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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tom & Jerry starring De'Anthony Thomas

As the Ducks head to Washington for their third conference match-up of the 2013 season, it almost seems as if we are being taken back in time; by two years.

In 2011, a night game at Husky Stadium was at a fever pitch. Starting quarterback Keith Price was having a record setting season for the Huskies and there was renewed optimism about the long term prospects for the Huskies. Oregon would go into Husky Stadium and play extremely well on defense quieting some critics en route to a 34-17 victory. The 17 point margin is the closest in the last nine seasons between the two schools.

Fast forward and the Ducks head to renovated Husky Stadium with a rejuvenated Keith Price looking back to his 2011 form. The 2012 season was difficult for Price and the Huskies. Following a miserable defensive performance against Baylor in the Alamo Bowl, the Huskies revamped their coaching staff bringing former Oregon Duck Justin Wilcox back to the Pac-12 as their defensive coordinator. Injuries and failing confidence in the offensive line and play calling plagued Price and the Huskies stumbled home to a 7-6 record despite beating eventual conference champion Stanford 17-13 earlier in the year.

This year the Huskies look more confident and faster on defense.

De'Anthony Thomas' possible absence will be the key story line for the Duck heading into Seattle. The trick is that no one knows whether Thomas will be able to play. On Monday he was spotted leaving practice with no walking boot and no limp. Tuesday? Running backs coach Gary Campbell said he was unsure if Thomas would be ready but that he was “at practice” earlier in the day. Not much definition there.

Then, of course, there is the other “story of the week.” It has been hashed, rehashed and hashed over some more so there is no reason to continue analyzing the situation. Oregon, however, now has Johnny Mundt and Pharoah Brown listed as co-starters on the depth chart released late Tuesday afternoon.

The Mundt story is well known, but Brown may be the better of the two at the moment. Brown looked very solid as a true freshman and was having a spectacular fall camp prior to the foot injury that kept him out of the first four games. Last week, though, he made a very nice catch over the middle. He is the better blocker of the two. It seems clear that Tom Osborne feels comfortable with either or both of them on the field at the same time. Come Saturday, the Ducks may just need every weapon they can get their hands on and these two fit that bill.

Look for the Ducks to get the tight ends involved a little bit more but not always with the traditional “seam” passes. Expect some tight end screens; expect one of the players to line up split some from the line; maybe even with one of them motioning out of the backfield to an “h-back” position. With Lyerla gone, there will need to be some different situational changes to how the new co-starters are used by the offense.

Will De'Anthony Thomas play? Right now, I am not sure anyone knows the answer to that question. And the guessing game has to be happening in Seattle as well. You can be sure, though, that the Huskies will be preparing for his presence on the field Saturday.

Looking at the depth chart offers very little insight. It is released on Tuesday. Last week Lyerla was listed as the starter at tight end and never made the trip. Thomas was also listed as the starter but was clearly never going to play against the Buffaloes.

That begs the question, then, if this week's depth chart lists the starter at running back as Thomas or Marshall, what does that say about his status? Likely nothing. Duck fans will probably not know until Saturday at 1:00 in the afternoon. 

Remember the old cartoon Tom and Jerry, this week feels kind of like that cartoon. It's a game of cat and mouse. Or is it Duck and dog?

Six questions about the Huskies

As part of our expanded coverage of Oregon football, this week we also spent the time to ask Adam Jude, who covers the Huskies for the Seattle Times, for his take on a few topics related to this game.

As part of our expanded coverage of Oregon football, this week we also spent the time to ask Adam Jude, who covers the Huskies for the Seattle Times, for his take on a few topics related to this game.

Q: Keith Price is playing pretty inspired ball early this season. Aside from his own health, what is the difference this season?

Tom Corno
Will the defensive line be able to get pressure on QB Keith Price?
A: His own healthy legs and the health of the offensive line have made a huge difference. Just as important, Price says he has regained trust in that offensive line and in the play-calling, things that he admitted waned at times last season.

Price looks better than ever now, not unlike Dennis Dixon as a senior in 2007. UW’s new up-tempo offense looks perfectly suited for him. He doesn’t run a ton, but he’s able to scramble effectively and has done a nice job limiting his mistakes this season.

Q: The defense played well throughout the game, but struggled with
Stanford in the Red Zone, what is different about the defense this

A: It's UW’s second season under Justin Wilcox. With the likes of Shaq Thompson at linebacker, the caliber of athlete is generally more talented than UW had two or three years ago, and they have a better understanding of what they’re being asked to do.

It's no secret that UW's defense struggled against spread offenses the past couple years (Oregon and Arizona, specifically), so part of Sarkisian's thinking in switching to a no-huddle offense was to help the UW defense get better conditioned to that style by seeing it every day in practice. You've see how effective that has worked for Nick Aliotti and the Oregon defense. It’s starting to pay off for the Huskies, too.

Q: Ty Montgomery had two big returns, one for a touchdown that was
really the difference, is that a trend or an anamoly for the special

A: That was the difference in the game. UW made a change in kickoff coverage a week ago, trying to free up one of its best special-teams guys, safety Will Shamburger, but it backfired. Sarkisian said Monday that he will now be using more of his "best guys" i.e., defensive starters on special teams against Oregon.

Q: How healthy is Sefarian-Jenkins and how important is he to the Oregon game plan?

A: Seferian-Jenkins says he’s healthy and I would think he’d be a big part of the game plan. It’s maybe a bit puzzling that he hasn't been more involved the past few weeks, but I think defenses are playing particularly close attention to him, too.

Q: Clearly penalties were an issue especially early, is that a problem for Washington this year?

A: Yes. It's been a big problem. UW has been flagged 53 times in five games, more than anyone in the country.

Q: What do you expect this week?

A: I expect the Ducks to have their toughest test yet. I expect Husky Stadium to be rockin'. I expect Price to play well, and I expect the UW defense to put up a much better challenge than it has the past couple years. Will that be enough to end the nine-year streak? We'll see. Should be fun.

Beyond Top Trio

After a convincing conference win against Colorado, the Oregon football team heads out on the road for what looks to be their toughest game so far in the 2013 season. With ESPN Gameday on hand for the Ducks matchup with the University of Washington the eyes of the college football world will be focused on the game in Seattle. With the ramping up of the schedule, Duck coaches will also be turning up their recruiting efforts.

Today at Duck Sports Authority, I wrote about the Ducks recruiting in the state of Washington looking at the top three prospects from the state.

The Huskies, though, will be looking to set an example of what the "new" Washington is all about hosting several high profile recruits. One of those is former Duck recruit Layth Friekh. Oregon had been recruiting the offensive lineman, but backed off reportedly cancelling his planned trip to Autzen.

After Virginia scheduled their largest ever recruiting visit for the Oregon game earlier this season, only to get beat soundly in front of those recruits, Virginia fans wondered aloud; was it the best idea to host all those talented players with Oregon in town?

Certainly this game will look a little bit different. While Washington may not yet be fully "back" to the top of the Pac-12 conference, they are a much better team than Virginia.

Even so, if the Ducks get on a roll and Washington falls behind early, will having all those high profile recruits standing around watching the fans turn on their team be a good thing?

Monday, October 7, 2013

First crack in Helfrich armour?

Today I saw this quote:

"I don't think so. I think our guys, we have a bunch of guys who have played in big games. Obviously for our newer guys who haven't played a ton there will be some element of newness but yeah, you package that with the new stadium and the nature of the rivalry, it will certainly be a new flavor."
That is a diversion from the Chip Kelly faceless opponent mantra and one I am not sure I like yet.

Yes, he went on and attempted to diffuse that a little bit with another quote:

"The same things we always do. I know that's not a great answer but we try to prepare the same for everybody and our guys have set a very high standard and our expectation and their expectation are extremely high. Anytime we're not knocking those standards over we'll improve and that'll start with how we prepare but the actual structure of how we do things won't be any different."
Nonetheless, Helfrich acknowledged a "rivalry" as if this rivalry is somehow different than the other 11 they will have this season.

Rivalries are for fans, not necessarily teams. A team should never approach a game with animosity towards the opponent. Allowing the opponent to occupy any space of the mind aside from the traditional preparation.

When you allow a team to occupy an angry side of your mind; or some other emotional reaction to the team, you give them a power that they would not otherwise possess.

I love to hate on the rivals and love to see them lose. Make no mistake about that. But I am not playing Saturday and I liked Chip's approach. Every team is the same. Every game is a Super Bowl.

Was this a chink in the armour? I doubt it, but it is something to look for as the season continues to unfold.

Sarkisian complaints hurt team

Three years ago, Oregon played a Jeff Tedford coached Cal Golden Bears squad that gave Oregon its toughest match-up in their run towards the BCS Title game. During the game, Aaron Tipoti was instructed to fake an injury on at least one, very obvious, occasion by assistant Tosh Lupoi.

Many fans round Oregon felt as if Tedford had used Lupoi as a scapegoat; that the game plan and idea was Tedford's with the plausible deny-ability was there for the taking and he took it to save his own reputation. After all, Lupoi was young and his career would surely not suffer in the long run if the balme were laid at his feet.

Tedford was right. But that may have been the last time he was right. His desperation to get back ahead of Oregon ultimately led to more than just that poor decision. The losses mounted and he was fired following the 2012 season.

After that ill-fated game, Chip Kelly used no excuses. He has even gone on the record to say he would "never accuse anyone of faking an injury." He simply gave credit to the Cal defense and their game plan for their effort against the Ducks.

Steve Sarkisian later hired the same defensive line coach who admitted to ordering Tipoti to take a dive to slow down the Ducks.

This past weekend, in a twist of irony, saw Sarkisian accusing his opponent, the Stanford Cardinal of the same tactic his own defensive line coach had used three years ago.

The Huskies have been attempting to mimic Oregon's tempo on offense this year and have had varying degrees of success. They have definitely upped their total yardage numbers, but have not had a very big impact on their scoring average. Nonetheless, they have run more "hurry-up" offense this year.

Stanford's injuries happened during drives where Washington had developed a rhythm. Were they faked? I cannot say yes or no to that as I was not there, but the game I saw on television suggested that they were legitimate injuries. Was there maybe some overacting during the time? Sure. The players sold their injuries.

I did see this photo:

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That is Shane Skov getting hit in the knee by linebacker James Vaughters of Washington. This is the play Skov went to the turf grabbing his knee. Looks pretty legitimate to me. The fact that he returned a couple of plays later speaks nothing to the reality of the moment; only that it was not as bad as thought.

But, you know what, I have no real problem with fans talking about the issue. it's  relevant to them and worth the conversation.

Unfortunately, Steve Sarkisian did not try to mimic everything from Chip as he went into the press conference guns blazing making specific accusations against specific coaches.

This is bad for business. Giving your players excuses for a loss is not how you build character; it's how you destroy chemistry. The game was not lost because of an injury timeout for Shane Skov or Ben Gardener. It was not lost on an incomplete fourth down pass late in the game.

This game was lost on special teams and a lack of discipline.
Sarkisian's team is the most penalized in the conference. Penalties killed the Huskies Saturday. Stanford returned one kickoff for a touchdown and another to the 19 yard line scoring three plays later.

Both are from a lack of discipline.

That is the lesson Sarkisian should have been teaching his team. Instead he lost twice on Saturday night. It remains to be seen how much the second loss will linger.

Players to watch: Washington


October 7, 2013

While the Huskies have been slowly working their way towards the upper echelon of the Pac-12 conference under head coach Steve Sarkisian, they have also upgraded their talent on both sides of the football.

This once proud program has fared better over the last few seasons on the heel of some very good skill players.

Today, Duck Sports Authority takes a look at a player from each side of the ball to keep an eye on this Saturday.


WR Kevin Smith

Most recruiting fans know all about Jaydon Mickens and even Kasen Williams. Keith Price and Bishop Sankey? Their successes have also been well documented.

There is another player, though, who has stepped up to be an integral part of the new and improved Husky offense; Kevin Smith.

Smith was not entirely unknown in the recruiting world. He was a four-star rated player in the class of 2010 out of Compton.

He escaped attention of many, though, because he entered as a player whose position was not yet known.

Smith was set as a wide receiver for Sarkisian and had begun to make an impact in 2011 as the teams primary kick returner as well as at the receiver position. After catching 15 passes for 208 yards as a sophomore, bigger expectations were supposed to accompany him for the 2012 season.

Unfortunately for Smith, he was injured in bowl practices leading up to the Alamo Bowl against Baylor. Though he had rehabilitated himself in time for Spring practices, he had very little impact last season catching just 6 passes for 68 yards.

This year, as a senior, he has stepped his game up, though. Smith leads the team in receiving yards (367) and yards per catch (17.5). He is tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions (2) and tied for second in total receptions with 21 through five games.

Smith has enough speed to get by defensive backs and has very good size. If the Duck defensive backs think that they can focus on just one or two receivers, they will have a difficult day Saturday.

So while the commentators and recruitniks talk about guys like John Ross, Jaydon Mickens and Kasen Williams, keep an eye out for Kevin Smith.


DE Hau'oli Kikaha

Kikaha, formerly known as Hau'oli Jamora, legally changed his name in the off season to honor his mother.

Kikaha's story this season is one of resilience. After playing extensively as a true freshman in 2010 including starts in the last seven games of the season, Kikaha missed the last eight games of 2011 and all of 2012 to separate knee injuries.

While many find it difficult to come back from such a long absence and be effective, Kikaha is playing the exception to the rule.

Kikaha, in a position where speed, leverage and strength all come into play, has played with the type of abandon that makes a good pass rushing defensive end.

The former three star recruit from Hawaii, who has added over 20 pounds to his frame since arriving in Seattle, has notched 20 total tackles through the first five games for Washington.

More importantly for an improving defensive unit, Kikaha is the teams leading pass rusher with 3.5 sacks as part of his 4.5 tackles for loss on the season.

He is considered an emotional leader and one of the teams most under rated defenders.

While everyone marvels at the athleticism of Shaq Thompson or Danny Shelton's massive frame, look out for number 8 on defense sa he could be their difference maker pressuring Mariota and the potent Duck offense.

Early thoughts on Washington

First, i keep seeing that Oregon has not seen a Washington team like this, with a healthy Keith Price. And that our defense will not be able to handle him healthy.

Apparently, those people forget the 2011 season. Very conveniently, I might add.

In 2011, there were some who tried to throw Keith Price into the Heisman conversation because he had such an outstanding start. He finished the season completing 66.9 percent of his passes for over 3000 yards and 33 touchdowns. The huskies averaged just over 33 points per game that season.

This year, the Huskies are averaging 37.4 points per game. yes, they get a LOT more yards per game (so far) but that has not translated (yet) into points.

Oregon, meanwhile, played in the 2011 game with a defensive line that had to "surprise" people when they played dominant (as they did against Washington in 2011) and a defensive backfield nowhere near as talented as the current group.

The 2013 version of the Oregon defense is bigger, stronger and faster on the defensive line. the defensive backs are better than they were two years ago. The only group who is not as strong are the linebackers.

Offensively, this Oregon team is considerably better on the offensive line, at quarterback an wide receiver. They do not have the "every down" back of LaMichael James, but De'Anthony Thomas is faster than ever and, based on today's report, looks to be 100% as he was seen without a boot and without a limp after practice today.

If you recall, the Ducks won at husky Stadium in 2011 by a final score of 34-17. Oregon opened in Las Vegas as a 10 1/2 point favorite with Thomas listed as questionable. With the news today, Oregon has jumped to a 14 point favorite.

This will still be the best team Oregon has faced thus far in 2013. But Oregon will be, by far, the best team Washington has faced. At the end of the day, if the Ducks play mistake free, they will walk out of Husky Stadium with another victory.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lyerla leaves Ducks, but not high and dry

Turns out that whatever illness caused Colt Lyerla to miss the Tennessee game, it probably turned out to be in Oregon's favor as Johnny Mundt had a breakout game for the Ducks.

At the time, it was viewed as an important piece of depth for the Oregon football team. Now? It looks more important than ever with Lyerla's announcement that he is leaving the University of Oregon to turn pro. Rather than wait until the end of the season, however, Lyerla has withdrawn from school and is no longer an Oregon Duck.

The official release cited "personal reasons" as the cause of his decision.

I probably do not need to tell Duck fans that Colt has had some tough circumstances in his life prior to becoming a high school football superstar. Lyerla had the kind of talent at the high school level rarely seen. He easily could have been another Jadaveon Clowney type defender had he chosen the defensive side of the ball, but offense was where his heart lay.

From several people, I had always heard that Lyerla struggled with academics. But didn't many of us struggle with school? While I as much as anyone hate speculation when we do not know the entire story, the timing of the suspension then withdrawal will leave many to wonder if the academic toll finally took a shot at Lyerla like no defender ever could.

The thing is, it was one more term. Just a few more months of trudging through. But the reality is that Lyerla is a junior; an upperclassman. Classes are more difficult. Again, though, he simply could have truly felt he needed to sign with an agent as soon as possible for monetary reasons.

What we know from this season is that, despite his immense talent, in three appearances he had just 2 catches for 26 yards. Hardly impacting the football team from that perspective.

He was, however, vital with his considerably improved blocking at the edge.

As with every player, though, that leaves, Helfrich and the Ducks can refer back to their "next man up" mantra and allow Mundt and recently returned sophomore Pharoah Brown step into their role.

The Ducks will be fine, as evidenced on Saturday or a few weeks ago against Tennessee. At this point, let us all hope that Colt Lyerla will be fine.

Once a Duck ALWAYS a Duck.

We wish Colt Lyerla all the best as he pursues the dream to play professional football.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Glimpse at the Colorado Buffaloes

We did a Q&A with Buff Stampede Publisher Adam Munsterteiger who broke down the Colorado team for this weeks game.

Defensively, what is the goal for Saturday?

"Well, if you ask Colorado's coaches of course they will give you a politically correct answer about how they expect to compete against Oregon. In all reality, though, Colorado is going to give up a lot of points on Saturday. If the Buffs give up those points because Oregon's dynamic athletes make exceptional plays, I think Colorado fans, coaches and players could live with that. If Oregon scores a bulk of its points because of missed tackles and blown assignments that would be a different story.

"The Buffaloes' defense has actually improved quite a bit under the new staff after ranking dead last in the nation in scoring defense in 2012. But they won't be able to stop Oregon's offense. They probably won't even be able to slow it down. Who can?"

The freshman linebacker Gillam has looked good early, is that indicative of his talent or the competition? How did so many teams miss on that guy?

"I would say it is more indicative of his talent. Addison Gillam is 6-foot-3.75, 225-pounds and runs like a deer. He actually returned punts and kicks during his high school career so he is a really good athlete. Gillam leads the Pac-12 in tackles per game early on this season at 11.3, 2.5 more than any other defender in the conference.

Some true freshmen hit a wall midway through the season and head coach Mike MacIntyre said Gillam needs to get a "little bit better" in run-pass recognition but he is a true playmaker at middle linebacker. He was under the radar as a recruit largely because he comes from the small town of Palo Cedro, Calif. "In high school he ran by everyone on the field and hit everybody that moved," MacIntyre said recently. "And he's a 3.6 student so I didn't understand it. I just sign what I see. I don't look at anything else."

How has the return of Paul Richardson helped new QB Connor Wood?

"The Buffs had trouble getting Richardson involved in the first three quarters of their game at Oregon State last Saturday, but he still leads the conference in receiving yards per game. Richardson's ability to stretch the field not only helps Connor Wood but helps the entire CU offense. Opposing teams always have to account for him so he opens up things for the Buffs' other receivers and even the running game.

A year ago, when Richardson was out with a torn ACL, CU had unquestionably the worst receiving corps in the Pac-12. His presence has allowed CU to rank in the top half of the conference in passing yards early on this season."

What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of this team?

"The Buffaloes' ground game really struggled in their first two games but true freshman Michael Adkins rushed for 98 yards in his college debut last Saturday. He is expected to split carries with Christian Powell again this week. And CU's passing attack was solid the first two games but struggled against the Beavers. So offensively they have had a bit of an identity crisis through three games.

Defensively Colorado has a solid pass rusher in Chidera Uzo-Diribe but putting consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks has been a weakness. The Buffs' secondary has improved since last season when they ranked last in the country in pass efficiency defense but it is still susceptible to giving up big plays through the air. Oregon State's Sean Mannion threw for 414 yards against the Buffs last Saturday."

What do the fans hope to realistically see about this team on Saturday?

No sane Colorado fan expects the Buffaloes to win this Saturday, or even keep it close. I think what Colorado fans simply want to see is improvement. The Ducks could have basically named their score against the Buffs in their previous two match-ups. Last year, the Ducks had a 49-0 edge less than a quarter-and-a-half into the game. I think if the Buffs can force Marcus Mariota to play some in the second half, that would be somewhat of a moral victory for CU.
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