Oregon Football: Passing Attack Will Be Key To Finally Beating Stanford

EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 22: Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Oregon Ducks passes the ball during the third quarter of the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Autzen Stadium on September 22, 2018 in E (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 22: Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Oregon Ducks passes the ball during the third quarter of the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Autzen Stadium on September 22, 2018 in E (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

If Oregon football is going to pass their Pac-12 opening test at Stanford, the Ducks will have to bring more than their number two pencils and a positive attitude.

The Ducks have Stanford this week, so let’s address the elephant-sized tree in the room:

It’s time to start beating these guys again, man.

I don’t even want to talk about last year’s game.

I’m talking about losing 52-27 in 2016. Or 49-7 (gag noise) in 2017.

And, if we are going to talk about 2018—which we aren’t—the Ducks wiped the floor with the Cardinal for 3 quarters, and then I just sort of blacked out from there.

But now we’re on to 2019 Stanford (1-2), who squeaked one out against a bad Northwestern team; then got overpowered by a (?) USC team; and is coming off of getting absolutely crushed by the 2017 National Champions, UCF.

So, Stanford doesn’t look like Stanford this year, but that’s all the more reason the Ducks should step on the gas. It’s going to take a full game effort from the Ducks to cut down the Trees, and to keep them down.

I’m pretty confident in the Ducks defense, and in Troy Dye’s ability to force KJ Costello into the Stanford Quarterback Early Retirement Program.

But I think the real key to the game will be for the Ducks offense to keep taking serious steps towards becoming a multidimensional unit. And that obviously starts with play calling.

Auburn had insanely fast corners, and the Ducks were banged up at receiver. The skill disparity left the Ducks heavily covered all day long in Dallas, and they ended up almost never stretching the field in the passing game.

Arroyo and Herbie moved on from that game, and they proceeded to bust things wide open against Nevada.

They played with a supreme focus on execution, but also with a sense of freedom and space that hasn’t always been present in Arroyo’s offense here at Oregon. It was pretty damn fun to watch. They proved that they could be that kind of offense when things go their way.

After showing what they could do, the offense looked a little more subdued against Montana.

With the exception of the traditional “Herb-Breeland” seam route connection, the Ducks closed the playbook ever-so-slightly and didn’t take the same big shots downfield that they took against the Wolf Pack.

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I’m not exactly sure why the Ducks went back to their Auburn ways of screen passes and quick out routes, but I have two educated guesses.

First, Stanford has a top NFL prospect at corner, Paulson Adebo. The Ducks may have anticipated still being banged up at receiver, and still having to face the fast, pro-level coverage of Stanford. So—foreseeing similar circumstances to the Auburn game—they could have been trying to implement a game plan similar to the one they had in Dallas. Screen passes and short outs to JJ3 and Redd that go for 3-7 yards, etc.

Sure, that strategy worked against Auburn until it didn’t.

But Arroyo even admitted that, in retrospect, he wished he would’ve taken more chances through the air against the Tigers. So, allow me to propose another reason for going back to “basics” against Montana:

I think that Arroyo might be playing 3D chess, here. He’s trying to play things a little closer to the vest as conference play approaches. The Ducks looked dynamic and scary against Nevada, and I think everyone around the Pac-12 noticed that they were on the beginning of a Post-War Eagle war path.

I think that Oregon might have shown too much of their offensive prowess, however. Cristobal and Arroyo were offensively electric in ways that Oregon hasn’t been since (at least) the halcyon days of Vernon Adams. And in an effort to ultimately give Stanford—and the rest of the Pac—more film of the “ground-and-pound” / “we’re-afraid-of-your-secondary” offense, the whole unit decided to play the Griz on cruise control and instead, they opted to make last Saturday night all about the “Travis Dye experiment.”

The offensive line will do their job. The running game will follow close behind. But the big key to beating Stanford is repeatedly flexing our muscles as a competent passing attack, helmed by a presumptive NFL franchise quarterback.

It also doesn’t hurt that the Ducks might finally get to have transfer receiver, Juwan Johnson out there catching passes. His presence won’t automatically solve all of the problems we’ve already seen in the passing game, but it sure as hell doesn’t hurt.

Put all of that together, and the Ducks will finally get back to their good ol’ Tree-chopping ways.

I predict that the good guys will come out on top of Stanford, 38-17.

Go Ducks.