April 13, 2008

Defense shines in first scrimmage

The Oregon offense got the ball 14 times against the Oregon defense during Saturday's scrimmage held in Autzen Stadium. Only twice was it able to put the ball into the end zone, while four other times settling for field goal attempts. Horrific though this sounds, it is to be expected for the first extended scrimmage half-way through spring.

Compounding the problem for the offense is that the Oregon defense has become very good at reading the Oregon version of the quarterback option series, and rarely pays attention for long to the player without the ball like real opponents do. When the passing game is limited as it was Saturday (and for those who remember 2007, as it was against UCLA) the defense can really pick apart the option series which is a staple of Chip Kelly's rendering of the spread offense.

The passing game was not in sync and never had a chance to become so with the frequent rotation of quarterbacks. As a group, the quarterbacks attempted 26 passes and completed 13 for 83 yards with no touchdowns. Kevin Garrett, Anthony Gildon and John Boyett each had an interception with Roper, Thomas and Cooper being their respective victims. Coach Bellotti had mixed feelings about the offense.

"I don't think we threw the ball particularly well but thought we ran it well. I thought the offensive line and running backs did some very, very good things. I think our quarterbacks need to improve."

The bright spot for the offense was the running game, led by a noteworthy performance by LaGarrette Blount who arrived in time for spring practice after transferring from a junior college. The Ducks as an offense rushed the ball 39 times for 156 yards and two touchdowns, with Blount accounting for 68 yards and a touchdown on his eleven carries. Blount had four carries in excess of ten yards including a pile-dragging 17-yard charge. Bellotti was impressed with where Blount is at in his development.

"LeGarrette Blount is better than I thought he might be at this stage simply because of his JC status, but the other two guys (Crenshaw and Alston) also have gotten much better because the presence of LeGarrette has pushed them."

Junior Andre Crenshaw had ten carries for 31 yards and a touchdown, while Remene Alston added 34 yards on his six tries.

The offense was without potential first-stringers Nathan Costa and Jeremiah Johnson, both of whom are being held out of contact this spring while recovering from off-season surgery. Without two key offensive players who the Ducks will count on heavily in 2008, the Duck offense was inefficient at this point in spring. Bellotti laid out some expectations for the offense.

"I wasn't very pleased with the offense not taking advantage of good field position. They drove the ball and moved it in a positive direction, but then when they got into good field position, they had to settle for field goals. We have to be more opportunistic."

The defense was the stronger of the two sides of the ball Saturday, but Coach Bellotti didn't give them a free pass afterwards.

"I thought there was some decent hitting out there, but I don't think we tackled very well on defense and don't think we played smart defense. I was surprised that we were able to run on 3rd-and-long and make first downs. I thought the defense was resting a little bit at times."

The hit of the day went to Eddie Pleasant who drew gasps from the fans with his hit on Remene Alston in the backfield. Pleasant finished with 3.5 tackles, the same total as linebacker Kevin Garrett. Redshirt freshman rover [db]Todd Doxey led the Duck defense with four tackles while Patrick Chung and Marvin Johnson sat out the scrimmage due to minor injuries.

Michael Speed recorded a tackle for loss in an impressive fashion, running down the quarterback from the backside of the play. Sophomore linebacker Casey Matthews added another tackle for loss for Coach Aliotti's charges.
The best news from the scrimmage was summed up by Coach Bellotti.

"There were no significant injuries today, although I think a couple of guys got banged up a little."

The Ducks next scrimmage on Friday, April 18th at the end of regular practice.

Oregon Offensive Statistics
Passing (C-A-Y-I-TD)
Thomas, 2-3-14-1-0
Cooper, 1-4-12-1-0
Harper, 2-2-3-0-0
Roper, 6-10-25-1-0
Kempt, 2-7-29-0-0

Rushing (A-YDS-TD)
Blount, 11-68-1
Alston, 6-34
Crenshaw, 10-31-1
Harper, 3-14
Thomas, 1-8
Roper, 2-5
Cooper, 1-5
Maehl, 1-(-1)
Block, 1-(-1)
Kempt, 3-(-7)

Receiving (R-YDS-TD)
Holland, 4-32
Williams, 4-18
Barkley, 2-18
Oberding, 1-8
Davis, 2-7

Oregon Defensive Leaders
Tackles
Doxey, 4
Garrett, 3.5
Pleasant, 3.5
Jackson, 3
Gildon, 2.5
Matthews, 2.5
Thurmond III, 2.5

Tackles for Loss
Boyett, 1
Garrett, 1
Gildon, 1


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