Oregon and Cal both entered Saturday night’s game 3-1, both coming off a Pac-12 loss. Looking to right the ship, the Ducks looked to cut down on penalties, execute on offense and continue their defensive improvement. For their part, the Golden Bears were hoping to build on their close loss to USC with a new and improved coaching staff, and outlook for 2017.
In this installment of DSA Grades and Analysis we review and analyze at how the Duck offense performed against the California Golden Bears.
Offense B (45 points, 24 first downs, 459 yards offense, 6-14 third downs, 1 TO, 4-4 red zone TD)
The Ducks with Justin Herbert at quarterback opened up the game firing on offense. After being held to a field goal on their first drive, they marched down the field in their next two possessions for touchdowns, the second capped by a seven-yard Herbert TD rush.
That play proved to be immensely costly as the sophomore QB broke his left collarbone stretching the ball into the endzone. He will have surgery on Monday with a prognosis of being out four to six weeks.
With Taylor Alie in the game the offense went largely conservative and run-heavy as would be expected. Their first three possessions under Alie resulted in punts. To end his fourth he made a very poor throw resulting in an interception that Cal was able to convert in to a touchdown.
In the second half the offense was able to lean on the RB and OL groups and scored touchdowns on four of seven possessions.
QB B- (Herbert 7-8-86, TD, 1-7, TD, broken collarbone rushing, Alie 9-13-41, INT, 3-17 rushing, Burmeister 1-1-4)
Justin Herbert was playing very well before he left the game in the first quarter due to injury. After that, as would be expected, QB play suffered. Without the benefit of plentiful and consistent snaps with the ones for the last few months, Alie was out of synch with his receivers.
Aside from the Herbert injury, the biggest QB news of the game was true freshman Braxton Burmeister entering the game and thus foregoing his redshirt season for 2017.
"Another such victory over the Romans, and we are undone."
RB B+ (Benoit 18-138, 2 TDs, 2-17 receiving, Brooks-James 16-76, TD, 4-21 receiving, Freeman 6-51, Felix 5-27, TD, Redd 2-8, Griffin 2-7, 3-11 receiving)
Going into the season, the RB group looked to be very deep with four quality athletes including a Heisman candidate as the No. 1 guy in Royce Freeman. When Freeman went down with a left shoulder in the first quarter, that depth proved to be crucial. Kani Benoit showed why we have said for years that he could start for 90% of college football teams.
Benoit was shifty, fast and very effective finding and exploiting the holes the OL was providing. Tony Brooks-James also looked strong in his role. True freshman Darrian Felix and Jaylon Redd both got in on the action and now could see increasing minutes going forward.
Overall this was not a dominating performance by the RB group but was very good nonetheless.
OL A- (5.9 ypc, 3 tfl against, 0 sacks against, 2 qbh against)
Last season we saw a bunch of freshman playing a lot of minutes. This was due to both injury and in a couple cases, because the youth beat out the veteran. It a perfect world, an OL coach does not have to play freshman. In general, they make a lot of mistakes in a unit where you cannot.
But the lessons learned last year appear to be paying off this year. The inexperienced, talented starting five is now an experienced, talented starting five.
And they are blowing open holes.
But not only are they opening up running lanes, they are protecting the quarterback very well with few sacks, few hurries and scant pressure.
Saturday they were very solid with both Jake Pisarcik and Calvin Throckmorton standing out. But then again with the OL, it is hard to single guys out because every one of them has to do their job for a play to succeed. And against Cal they did.
TE B- (Bay 2-20, McCormick 1-4)
Just when Jake Breeland was starting to make an impact on games, he gets injured. This was a pre-game woe as he did not even dress down for Cal. In his place was walk-on Ryan Bay, who did a good job the few times called upon in the passing game, and blocked adequately.
If the Breeland injury lasts for more weeks, Cam McCormick could become a factor, but it seems like he needs to earn more minutes over Bay before that will happen.
WR C+ (Johnson III 2-15, Schooler 1-17, TD, Ofodile 1-3, Mitchell 1-3)
The blocking by this group was above average and that does constitute much of this grade. That is because for several reasons, they were not called upon much. The Ducks had an early lead, their quarterback got hurt, one of their top two guys was out (Nelson) and the other got banged up early in the game.
So this group was more of a blocking extension to the running game with only occasional looks after the first quarter. Overall this game, they did their job.
"Yesterday’s good football play is today’s automatic ejection. "
Coaching C+ (10-110 penalties, +1 TO ratio)
Watching the game from the press box, I did not agree with many of the referees’ calls against Oregon. Watching the film later, I suppose many of those were judgement calls and the Robinson ejection basically an automatic in that situation given the new targeting rule. Yesterday’s good football play is today’s automatic ejection.
But all that aside, the coaches need to clean up the penalties, one way or another. Playing with swag, playing with juice, has spilled over into the laundry department. The energy the coaches bring is a good thing; an excellent thing. Now the trick will be to find the football balancing act between discipline and passion.
Game plan-wise, the Ducks were ready to play in all phases. The offense was hot, the defense was making plays and the special teams executing from the opening minute on. Injuries and penalties were the only things that were able to slow Oregon on Saturday night.
The coaches can’t control the injuries so they should focus on the penalties to give the team with its backup quarterback a chance to win the next few games. Which is the toughest stretch on their schedule.