Saturday, October 6, 2012
Washington needs big plays vs. Oregon
By Ted Miller
EUGENE, Ore. -- At some point, Washington is going to beat its arch-rival Oregon again, but the odds seem stacked against the Huskies tonight.
For one, the Ducks are playing in Autzen Stadium. They are 34-4 at home since Chip Kelly first arrived in 2007 as their offensive coordinator.
Second, the Ducks are again strong on both sides of the ball. Their offense is among the nation's leaders in rushing, scoring and total offense. The defense is better than its numbers suggest, considering its starters have played little in the fourth quarter this year. The Ducks' 4.55 yards per play ranks third in the Pac-12.
The Huskies? They are much better on defense, giving up just under 19.8 points per game -- virtually the same as the Ducks. But they are struggling offensively due to a injury ravaged offensive line that is down three starters from what it thought it would be. The Huskies are scoring 23.3 points per game, which ranks 10th in the conference.
Oregon averages 52.4, tops in the Pac-12 by a wide margin.
So the Ducks are going to need to be much below their average tonight, while the Huskies need much better, for Washington to have a chance.
The key will be big plays that go against Oregon, which is not typically how things go here. The Huskies need to slow the Ducks running game and force redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota to make mistakes passing. And they need to take advantage of those miscues.
The Huskies offense, meanwhile, needs to create some sort of running threat that keeps the Ducks honest, while quarterback Keith Price needs to time to hook up with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and receiver Kasen Williams.
It will help the Huskies that the Ducks, already young at safety due to the season-ending knee injury to John Boyett, might be without weakside linebacker Michael Clay, who was hurt last week against Washington State.
Oregon has been a second-half team under Kelly. It tends to make good adjustments to other teams' schemes and it also wears down opposing defenses with its tempo. That said, if the Huskies can keep things close into the fourth quarter, it's possible that Mariota will feel some pressure, and press as a result.
Perhaps a few Oregon miscues would open a door for the Huskies to end an eight-game losing streak in the series?