Harrison On The Rose - Oregon's O Pace

Posted Jan 2, 2012

Phil Harrison's thoughts on the blinding pace of the Oregon offense in the Rose

Phil Harrison
Harrison: The Disruptive Pace of the Oregon Ducks

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The Oregon Ducks. They take flight with a pace like no other bird and the speed at which they operate has its impact each and every time it ruffles the feathers of the opponent.

There's not another high profile team in college football that gets in and out of plays as quickly as the Ducks do. As soon as the tackle is made on one play, the team is back up at the line looking at the coaching staff for the next play and pressing the pace of the game to its extreme. It's all predicated on keeping the opposing defense unprepared, off-balance, and ripe for big offensive plays.

And most of the time it works.

That means the opposing defense is not the only group that's left a little outside of its comfort zone. The coaching staffs of the opposing teams also face putting together a unique game plan and making some in-game decisions that normally don't present themselves.

First and foremost, there is absolutely no way to prepare for the speed of pace that the Ducks bring to the fight until the fight presents itself. You can practice it all you want with a scout team and current players that are not used to running it, and it'll get you only so far. When the lights go on, the coin gets flipped, and kick-off comes, teams realize that the speed of the game is much faster than the one they remember in practice--it's what Oregon players are used to running and it makes a huge difference.

Then there is the conundrum of which way to go as a defense. Do you bring an attacking defense and leave yourself vulnerable to the big play, or do you sit back on your heels and let the Ducks dink and dunk the ball down the field at a torrid pace? Either way you go, the pace is still quicker than quick. It's killing you softly, or with a swift beheading to the pride of the defense.

And that's not the only thing that puts coaches in a precarious position. Because of all of the offense that Oregon puts up, other teams are forced to try and outscore them--even against their own nature. In the 2010 Rose Bowl, Ohio State--known mostly for conservative play calling, came out and unleashed a pass first game plan that ultimately worked. Others are not so successful.

The quick, frenetic pace that the Ducks create can also speed up a coaches mind. It's like the panic that ensues with a pressing team in basketball. In the Rose Bowl we just witnessed, Bret Bielema was caught with his proverbial pants down a few times.

An ill-advised time out early in the second half left the Badgers just short of enough timeouts, and ultimately time to engineer a comeback. There was also a curious moment when the coaching staff decided to go for it on fourth down, in a tie 21-all game late in the first half while well within field goal range--inside the 20 yard line. The right call would have been to take the three, get the lead, and then play defense. Instead Wisconsin got stuffed and the turned the ball over on downs because it felt that it had to score to keep up and went for the call that is out of its nature.

That's right--traditional calls get shunned for the sake of keeping up with the tit for tat style of play.

At the end of the day, it's the coaches that can calm their mind and make the calls without getting caught up in the chaos that the style of play that Chip Kelly and company intend to create that are successful at slowing down the quack attack. It's not easy to do, and the Badgers, like many other teams that have played Oregon recently, fell prey to a Duck hunt in this one. The Ducks are now the class of the Pac-12 and it's because of this unique game plan that it brings to the table.

So next time you see this aggressive pace and play calling going up against another traditional opponent, keep your eyes fixated on how it disrupts the opposing coaching staff, the opposing players, and the judgement of everyone involved. One thing is clear: the teams that play against Oregon get caught back on their heels, while the pace of the game for Oregon is as comfortable as a duck on water.