But rundowns of a team from the North-Northwest beating a team from the South-Northwest rule! Let’s get to it:
A 83% Sober and 100% Accurate Rundown on Absolutely Everything
Shall we start with the defense? (That’s a rhetorical question; of course we shall, because I am a benevolent dictator and I say so.)
Even against an Oregon offense displaying little downfield threat, the defensive discipline it took to limit their dynamic ground attack so completely should make all of us happy.
Just one week prior to taking on Washington, this same Oregon offense put up against Utah almost 20 points more than said Utah defense gives up on average. Two of the Oregon touchdowns from that game were passes (one from Burmeister, the other a trick play pass from Charles Nelson).
So, for one, passing off UW’s defensive success as “they just didn’t have to worry about anything more than 15 yards downfield so could stack the box” is barely true for the above reason. But let’s say, for arguments’ sake, the Dawgs could just load up everyone to attack the run game — reasonable, Burmeister isn’t particularly strong reading defenses. Even if that were an ironclad case, the defense didn’t really, instead opting to be more balanced and using a superior secondary to make Oregon’s passing attack about as effective as a flailing rainbow trout. So it’s no wonder the Ducks relied on their read option-y game, and the spacial discipline of the guys tasked with stopping it just happened to make that facet of their offense futile as well.
As far as loading up against the run though... I mean, we saw Connor O’Brien lined up — multiple times — outside the numbers. That’s about as un-stacking the box as you can get. (I guess you could line Vita Vea up 20 yards out... That would actually be more un-stacking the box... Whatever. Point still stands.)
Which brings us back to defending any sort of zone read/option offense. Actually, there’s not much to say except the fact that, on paper, it’s all but impossible. And yet here we are, three points by Oregon later. That feels to me like a microcosm of what it means to be coached by Chris Petersen: be smart, be disciplined, execute like a badman, and Ta-Da! Somehow they’ll do things they shouldn’t be able to do.
More on the defense, I feel like I’ve been praising the guys up front and the outside linebackers a bunch lately. While I could absolutely do that some more today, let’s switch it up a bit so you all don’t get tired of this broken record and do something reckless like go for a walk outside, or spend time with family.
Because today is Taylor Rapp, Jojo McIntosh, and Zeke Turner Appreciation Day. It’s not like those guys are even remotely overlooked but there was one play against Oregon where Rapp and McIntosh completely obliterated a dude before presumably talking some smack involving hamsters and elderberries. It wasn’t one of those tackles that ends up on an end-of-year montage reel where the thesis is “Look how much whiplash our opponents have withstood,” but it looked stealthily like a hit where the other guy wakes up the next morning rethinking his choice to not just stick with baseball. Or golf. Plus it was fundamentally good tackling. We all know how that makes me feel. (Warm and fuzzy inside.) While many college secondaries are made up of three or four cover guys and one dude who just runs around hitting as hard as he can without wrapping up, Husky fans should be thankful. I know I am.
Now let’s get to the offense where, on the topic of the run game, I have come up with The Certified Third or Maybe Even Second Best Analogy You’ll Hear All Afternoon.
Are you ready for TCToMESBAYHAA? Am I hyping this up too much? Yes? (Yes.)
It starts with something we hear frequently from some folks — often times the kind that hold their opinion in a little bit too high esteem: Every time a running play goes for few yards, or zero yards, or for a loss, there’s an inevitable “UGH, why do we even call that play?”
There were a number of those runs on Saturday and I’m sure many of you heard variations of that quote. Of course, that’s complete nonsense; Washington’s running game is objectively good and has both the eye test and stats to back it up.
Which brings us to TCToMESBAYHAA: The run game is essentially a less bleak version of the batting average*: If you go to Safeco Field and are unsatisfied with anyone batting less than 4/4 you’re A) thinking about it wrong and B) gonna have a real bad time.
It’s unreasonable to expect each run to go for six yards before the ball-carrier is touched — unless you’re up against UCLA BOOM RIMSHOT — but, assuming you’re a well-balanced team run by a reasonable coach, you keep at it — unless you’re the Seahawks BOOM RIMSHOT — because home runs don’t come if you just stop swinging and hope for a walk.
Now tell me that wasn’t the deepest sports metaphor ya ain’t ever heard**.
The Dawgs on Saturday were a perfect example of that. Every third run play was pretty “meh” if not a downright failure, but the ground game collectively destroyed an Oregon defense that is second in the conference in run defense. While we all know this, it’s worth reiterating that patience in an offense is one heck of a virtue.
Then in the passing game, it’s still a bit sad having a receiving corps that was already mediocre before getting decimated like they’re characters in a Game of Thrones episode. However, it was nice seeing Aaron Fuller have a career day. Even though he lacks any outstanding physical traits, he’s been a solid sleeper since last year and Oregon may have been a bit of a step for him. Lord knows that unit could use it.
Furthermore, the offensive line’s passing protection looks so much better with Wattenberg at tackle and Kirkland at guard and, subsequently, Jake also was more on point Saturday, both in longer passes and the short to mid-range passes that have been frustratingly unhelpful all year. Sure, he still doesn’t look like he did at his peak mid-way through last year, but Oregon was a reminder to me that, in an offense that helps him out a bit more, Browning efficiently gets the job done.
* Except for triple option teams, which are just the embodiment of Team Chaos anyway and should be avoided at all costs.
**Please please don’t tell me that wasn’t a beautiful metaphor. Just let me have this moment and I’ll love you forever.
Line of the Week
My moderately existential views on field goals, which I’m sure the rest of you agree with:
And, of course, this was 100% what Vita Vea and Greg Gaines communicated telepathically to everything Oregon-related:
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.