hangs in the balance. It is brought to our attention not because we care so much in our day-to-day life about just how drugs permeate the fabric of our society. It is only brought out because Colt Lyerla is a football star. So let's call this what it is, a football story. Do we really think that this story would be on the front page if Colt Lyerla were a gas station attendant?

Of course not. No one cares about that guy; until he commits a more serious crime.

And therein lay the problem. We don't care about the guy who is throwing away a life that seems less important; we only care when it permeates something we love. And isn't that the bigger problem?

I have personal experience with this having watched as a younger family member has progressed from normal kid, to kid who tried drugs, to kid who liked drugs to criminal who cannot seem to stop his own stupidity. He has been to jail and his only excuse is that "drugs should be legal. It's stupid."

While on a certain philosophical level, a libertarian view of life, he might have an argument. But ask him what libertarian means and he will give you the look of confusion as if you were speaking in tongues. He has no concept of the philosophical meaning behind his statement; he simply wants to use drugs because it fills a void.

The void that needs to be filled. That is where the insidiousness of drug use in our society comes from and it is troubling. We have been told for years about the "war" on drugs. We have wilfully funded this war as a solution to what ails society. Clearly, the manner with which we have attacked this problem does not work. But this so-called war fills our own void. It makes us feel better; safer at night.

Cut the drugs off at the source has been the motto. Unfortunately, when there is demand, there will be a supply source. No amount of money, guns or jails will rid the world of the cockroaches that want to fill that void for you. If cockroaches can survive the nuclear holocaust what makes us think that a governmental war on drugs will kill the cockroaches and solve society's drug problem? I am not convinced.

So the life of a football star hangs in the balance and we all pretend to care for a few days. Do we care? Would we talk about a "wasted life" if a gas station attendant was picked up for snorting cocaine? Well, start talking, it has surely happened this week at some point.

Don't kid yourselves. This is a football story.

Embrace that fact because that is how we change society. As long as we deny why this story means more than the 15 year old who sold some marijuana to his friends and received a felony conviction for it, but no one seems to know or care, then we also continue to exacerbate the problem. The problem is with America.

We are so entrenched in the things that mean nothing that we allow what is important to get swallowed up in our pursuit of "stuff."

The Colt Lyerla story is passed off as the tragedy of a kid with a rough upbringing. Thinking it is about his past makes us sleep easier at night. Guess what, though, kids from normal houses with loving parents and good schools; great support systems get just as caught up as those from rough upbringings.

If we want to fix this problem that permeates the fabric of our society, we have to stop fooling ourselves.

Feeling good should not be the goal of any person; true happiness should. That happiness cannot come from religion or through force of will and it will not come from drugs. Human value in society is warped and out of control. We watch bullying and say "kids will be kids." Until someone commits suicide over the constant harassment.

I have also watched an adult male, extremely devout in his religion get to 35 years old before he "discovered" drugs. Within a year he had lost his wife, house, cars, kids. Everything. He was living in his parent's basement. Not a broken home; good values taught by his parents. But he needed something to feel "better" about his station in life. He was a close, personal friend whom I had known over 20 years before his fall.

The insidiousness of drugs.

The problem is deep and insidious. It is the darkness of a nation that no one wants to admit. This is a scourge that threatens our security.

Yes, the Colt Lyerla story is a football story. But we can make it more than a football story. It can become a life altering story if we allow ourselves the opportunity to grow and learn about ourselves.

Chip Kelly and the Ducks athletic department did everything in their power to help Colt Lyerla. Do not think for one minute that Chris Herren was brought in for any reason other than the education of Colt Lyerla.

Herren's story is powerful; and scary all at the same time. Talent did not solve his problems. Money did not solve his problems. Drugs did not solve his problems. Knowledge is what it took to solve his problems.

Many people without the intelligence and acumen of Herren have fallen under the same spell and not made it out alive. Where is our compassion for their plight?

When we see a story like Colt Lyerla or Chris Herren, we get very serious with our "hope" that they can get straightened out. And, you know what, this only reinforces the wrong message. Why wait until a football or basketball star gets in trouble for drugs to care? There are kids, everyday, who get into trouble for the first time. That is when we should care.

We should care not when it starts to destroy the life of a football star, but when it starts to destroy the life of a human being.

We should care every single day.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Beyond Flock Talk: An unimaginable darkness

Tomorrow in Flock Talk, I look at the Colt Lyerla story from a different angle.

While everyone else talks about their "hope" for his future, I look at it, as usual, from a different perspective. Everyone keeps saying "this is not a football story."

Oh really? Then why are football writers covering the story? It shouldn't be a football story, but it IS a football story whether we like it or not.

I talk about the bigger picture.

Today I saw some saying that maybe a cell would solve the problems. While that person concedes the point I made that a possession charge is highly unlikely to result in any jail time, the other question that comes to mind revolves around that very jail cell.

So many people think jail is a solution; but were they willing to put their money where their mouth was in budge ballots? If so, then I applaud your integrity. Unfortunately, generally speaking most people who use the "lock 'em up and throw away the keys" mantra are also notoriously against using any public funds voting down just about every attempt to do the very things they say they favor. That kind of hypocrisy strikes me as quite comical.

But, you know what, that was just talk thinking that hearing the cell door slam every night might straighten his head out. And, you know what, I get where the thinking comes from and don't really have a problem with it as a concept.

On the other hand, I also saw a poster flat out blame Colt's parents for his continuing plight. His downfall has been seemingly precipitous. In reality, the fall has been long, slow and agonizing for everyone involved.

But if we want to keep pointing a finger at someone else to make ourselves feel better, when does it stop? If Colt's parents are to blame for his life, who is to blame for their life?

The surefire response is that "hey, he was a kid when they screwed up his life, but they were adults." Well, what about when THEIR life got screwed up.

You see, we can go on forever looking for someone to blame before we come to a harrowing conclusion. The very structure with which we think we feel secure is to blame.

Each individual has to make healthy choices. But how and when do these people learn to make healthy choices? Clearly relying on individual parents to all somehow "get it" and teach their children does not work.

And that thought scares the hell out of Americans who understand the depth and breadth of the problem because it involves more "big brother" mentality.

There are NO easy answers to this problem. It permeates our society and is a sign of a deeper structural problem.

We are so consumed with the American Dream that we live in a nightmare. We lie to ourselves to feel secure.

There are serious problems in this nation. It takes serious people to solve these problems. Seriousness scares us, so we look away and use platitudes to comfort ourselves.

Colt Lyerla has made his choices. He is an adult and responsible for those choices.

Society, on the other hand, has an dark side no one mentions. At some point, when a problem permeates a society, it is about more than individual bad choices.

We are ALL responsible for what this society has become.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Jeff Sagarin - Time To Take Out The Garbage

This is my statement: Jeff Sagarin's computer ranking system should be immediately eliminated from the BCS formula.

We learned yesterday that Sagarins computer formula which is included in the BCS standings currently has three teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in the top 10 of the nation.

In fact, he has one loss Bethune-Cookman ranked No. 4, ahead of Oregon and several other top tier programs. Simply put, that is ludicrous. Any algorithm that spits out nonsense like that has serious flaws at its core.

Sure, the BCS simply drops the FCS schools out of the poll, thus moving teams up a spot (or in the case of some teams, three spots). But that is not the point.

If Sagarin's "brilliant" formula spits out a team whose presence is only made possible because they LOST to Florida State 54-6 while beating teams like Tennessee State (12-9) and Delaware State (21-7) there is a fundamental flaw and NONE of his projections can be trusted.

This shows you just how ridiculous a system is when it allows programmers to determine who should play a championship game. Can you imagine the NFL doing that?

Worse is that the formulas are not required to be released publicly so he could throw any garbage "bias" into his program he wants and it goes virtually unchecked.

The BCS honchos have absolved themselves of any responsibility for the faulty formulas proclaiming those people whose formulas are included in the process as the "experts" therefore the BCS executives don't particularly care what garbage goes into the formulas.

Many of these programs have long seemed suspicious. They are said to be programmed where "only winning matters." Reality says that cannot be true.

Look at another example, also from Sagarin. Oregon State lost earlier this year to an FCS foe (Eastern Washington) yet, somehow, Sagarins formula considers Oregon State the No. 8 team in the nation. The team that beat the Beavers has lost two games to FCS foe Sam Houston State and MAC opponent Toledo. Eastern Washington comes in at No. 75 on Sagarin's list.

So, apparently, losing to No. 75 gets a team better ratings than beating No. 62 (Tennessee), No. 41 (Washington) and No. 44 (Washington State).

Sagarin's ratings are an absolute joke. No, wait, sorry, jokes are funny. They are an absolute embarrassment. His ratings should immediately be dumped and he should be forbidden from having any involvement in any system that determines relative strength of NCAA teams.

Clearly he has no clue what he is doing. Honestly, I think a high school calculus student could probably devise a more accurate formula. In fact, a dog barking randomly when team names are announced could probably come up with a better ranking system.

Sagarin should feel nothing but disgust and shame that his supposed formula is so riddled with obvious inconsistencies.

His inclusion in the BCS formula is the worst kind of joke. Time to kick him out.

Garbage in, garbage out; GIGO. That should be the name of Sagarin's ratings. They are utter garbage. And the garbage begins with his formula. Garbage.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Other routes to the NFL

So, I have seen some of the complaints about the "unfairness" of the process by which you have to get to the NFL.

And what job that pays really well doesn't have barriers to entry? After all, to be a doctor takes over 10 years of education. And no one gives those people a full ride. Many doctors are into six figure debt before they ever get a job. That's a barrier to entry.

And the athletes want to blame the NCAA. Really? Maybe they should do a little research and find out that the problem is NOT the NCAA... it is the employer for whom they so desperately want to play. THe NFL.

The National Football League has an age limit to entry. That age limit has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court as a bonafide occupational qualification.

There ARE other ways to the NFL than college football.

First, there is the Canadian Football League which has no age requirement. It is a difficult road as CFL teams are permitted only a small number of foreign players on their rosters, but it IS an option available to any high school player who feels the system is unfair.

Second, there is the option to simply workout for three years and work where ever you want. If you can get an agent, you can do so. There ARE semi-pro leagues where you could play waiting to meet the age requirement of the NFL.

Third, Arena Football League. As with the CFL, the Arena football league has an 18 year old age requirement. Certainly not as restrictive as the three years out of high school requirement of the NFL.

There are several other professional football leagues that are available to all 18 year old players.

You see, there are absolutely other methods to reach the NFL. The reality is, though, that NCAA football is the best route to the NFL. If the rules of the NCAA are too daunting or restrictive, people are free to choose other avenues.

I find it quite disingenuous, though to complain about the system you willingly choose to create your career opportunity. Doctors don't complain about what it takes to get to their desired profession... and I would venture to say that their job has a substantially higher societal value.

Every profession that has high reward also has a difficult path to achieving that level. So, if you don't like the path you have to take, choose a different career.

Pretty simple.

Nick Aliotti, Mike Leach and meaningless statistics

Back in the summer, a particular Cougar fan took issue with some commentary I had made regarding the high sack numbers the Cougar offense allowed last season. Simply stated, I thought that without a significant improvement in the performance level of the offensive line, the Cougars would still struggle in games against quality teams.

His argument was one that lacked knowledge of Mike Leach's history; passing more creates more sacks.

And, you know, if that had been spoken about a pro style offense that uses 3, 5 and 7 step drops from under center, I would have concurred. But Mike Leach's teams routinely threw the ball over 600 times in a season while giving up less than 15 sacks. His is a quick out, quick slant offense and should not allow sacks at the rate Washington State had allowed them.

The results thus far have borne out the truth within my original thoughts.

And now, other parts of Mike Leach's past are coming into play.

“That’s total (B.S.) that he threw the ball at the end of the game like he did,’’ Aliotti said. “And you can print that and you can send it to him, and he can comment, too. I think it’s low class and it’s (B.S.) to throw the ball when the game is completely over against our kids that are basically our scout team.’’

“Make sure he knows that,’’ Aliotti said. “Because I don’t really care.’’
The first salvo had been fired. Mike Leach has long rankled coaches around the country much like Jim Harbaugh did when he came to the Pac-12.

While I will not go so far as to call Leach's decision to pad the stats of Halliday against fourth stringers and walk-ons as "low class," I will say that it is bad coaching. And it is also a sign. Leach considers Pullman purgatory for sins he feels he did not commit; he's looking to leave and he is building his resume. He wants to gain back that "genius" moniker that had been bestowed upon him at Texas Tech and he wants a "bigger" job. USC? Texas? Who knows, but I think he wants out already.

The reality is, Halliday will be known for his record until the next time someone decides to throw a pass on virtually every play for whatever reasons. But do we really think this is a record he is going to brag about? I mean, 28 of the passes were thrown after the team trailed by 38 points with less than 7:00 left in the game. Of those, all were thrown against third and fourth string players. What exactly is there to be proud of? Nothing.

Well, there is something, I suppose. Since the Cougars cannot seem to challenge Oregon for an entire game, they can feel like at least they got under the skin of a coach. That and a dollar won't even get you a loaf of bread at the store.

Where the bad coaching comes in is simple: Leach had an opportunity to make the rest of his team better Saturday and he chose to pad Halliday's statistics. He had an opportunity to get some backups, guys who work just as hard as the starters, meaningful minutes in a conference game.

Those backups oftentimes do not get the opportunity to run their own playbook as they are frequently working on the scout team, mimicking someone else's playbook. Put them in the game, let them run your play book and then you have film of what their strengths and weaknesses are as players. You know; make them better.

He also did a disservice to his team by unnecessarily exposing those starters to injury. What if Halliday had torn an ACL on that last pass, would the stat have been worth it to the team? Of course not. On both counts, Leach failed his team.

Much like is his past, he would surely deny this, after all, he considers it normal to denigrate and berate young men whom he dislikes. When he had the opportunity to save his job simply by apologizing for the manner in which he had treated Adam James, he refused. He said he didn't do anything wrong.

The reality is that Adam James exaggerated much of what happened. Nonetheless, he was still treated improperly by Leach and Leach refused to accept accountability for his actions.

Last week he insulted his entire team. Where is the character development?

Coaches are paid to win games. College coaches are also tasked with developing character. On Saturday, Mike Leach did neither of those.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

UO-WSU Match-Ups

The Oregon Ducks (6-0, 3-0) return to Autzen Stadium for the first time in a month this Saturday to take on the Washington State Cougars (4-3, 2-2) in an important Pac-12 conference game for both teams.

Oregon, ranked No. 2 in the polls, were supposed to face their first real test of the 2032 season last weekend in Seattle. On many levels, they did just that and passed with flying colors. For the first time in 2013, Marcus Mariota took a fourth quarter snap.

What was once a close seven point contest ended in another blowout win with the Ducks taking the 45-24 decision over the Huskies

The Cougars, meanwhile, are licking their wounds after a tough 52-24 loss to Pac-12 North contender Oregon State. The Cougars had their chances leading the Beavers heading into the fourth quarter before a 35 point fourth quarter onslaught buried the Cougars.

A porous pass defense and a slew of turnovers in that fourth quarter spelled doom for a Washington State team that was favored and looking to get their fifth win of the season.

Despite an injury on the opening kick of the Cal game to running back De'Anthony Thomas, the Ducks have been able to weather the storm of three consecutive games without his presence in the game plan.

In his stead, Byron Marshall has reeled off three consecutive 100 yard performances including 106 yards against the Huskies last Saturday.

This week, we continue our Inside Edge series to cover both sides of the ball in one article. We show the starting lineups for both teams and discuss our thoughts as to which team has the edge at each match-up.

Both teams will bring an explosive offense to Autzen Statdium for this tough match-up. The Cougars, who have lost six consecutive games to Northwest rival Oregon look to be improved on defense, though, having held opponents to a Pac-12 conference best 141.7 rushing yards per game this season.

What the Cougars have done is grown in their understanding of Mike Leach's Air Raid offense to the tune of 347 passing yards per game.

What do the match-ups look like for this game? Take a look at the latest edition of DSA Inside Edge.

Want to read the entire story? Check it out, it's free!

DSA Inside Edge: Washington State

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A contrast in style

In our continuing in-depth coverage of Oregon football game day, we add to it this new feature article which looks at a key story line for each game.

Mark Helfrich's personality is in stark contrast to that of Saturday's opponent
As the Ducks head back to Autzen to face Washington State this weekend for their fourth conference match-up of the 2013 season, what transpires on Saturday night will feature two extremely prolific offenses. While both are prolific, they offer a contrast in style both on the field and off.

Oregon, ranked No. 2 in the nation in both major polls has been one of the more prolific offenses in the nation since Chip Kelly's arrival in 2007. Washington State, meanwhile, has gone through a bevy of problems since Mike Price's departure after the 2002 season. While the fall of the Washington State program was not as precipitous as that of its former coach, both falls were negatively spectacular in the end.

The Cougars tried to maintain with other coaches only to see the program mired in less than mediocrity. Paul Wulff looked to have the program close to turning around, but former Oregon athletic director Bill Moos, who was in the same position at Washington State, felt that an upgrade was needed to generate better fund-raising opportunities, so he turned to Mike Leach, the former Texas Tech coach who, though fabulously successful in Lubbock, was also one of those figures that polarized the administration and the fan base.

His hiring prior to the 2012 season was considered a "home run" hire when he was tabbed to guide the Cougars. He came to a team that was already very successful throwing the ball. But his philosophy was different. He was not interested in play-action passing or running the ball on a regular basis. His offense is, essentially, a two minute drill that the team runs for an entire game.

This means getting the ball to receivers quickly and allowing them to make plays. This season, Connor Halliday, the junior quarterback for the Cougars is averaging over 350 yards per game through the air. The issue is consistency. Leach's philosophy requires the quarterback be able to make quick accurate decisions. At Texas Tech, despite the exceedingly high number of pass attempts per season, his team consistently landed in the top 20 of fewest sacks allowed. And his quarterbacks threw plenty of touchdowns and very few interceptions. They were consistent.

Halliday, while prolific through the air, has also been wildly inconsistent. He is slow to make decisions and has thrown almost as many interceptions (13) as touchdowns (14) through seven games this season.

Oregon, meanwhile, has made their "splashy" hires at the coordinator level allowing their coaches to grow from within. Chip Kelly came to Oregon as offensive coordinator; and then was promoted when Mike Bellotti retired.

When Kelly was promoted, he tabbed Mark Helfrich as his offensive coordinator. Helfrich was then promoted.

Helfrich is the antithesis of Leach. He is quiet and almost studious in his approach to everything. When speaking to the media, he is thoughtful and reserved in much of his response. Helfrich uses the occasional quip to varying degrees of success. The most controversial statement he has made was really a statement he did not make. Circumstances.

If Helfrich has any political views about any topic outside of football, good luck getting an answer. Compare that with Leach who will willingly share his views on any topic under the sun; often without being asked. Leach writes books; Helfrich probably reads them.

On the field Oregon also has thrown the ball quite a bit more this year than in previous seasons. Many expected a small change in the run-pass ratio. But, honestly speaking, that would have likely happened this season regardless of who was head coach.

Oregon's quarterback has been a model of consistency and efficiency this year. Where Halliday has 14 touchdowns, Marcus Mariota, the sophomore Heisman Trophy candidate, has thrown 17 in one less game. The difference? Mariota has thrown zero interceptions compared with 13 by Halliday.

Mariota averages 287 passing yards per game; but in reality, he averages about 287 yards per two and a half quarters. Mariota averages over 10.4 yards per attempt. If Mariota had thrown as many passes as Halliday, his 3524 yards would lead the nation by more than 1000 yards over current leader Sean Mannion. Consistency.

When these two teams match-up on Saturday, what you will see on each sideline is a contrast in styles. In between the sidelines? Another contrast in styles.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The future of Marcus Mariota

I have seen a lot of questions posed both by the media and fans alike as to what the future holds for Marcus Mariota.

Will he turn pro after this season? that seems to be the prevailing question throughout the Duck fan base. The media asks because the fans want to know. It's kind of their job, after all, to ask those kinds of questions.

To his credit, like with everything on and off the field, he swats away the question with deflection much the same as he looks off a defensive back in coverage.

The reality is, though, that the questions will intensify in frequency as long as he continues to dissect college football opponents.

Some even speculate that Mariota may be the first overall pick next season if he were to declare himself eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft.

I don't know if that is or is not true. While many experts talk about the negatives of a spread quarterback, the year of the zone read in the NFL seems to be over. After high praise and success last season, the luster seems to be gone from its two biggest stars, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffn III. Griffin was injured near the end of the season last year and Kaepernick has not seemed nearly as explosive this season.

Will that change? Probably. Neither is simply a "zone read, option" quarterback, but both have some things that they need to work on to extend their careers.

In the NFL, linebackers are as fast as college defensive backs; and considerably larger. When they hit you, you feel it. Touchdown; first down; get down. That is how NFL quarterbacks survive; even running quarterbacks.

Mariota is different, but not that much different. He is not necessarily faster than Michael Vick; and Vick got hit plenty in his prime. Where he can differ is the process of being a quarterback.

Footwork, throwing motion, release, understanding of complex defensive schemes. Those are all areas he will need to improve on to become a successful NFL quarterback. Speed comes in handy when it is needed, but at that level, fast quarterbacks who run too much get hit too much.

Do I think he should stay? Difficult to say. I think he should be smart about where he goes. Being the number one pick is great, but if you end up with a team that is a perennial bottom feeder and does not develop anything around him, what good would it do to be number one overall?

Look at the staff stability. Look at the front office. If the team with the number one pick is one that is going to use him as a short term marketing gimmick; force their hand. Yes. Be like Eli Manning; or John Elway.

Should he stay? That is a decision for several months from now.

Will he stay? One current player told me that Marcus is on pace to graduate this year. If that is the case, the "finishing college" answer is pretty much a moot point.

My thought is simple. I am going to enjoy watching Mariota for as many games as he is an Oregon Duck and hope whenever he chooses to move on, that he continues to excel at the next level.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Thoughts on Jalen Brown commitment

Brown chose Oregon over some pretty good schools. I talked in a Recruiting impact article about just where this leaves Oregon in wide receiver recruiting this year; the reality is that the Ducks probably are not going after many more receivers. After signing Devon Allen and Darren Carrington last year to go along with now redshirt freshman Chance Allen and sophomores Bralon Addison, B.J. Kelley and Dwayne Stanford, the Ducks look to be deep and talented at the position.

There will be no Rick Neuheisel problems with Helfrich; he knows how to build a team.

Where does Brown fit? He has exceptional hands and has good height at 6-2. He shows good vision on the field and makes yards after contact frequently. He needs to add some bulk to his frame. At 183 pounds, he does not have the elite speed to survive at his weight.

Some think he may see the field as a true freshman, but with the talent ahead of him, that is a long shot barring injury.

That's not a knock on the players as he is one of the best receivers in the nation for a reason. What the Ducks do get is a player who is extremely intelligent with great skill as a receiver.

Many teams who spread the ball around need those players that can catch the tough ball over the middle of the field and on short slants up the seams. They also need wide outs that can block. With some weight on his frame, Brown will be an ideal receiver for the Ducks.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Upon further review


The first quarter of the Oregon Washington game saw plenty of replay action as several plays were looked at by the replay review official in the booth.

For all of the anger that sometimes accompanies these delays, each call was right and each call was necessary. When Josh Huff stretched out towards the end zone, it was questionable whether he fumbled or whether he touched the ground. Mariota did not score on his run; and, no, conspiracy theorists can stop already, the refs did not "give" Byron Marshall the touchdown.

There was no conclusive evidence to suggest otherwise.

Avery Patterson's interception? It did touch the ground first and it was the right call to overturn the ruling on the field.

Watching the Oregon State game, there was another instance where replay made the right call as the Cougar running back clearly got the ball across the goal line before he fumbled it; the reversal was made giving Washington State a touchdown rather than a turnover.

While it may be a nuisance to have the replay delays, it is nice to see the ability of the refs to get the calls right.


I did an interview with Yahoo Sports Radio earlier tonight and one of the questions the host asked centered around the defenses in the Pac-12 and the intensity. He was really impressed by the defense in the Oregon game today for both teams.

I agree that the offense has seen so much of the credit in this conference for a very good reason. Defense gets overlooked far too often.

ORegon played dominant defense for most of the game against the Huskies. Though you can never "take away" plays from reality, Oregon dominated the Huskies for most of the game on defense with the exception of four plays.

Running back Bishop Sankey was responsible for three of those with runs of 60, 25 and 17 yards. Outside of those three runs, Sankey carried the ball 25 times for 65 yards. That is a strong, dominant effort against one of the nations leading rushers.

The pass defense? Oregon gave up two explosion plays of 28 yards each with one to Jaydon Mickens and the other to Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. Outside of those two throws, Keith Price went 17 of 30 for 126 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. That is a dominant pass defense.

Washington was a better team this season than last, especially on offense. But so too is Oregon better this season, especially on defense.

Defense may be the difference in this Oregon team versus teams of the past.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Beyond Flock Talk: Apples, trees and continuity

Bud Withers, who many may remember from his time wrote an exceptional piece the other day about the TRUE origins of Oregon's rise to prominence.

Yes, I know, Husky and Beaver fans are wholly convinced that Phil Knight bought every ounce of success that Oregon has had over the years. They decry the amount of money Oregon has spent on facilities as some sort of unfair advantage.

First of all, Washington has a significantly larger donor base and alumni base to tap into, to call Oregon's advantage is simply silly. The new renovation at Husky Stadium cost $281 million... that's more than the Autzen upgrade, Jacqua Center, Hatfield-Dowlin Complex and Matthew Knight Arena... combined? Unfair advantage? Hardly.

As for Oregon State, it's not as if they did not have their own benefactor. Sure, Al Reser did not have the same kind of disposable wealth to pour into athletics as did Knight, but, as many within the Oregon athletic department have said in the past, what were the Ducks supposed to do, so no thank you? turn down money simply because rival schools do not have the same level of support?

The reality is that Oregon's rise was not purchased. The money enhanced the foundation that had already been laid by Rich Brooks and Mike Bellotti.

This foundation lay in recruiting and player development. As the team got better results, they were able to see a higher caliber athlete willing to forsake the beaches and sunshine for the fog and rain of winter in the Willamette Valley.

What has made the Ducks special is not just the results on the field, or the money received from boosters.

The Ducks have become special for a simple reason. While other schools sell a "family" atmosphere, Oregon goes to a whole new level of family. With the exception of Ron Aiken and Matt Lubick, who were hired when Chip Kelly went to Philadelphia, this staff is one of the deepest and longest tenured coaching staffs in the nation.

Coaches like Gary Campbell, Don Pellum and Jim Radcliffe have been with Oregon for well over 20 years without leaving. Others like Steve Greatwood, Nick Aliotti and Tom Osborne have left, but returned with two of them totaling more than 20 years on staff as well. That kind of continuity creates a lot of positives on the recruiting trail.

The Ducks promote from within rather than continually looking for the "next big name" when it comes time to hire. Rather than looking outside the program for head coaches, the Oregon staff has used the coordinator positions to look for the next guy and that has worked fabulously since the last "outside" coach was hired in 1977. That is a long time to keep the head coach hires "in house" and it has paid dividends.

I talked about the specifics of that in Flock Talk. While the Washington apples have taken to falling further away from the tree than ever, Oregon has changed their entire approach to every aspect of success. The looked outside of their comfort zone to get better.

As long as the Ducks continue to find creative ways to stay ahead of the curve and avoid falling victim to complacency, there is no reason to fear the future.

The future is bright indeed and it likely includes their hallmark of success; continuity.

Husky game thoughts

So, one of the more popular posts on Duck Sports Authority this week was started with this post:
Are the Huskies that much better than last year? adamwinn68 posted on 10/9/2013...

I was just looking at the Huskies' schedule from this year and last year, and and I am just wondering if they are really that much better than last year or if the schedule to this point has given them the perception of being better. Here are the two schedules side by side Game 1 W over San Diego 21-12 Game 1 W over Boise State 38-6 Game 2 L to LSU 41-3 Game 2 W over Illinois 34-24 Game 3 W over Portland St 52-13 Game 3 W over Idaho St. 56-0 Game 4 W over Stanford 17-14 Game 4 W over Arizona 31-13 Game 5 L to Oregon 52-21 Game 5 L to Stanford 31-28 Game 6 Oregon????? Do the Huskies really look that much better than last year? They beat Boise St at home after loosing to them last year in a Bowl game, so maybe that spells improvement. But as we have seen, Boise St is not near the team they were a year ago. Fresno St. put up 41 on them. This could be interpreted as Boise St got a lot worse and UW stayed about the same or got a little better How impressive is the win over Illinois? A road win is certainly good, but Illinois doesn't look like that good of a football team and UW only won by 10. This does not show me the are that much better than last year. A win over Idaho St. tells us nothing--looks like their win over Port St. Now maybe the win over Arizona is the sign that they are much improved. Last year they got beat by Arizona 52-17. So this is a major reversal. But what do we really know about Arizona. There best win is against UNLV or UTSA? They lost 6 starters on offense including their QB. And their defense last year was one of the worst in the Pac 12. Finally, they lost to Stanford, a team they beat last year. So is this resume that impressive? I think it is quite possible that Washington is really about as good as they were last year, and that they have played an easier schedule and so look better to observers. Maybe they are some what better than last year, but I don't see that much evidence to suggest they have significantly improved. For this reason, I am going to say Ducks win this game easily and at the years end, UW will be something like an 8 win program. Bet Oregon and lay the points . . . Thoughts?

Here are my thoughts on the topic.

One thing I am going to say to this question is that there has not been much talk of this but...

While this Husky team is undoubtedly better than last season and probably the best Husky team Oregon has faced during the last 10 seasons...

Well, this OREGON team is the BEST Oregon team Washington has ever faced. Ever. This is, in my opinion, the best team Oregon has ever fielded. That is a bold statement, but I believe it having watched them play live four of their five games and having watched the Colorado game more than once on tape.

Like every team, there are things you can nitpick, like some linebacker play or some inside OL play, but as a whole, this team is just that good.

Does that equate to the dominance of the last 10 years? I don't think so; Wilcox defenses always play with an edge (no, I don't believe intentionally dirty, just an edge) and the game WILL be chippy at times.

This is where the type of player Mariota is comes on handy... calm, cool, collected. If he stays calm through the storm only showing emotion when needed and does not get rattled, guess what, the team will follow suit.

One thing I learned being divorced, the best way to piss off someone else is to NEVER let them see you get angry. Take that control away and they cannot STAND it... so, I say, stay calm and let the Huskies be the ones to lose control of their emotions.

Something else that has been bugging me... I keep hearing commentators say that Mariota has never played a "meaningful" fourth quarter snap. Well first  of all, clearly that is untrue. So others minimized that by saying "in a win." Well, again, I say that is not true.

Against USC last season, the Ducks led the Trojans by just 10 points (48-38) and the Trojans had the ball. the Duck defense got a stop and Oregon took over at their own 15 yard line. They drove 85 yards to go up 17... that was a MEANINGFUL drive. When USC scored again to make it a 10 point game with 2:00 left, Mariota took the Ducks in for one more score to secure the win.

I also consider the fourth quarter possession against Kansas State, after the game had been closed to a 32-17 game where Mariota and the Duck offense drove 57 yards in 10 plays to get a field goal extending the lead as "important" fourth quarter snaps. The 5:19 drive sealed the game taking away any chance for a Kansas State comeback as it made the game a three possession game where one secured onside kick could not undo the game...

So, I disagree with the "never" having played a meaningful 4th quarter snap.

The only thing that can be said is THIS season, Mariota has yet to play a meaningful 4th quarter snap. To which I say, so what?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Husky Week: Game thoughts and predictions


This is a different Washington team that last season; they are full of confidence and are built to play the same style of game as Oregon. The Huskies are going to do what they do which is run the ball and use the run to set up some passes. They will use quick outs as extensions of the running game. The Husky offense likes to run stacked receivers to get free releases and players in space.

The Huskies will pick up yards early in the game and they will have some success. The question is how much success? There has been a lot of chatter about the Washington pass defense which is allowing just 146 yards per game passing. Lost in that chatter is the fact that the average NCAA rank of the four BCS level opponents is just 70.5 in those games. Arizona is ranked 118th while Stanford is ranked 97th. Oregon has actually been more impressive in their pass defense than they have been give credit through five games. The Ducks have the 7th best pass efficiency defense in the nation and a lot of depth in the defensive back field. Oregon will look to stop the run early in order to force Washington into known passing situations so that defensive coordinator Nick Allioti can turn up the pressure on Price. This is where the offensive lines inability to protect Price could be a problem once again.

The Ducks running game is significantly better than anything Washington has seen. Though their pass defense has been stellar early this season, their run defense average at best. Last week against a Stanford team which lacked depth or explosiveness at running back, the Huskies still allowed 4.4 yards per carry giving Stanford 179 rushing yards. Oregon's rushing attack is considerably better.

The Huskies have significantly upgraded their linebacker play. The group is exceptional in pursuit and have the speed to contain the edge running very well. How do you neutralize great pursuit? Run right at them rather than trying to run around them. Expect Oregon to attack the immobile Shelton and the smallish defensive line with some early inside zone reads. This will lead to the Huskies looking to spy on the inside run leaving the middle of the field open.

The Ducks should be able to move the ball against a Husky defense that is much improved, but probably not 21 point improved over a season ago.

This game will likely be decided by special teams and which team gets the bigger stops at critical junctions of the game. While the Washington defense is definitely improved, they still lack playmakers outside of Shaq Thompson on that side of the ball. They also lack quality depth at the linebacker and defensive line spots. These facts should provide a tough road win and a new level of national respect for the Ducks.

If the Huskies start to get predictable or fall behind early and Price starts to press to make plays, it could get ugly, but this Husky team does not look like that is in their new genetic makeup.

DSA Predicted Score: Oregon 42- Washington 31

DSA Inside Edge: Husky Week

The Oregon Ducks (5-0, 2-0) take to the road again this week heading to the heart of Husky country in Seattle this Saturday to take on the Washington Huskies (4-1, 2-1) in an important Pac-12 conference game for both teams.

Oregon, ranked No. 2 in the polls, once again dominated the opponent in front of them. Despite a slow start letting the Buffaloes go up 3-0 and 10-8, the Duck defense dominated the second half against Colorado giving up less than 60 total yards en route to the 57-16 victory. The 57 points extended their school record streak to five consecutive games above the 50 point plateau.

The Huskies, meanwhile, are licking their wounds after a tough 31-28 loss to Pac-12 North contender Stanford. The Huskies had their chances outgaining the Cardinal by a 489 to 284 margin. Despite the wide margin in yards, Washington was not able to convert the yards to points frequently enough.

Penalties and two long kickoff returns, including one for a touchdown ultimately spelled too much trouble for the Huskies to overcome.

Despite an injury on the opening kick of the Cal game to running back De'Anthony Thomas, the Ducks were able to score at will against a Buffalo defense that was improved, but still far from Oregon's level.

This week, we continue our Inside Edge series to cover both sides of the ball in one article. We show the starting lineups for both teams and discuss our thoughts as to which team has the edge at each match-up.

Both teams will bring an explosive offense to Seattle for this key match-up. The Huskies, who have lost nine consecutive games to Northwest rival Oregon look to be improved on defense, though, having held opponents to a Pac-12 conference best 287.8 yards per game. The Huskies are also third on scoring defense allowing just 14.8 points per game. The defense looks considerably better than the one which gave up over 50 points to the Ducks last season in Eugene.

What do the match-ups look like for this game? Take a look at the latest edition of DSA Inside Edge.

For the entire story, follow the link: DSA Inside Edge: Husky Edition
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