Week 9 Recap: Arizona State vs Oregon

FINAL: Arizona State 35, Oregon 54

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LINK TO LAST WEEKS PREDICTIONS





OFFENSE

@WildKingdumb – Grade: A
I understand ASU has one of the worst defenses in all of College Football but… THAT WAS FUN TO WATCH!  MAKE FOOTBALL FUN AGAIN!  Ok, breathe.  Ducks had 734 total yards (489 passing/245 rushing) and looked to really have a plan, and maximized against a porous defense.  Royce Freeman had 17 carries for 38yds, and we won… if you’d ask me if that were possible earlier this year I’d laughed in your face and blocked you on Twitter.  But we have to take a second to recognize LaMichael Brooks-James… I mean, Tony Brooks-James.  TBJ had nine carries for 132yrds and one fumble.  Justin Herbert is also… a dude.

@GoDucksTroll – Grade: A-
Wow, this was what we’ve been waiting for. It makes my heart feel all warm and fuzzy to see Justin Herbert doing what he did. In the first half he delivered one of the greatest quarterbacking halves we’ve ever seen from an Oregon quarterback. His decision making and command of the offense is incredible. I see people giving caveats on his performances. Stop. Justin Herbert is for real and we’re about to see a few years of pure awesomeness.

The running game was having some major issues. Royce Freeman is not looking like himself, and the offensive line is having a hard time opening up lanes in the middle. Tony Brooks-James was once again fantastic, this guy is going to be a star next year. Pharaoh Brown was money for Herbert, and his opening drive TD catch and run was a thing of beauty. We’re going to be cheering for him on Sunday next year.

Player of the game: Justin Herbert. The only knock you can have on Herbert is him getting a bit flustered and taking some big yardage loss sacks. It’s hard to believe he’s a true freshman.

@JonathanAdams – Grade: A-
I’m taking points off because A) they kicked too many field goals and B) they probably should have put the game away in the 3rd quarter, but only managed three points on four drives. I liked how they were aggressive in targeting ASU’s abysmal pass defense, and the young offensive line held up well against the unique Sun Devil blitzing scheme. Justin Herbert was electric, and he seems to have fewer “freshman moments” each week. Other than a couple of bad sacks, it’s hard to find fault with much of anything he did on Saturday afternoon. After only completing 9 passes to WRs against Cal (I’m counting Charles Nelson here) he nearly doubled that, finding Jalen Brown, Darren Carrington, and Nelson 17 times. The more resources a defense has to devote to those guys on the edges, the more room the tight ends and backs have to maneuver in the middle. On Saturday, Herbert was excellent at recognizing where the best match-ups were and then getting the ball there right away. As the defensive opposition ramps up considerably in November, he’ll to keep up that ruthless efficiency.

@DMDoubleG – Grade: A
So, here’s the thing. For all intents and purposes, this was basically a perfect game, offensively. For once, a lot went right. Other than TE Pharaoh Brown dropping a ball a full two yards short of the endzone, but that went uncalled and even if it had, QB Justin Herbert picked it up moments later. So, no harm no foul (fowl?). I guess.

Fun fact: Oregon actually ranks 9th overall in total offense in the country, with fewer total plays than 5 of the 8 teams ahead of us. So, our offense has actually been good — like, really good — all year. It’s just that our defense has been, uh, dead last. Like 128 out of 128. Actually, after this week, we moved up! To 127. For what it’s worth, the team in last, Rice, has seen more than 100 fewer snaps than our defense has. Point being, it doesn’t matter how good your offense is if your defense can’t keep the other team contained.
On the other hand, Halloween came early in the form of a truly frightening performance. Guess we know Royce Freeman went as Super Mario villains. Over the course of a half season, he has gone from Bowser to Boo. What we had been told were two not significant injuries have actually changed a King into a second-rate, constantly upstaged minion. The only bright spot in all this is the emergence of Tony Brooks-James.

@SwooshMcDuck – Grade: Justin Her(B+)ert
Jumarcus Herbiota came out to play, again. Tying the single-game passing yardage record of 489 yds. On top of that, 4 TD’s and 0 INTs. The offensive line did a pretty decent job of protecting him, allowing only 4 sacks on the day. Royce Freeman, well, something isn’t right. Scuttlebutt in the media says he has a cracked sternum. Oregon of course is notorious about disclosing injuries, but the rumor would seem to fit his new playing style of running North/South looking for the edge, instead of bruising it up the middle and creating more contact that necessary. 17 carries, 38 yds and 1 TD on the day is not the Royce we have all become accustomed to. On the plus side, Tony Brooks-James continues to shine. TBJ averaged 14 yards per rush against an ASU team that came in giving up just 3.53 yards per rush. Sit back and watch him and you’re taken back 5 years to watching Kenjon and LaMichael do the same things he’s doing. He’s lightning out of the backfield. Pharaoh Brown came to play. If ASU was a wall, he ran through it. He probably did it to spite that Twitter troll @ColeWagoner. But hey, if that’s what it takes, keep it up Troll Wagoner. Now as a quick reality check and downer, let us not be so quick to crown Herbert as the Second Coming of Marcus Mariota or if you prefer, the Savior of Oregon Football, Cleated Jesus (Clesus, if you will). The kid has been nothing short of spectacular in the past 2 games. Nobody denies this, the stats speak for themselves. BUT *Stephen A. Smith voice* we would be remiss to not also look at other stats, like the defenses he’s faced. Far and away, these past 2 games, he’s likely outshined anything Prukop could have put up, but he’s also faced the 2 worst defenses the team will face all year. In Prukop’s first 5 games, he faced defenses collectively averaged out to 45.5 out of 128. Herbert’s first 3 games? A defensive average of 86 out of 128. The real test of how good he is NOW begins this week at USC. The next 4 defenses he will see are ranked 50th, 38th, 36th, and 83rd respectively. If he comes through that stretch averaging even half of what he has put up the past two weeks, I’ll be happy to crown his @$$, but until then I’ll hold off booking my ticket on the hype train.



@BigShaun – Grade: B+ (too many field goals)
Herbie played well. And by well I mean the best single yardage performance by an Oregon Offensive player of all time. OF ALL TIME. But, even though I want to scream WE BACK, WE NATTY, and #EXTENDHELFRICH (just kidding on that last one – never that), my brain tells me to not get overly excited because that was the worst passing defense in the country that Herbie did that too. And his great performance against Colorado was against a bottom 5 defense as well. To quote National Treasure Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friends”.

Oregon’s schedule the next three weeks ramps back up from playing teams with horrible defenses that are almost as bad as Oregon’s to playing teams who have significantly better defenses than Oregon’s. Herbiota will get tested. We will see how he handles it. He played one very good defense in UW and had some struggles – which is very understandable as it was his first start. As well as he played the last two weeks, I think if Oregon played UW again, the same thing happens. That’s not to say I don’t think Herbie is going to be great. I really do think he will be, in time. I think he, and Oregon) had a couple of easy games at the exact moment they needed a couple of get right games. And they still lost one.

The running game is interesting. Royce is hurt. Really hurt. Not the kind of hurt where you can see a limp, but the kind that seems to have made him not very good. It’s painful to watch because we all know what he can do and expected him to challenge for inclusion in the discussion for the heavy bronze trophy thingy. Thankfully, as Oregon does, TBJ stepped up and has us all thinking back to LMJ with his style of running. It’s exciting to watch. Can’t wait to see him evolve. And since it happened on a run I’m mentioning it in this paragraph – Herbie, I love the fire when you ran over a guy. As fan who wants my team to keep improving, stop that crap. Just stop. USC, Stanford, and Utah have mean big guys who will snap you like twigs. Stop it.






DEFENSE

@WildKingdumb – Grade: B+
We forced three turnovers… MAKE DEFENSE FUN AGAIN!  Ok yes, it was against their 4th string quarterback… but he did throw for 302yds.  I went B+ on my grade because this game reminded me of a Nick Aliotti defense because yes they gave up yards and points but got tough when they needed to be.  The Duckies only allowed 3.9 yards/rush and held ASU to 4/13 on 3rd Down… now that is something to smile about. 


@GoDucksTroll – Grade: B+
Our run defense had it’s best outing of the season by far, holding ASU to 3.9 yards per carry. I’ve been harping on the defensive line every week and they finally showed up. TJ Daniel and Gary Baker looked really good, with hat tips to Wayne Tei-Kirby and Henry Mondeaux.

Our linebackers had their best game of the year as well. Troy Dye is doing Troy Dye things, racking up a few sacks and absolutely destroy Arizona State’s Dillon Sterling-Cole on one play. He’s the leading deliverer of ‘ooohhh’ on this defense. But how about Jimmie Swain? Swain has been a monster for the past three games and it looks like he’s solidified himself as the tackling machine in the middle. Kaulana Apelu is also playing well, the sophomore walk-on had a crucial pick and he plays smart and hard. Get that guy a scholarship.

Three interceptions, including Tyree Robinson’s game goal line pick that he took back 84 yards. The only negative I can truly complain about is Arrion Springs. He’s one of my favorite Ducks, and at the beginning of the year it looked like he was going to be gone to the NFL. Now it looks like he shouldn’t even be playing. Last week against Cal he was bad, this week there were two plays in a row where he didn’t try. The run to set up an ASU touchdown where he didn’t bother to hit the ball carrier, and the next play where even Don Essig thought he knocked it down but it was a touchdown pass.


Player of the game: Jimmie Swain. We wanted a real middle linebacker. Something clicked for Jimmie, because he played his ass off and I’m as confident in our LBs as I’ve been in years.


@JonathanAdams – Grade: B
I feel like they played better than the 35 points on the scoreboard. Rather than sweat the negatives in this space, let’s focus on the positive, because I think we’ll be back here next week with plenty of negatives after a date with USC. They ended the first half with a turnover, their first since the Colorado game, and for the first time since Virginia they didn’t give up a score on their opponent’s final drive of the first half. They forced a 3-and-out on ASU’s first drive of the second half, just the second time all season an opponent failed to score in that scenario. And they slammed the door on the Sun Devils with a goal line interception — “bend but don’t break” is back, baby! Anyway, it was nice to see those guys still competing even in the midst of a lost season.

@DMDoubleG – Grade: B
Look, I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, bu — oh no, wait, I love doing that. I was super right! I underestimated our offense (forgive me JHerb, O Great One), but I predicted the opponent’s score and game outcome correctly for the first time this season. That’s a cool thing, right? Don’t answer that. I think it is and that’s all that matters.

I also predicted victory would come at the hands of Herbert and TBJ on offense (nailed it), and LB Troy Dye and S Brenden Schooler on defense (double nailed it). Dye had double digit tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, while Schooler notched his team-leading 3rd INT. We played more disciplined and with more energy. The hype from the players was palpable. Go figure, that translated to a win.

@SwooshMcDuck – Grade: C-ish?
WE FINALLY GOT A TURNOVER! THE DROUGHT HAS ENDED! Finally, after 3 straight games. After that? Well, the defense still gave up 300 yds passing to a true freshman QB making his first college start (sound familiar?) and he’s also their 4th stringer. So yeah, we still are kinda butt on the defensive side. Kalen Ballage was pretty damn impressive at RB for ASU. Wildcat, passer, rusher, receiver, he could do it all & he kept ASU in the game. Linebackers Jimmie Swain & Troy Dye were very impressive, combining for 23 total tackles between them. Maybe forcing 3 turnovers will give the defense a bit of swagger heading down to the Coliseum on Saturday. We need all the swagger we can get right now.



@BigShaun – Grade: D-
It is still really struggling. A 4th string QB led a team to 35 point against our defense. I think the players are trying, but I don’t think they are gifted with enough size or athletic ability. From my front row seat in section 20, I see all plays in the east end zone up close and really well. I forget the quarter, but there was a fade route thrown at the WR Springs was guarding. I could see the moment Springs recognized the route. He turned, stepped and leapt to make a play on the ball. And his Billy Hoyle hops showed their true colors. The ball wasn’t thrown all that well. Springs just couldn’t make the play. That play was like a metaphor for how I see the defense. You can easily recognize the effort from the kids. You can see they are trying their absolute best. The reality is that they just aren’t good enough as a unit. That’s not an easy pill to swallow. Nor is it fun to write.







SPECIAL TEAMS

@WildKingdumb – Grade: B
Our return game has been poor given our talent level, I’d love to see some big returns and easy points but it just hasn’t happened yet.  The punt game on both sides has been less than stellar.  The fake punt showed swagger and confidence on the sideline which is good to see… MAKE SPECIAL TEAMS SPECIAL AGAIN!  I loved seeing Aidan Schneider get a chance to make a difference.  Overall the Special Teams kept the game close for the Ducks.


@GoDucksTroll – Grade: B+
We had to settle for field goals, and Aidan Schneider delivered. He had one miss, but I still love him. The return game is looking anemic, but we made up for it. The fake punt was brilliant, I love when we run that. I’m going to stop complaining about Ian Wheeler, I’ve come to accept 35 yard punts.

Player of the game: Aidan Schneider.



@JonathanAdams – Grade: A
Four-out-of-five on field goals is just fine for an Oregon kicker. Matt Wogan’s squib kick at the end of the first half was spectacular. It’s a small thing, yeah, but he executed it beautifully. The fake punt was perfectly timed, and I love fake punts that don’t actually involve the punter touching the ball because why are you letting the least athletic guy on the field run or throw the ball when you have a perfectly good offense just standing there on the sideline? I really enjoyed Ian Wheeler pretending the snap was two miles over his head and then running after the non-existent ball for, like, 20 yards. Oscar-worthy stuff, that.

@DMDoubleG – Grade: B
Most of my ST issues are actually coaching issues, but ultimately, we looked pretty good on offensive ST. Some of our kick coverage was a little suspect, but all in all a good effort. Aiden Schneider missed a field goal attempt (?????) but made two others. Three attempts this weekend doubled his season total. So there’s that.

@SwooshMcDuck – Grade: C
They get a passing grade simply because Aidan Schneider is a kicker, a REAL kicker, here, at Oregon! Charles Nelson had a rather pedestrian 3 returns for 75 yds.



@BigShaun – Grade: B+ (Touchdowns get As)
Hurray for fake punts! I think Helf is monitoring my tweets in game. And I can’t really blame him. I’m pretty insightful. I had literally just tweeted just a few minutes before in a situation where we often would go for it on fourth down how the struggles seems to had neutered his risk taking, and then the very next drive he comes out with a fake punt. Credit where due there. No fumbles on any returns, so overall a good day.






COACHING

@WildKingdumb – Grade: B
I really have to hand it to the coaching staff.  After the UW game it was apparent that very little was working and very little was changing in-game.  And from that point the coaches swallowed some pride and switched things up.  Oregon didn’t let drives die by taking field goals!  Oregon used the entire play clock late in the 4th with the lead to bleed the clock!  MAKE OREGON OREGON AGAIN!  …Ok so it wasn’t all roses.  Oregon still had nine penalties for 73yds and were 4/15 on 3rd down.  There were some great individual performances this week on both sides of the ball.  Oregon isn’t where it wants to be but you have to take advantage of a bad opponent, and this week the Ducks did just that. 


@GoDucksTroll – Grade: B
They’ve switched up the offensive playbook. There were some great calls, like the Pharoah Brown screen/drag on the first drive. The running game up the middle wasn’t working, and they adjusted. It’s unacceptable to have so many drives stall out, but overall I’m satisfied.

This week I’m in a ‘don’t fire Helfrich’ mood. The players seem energized. I loved seeing Troy Dye and Brenden Schooler asking the crowd for more noise. I obliged to the best of my ability. Our young guys are going to lead to a bright future, and we have to give the coaching staff credit for part of that. It’s a lot easier to like our coaches after a win.



@JonathanAdams – Grade: A
Just for this: End of the first half, Oregon leading 23-14. ASU has the ball, out of timeouts, at their own 24 with 1:17 to play. After a 1st down incompletion, ASU gets 1 yard on a pass, clock running now. I feel like the Oregon ethos is to be aggressive, call a timeout, and try to get a 3rd down stop leaving plenty of time for the offense to score again. But kudos to Mark Helfrich for recognizing his defensive limitations and letting the clock run, happy enough to go into halftime up two scores AND getting the ball first in the second half. He was rewarded with a 3rd down interception, followed by a touchdown three plays later. As I noted earlier, it was the first time since week 2 that the Ducks didn’t make a mess of the first half endgame, and smart coaching was a big part of that.

@DMDoubleG – Grade: C
Ok. Let’s tear this off like a bandaid: Royce Freeman needs to ride the bench when he plays the way he has been. He clearly isn’t the same player he used to be. And that’s fine — he has a backup that is rapidly proving himself more than capable of carrying the load.

TBJ looked better on every single touch than Royce has on any single touch in the last two weeks. We have FOUR stunningly talented runningbacks (when healthy, which they may not be. Kani Benoit, the 3rd string back, has been injured for sure. The Flash himself, Taj Griffin, ran a 4.2 40 yard dash in high school.). When one of them is playing poorly, it’s ok to sit him. Even if they are normally the best back in the country. If we no other capable backs, I would say feed Royce till he looks like Snorlax. But TBJ has been better, both to the eye test and the actual statistical comparisons. I say, let Royce take his time to get right, and in the meantime, let TBJ flourish.
Given everybody knew ahead of time that ASU was going to bring the blitz hard, it was disappointing to see how often Herbert dug himself a hole too deep to get out of. I lay fault on the coaches (as well as his obvious youth and inexperience) for not better preparing him to bail on plays. In most situations, it’s better to take an incomplete and a loss of a down than it is to take a sack.


I will add that we were 4/4 on 4th down, including one of my all-time favorite plays, the Michael Clay upback fake punt. Ian Wheeler sold that fake like his life depended on it.

@SwooshMcDuck – Grade: C
The offense saves the defense, again. The defense is just bad, thankfully Rice is now worse than Oregon so at least we aren’t at the bottom of the barrel anymore. The game plan was strong, exploit ASU’s terrible pass defense and take advantage of Herbert’s accuracy on the mid-range ball. They picked the secondary apart. Kudos to the O-staff for using the short ball to open up not only the run but the deep ball as well. Now people are actually talking about Oregon having a chance *gulp* at getting bowl eligible. A win vs USC is a must for this to happen in my opinion. A win at USC, followed by a home win against a very Jekyll and Hyde Stanford team would put Oregon knocking on the door to the prestigious McBrisket Bowl presented by McDonald’s, in fabulous Muscle Shoals, Alabama or some other crap bowl game. A road game at Utah for the moment looks like an L, setting up a Civil War game with Oregon’s bowl eligibility on the line. Nothing more that either of the two teams like to do than play spoiler to one another. It’s just we’re used to trouncing on Little Brother’s dreams.



@BigShaun – Grade: For this game I think the coaches get a B grade. Overall, it’s still an F.
Not a lot to complain about other than a terrible defense. But that’s more recruiting and scheme change/personnel related in my opinion. I am steadfast in my opinion that a change is needed and that Helf is not the right guy to take Oregon to the next level. But, that’s as far as my fire the coach talk will go today. I am really happy for the players that they were able to get a win. They deserve it. They have been through a hell of a tough skid. It was a great day for them. 

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