“What’s emphasized huge in our offense is checking down to the running back, which of course I love. Who wouldn’t? Especially at my position. But honestly, everything is just opening up,” said junior running back Cyrus Habib-Likio during training camp.
Through two games in this shortened, strange 2020 Oregon football season, there is one thing that should excite Duck fans for years to come: Joe Moorhead’s offense.
Oregon’s new offensive coordinator replaced Marcus Arroyo who left after last season to become the new head coach at UNLV.
During Arroyo’s three-year stint as the Ducks play-caller, Oregon’s offense could be telegraphed, it wasn’t particularly too creative, and lacked that ‘umph’ Ducks fans have longed for since the up-tempo offense Chip Kelly brought changed the game with. In 2019, the Ducks offense averaged 433 yards per game (258.2 passing and 174.9 rushing).
Moorhead’s new system is so dynamic and fun that it even has some imagining what it could have been with former Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert and that cannon of an arm taking the snaps.
Imagine this Oregon offense under Moorhead (tempo, creativity) with last year's personnel
— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) November 15, 2020
But let’s not compare Herbert and now sophomore starting quarterback Tyler Shough, who has been commanding the offense ideally in his first two starts.
In just two weeks, Shough and the offense have put up big numbers on opposing defenses: 496 total yards (227 passing; 269 rushing) and 35 points against the Stanford Cardinal in week one; and then 581 total yards (312 passing; 269 rushing) against the Washington State Cougars on Saturday in Pullman, WA.
But one of the most dynamic part of Moorhead’s offense is the ability to use the running backs out of the backfield and it was evident on Saturday against the Cougars in Pullman, Washington.
Oregon’s running backs scored on four of the six touchdowns this evening: Verdell and Cyrus Habibi-Likio each with one on the ground and Travis Dye with two through the air. Here’s a look at some of these gorgeous play calls on Dye’s touchdowns:
— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) November 15, 2020
— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) November 15, 2020
All that movement and creativity is beautiful.
During training camp leading into this season, Moorhead stated he wanted to use the backs more in the passing game, and that philosophy was evident on Saturday.
“Moorhead is a huge difference to this offense,” said Travis Dye following the win. “He has really kicked this offense up a huge notch just by his football savvy-ness. He’s a great coach.”
Sophomore wide receiver Mycah Pittman, who did not play against WSU, praised his OC on Twitter after the game:
Moorhead’s offense is fun to watch if you’re an Oregon fan and miserable on the other side of the field. To not only have running backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield but paired with a dual-threat QB who is only going to get better and better in the run-pass-option, it will be interesting to see it develop for years to come.
Not to forget the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class coming in next season… So instead of thinking what could-have-been with Herbert, but rather what is already happening with Moorhead, Shough and weapons all around.
Next up, the Ducks (2-0) will host the UCLA Bruins (0-1) on Saturday, Nov. 21 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon.