Can the Beavers Stop the Spread?

First of all... gotta fess up for the embarrassing mistake I made yesterday in proclaiming that the final score of the OSU/WSU game was 42-20 in the recap below. That was bad.  

* * *

During Saturday's game between Arizona and Oregon, how many times did you find yourself saying "SOMEBODY HIT HIM!!!" every time Jeremiah Masoli left the pocket?

Even though we were all technically supposed to be rooting for the Ducks, I'm guessing you were saying it a lot. 

The Oregon offense is a puzzling thing. It's unclear to me whether Masoli and LaMichael James are really as talented individually as the previous games this season have made them look. Is it that, or do they simply benefit from the momentum this offense generates? Whatever it is, it works-- and they're both elusive and hard to get to. 

John Canzano wrote in the Oregonian today about the differences in these two programs, but noted the similarities in their successes. His analogy stated that the Ducks got to the top branch of the "tree" with an aerodynamic jumpsuit and a catapult, and Oregon State got to the top by planting a seed, watering it, and waiting for the tree to grow. 

It's a clever comparison of two programs who do things very differently, but with success. If you overhear a conversation about Oregon State's offense, you'll hear words like balanced, steady, and dependable. If you overhear a conversation about the Oregon offense, you'll hear words like explosive, dynamic, and "Oh #%@!!!!" 

Both offensive schemes obviously work. But for whatever reason, the spread offense is hard to stop, for the following reasons:

The offense widens the field,stretching the defense horizontally. It forces the defense to defend more space. It creates running lanes. 

The spread offense utilizes skilled players. More players are involved on the outside and they get into space with the ball in their hands. Open field tackling will be key for the Beaver defense. 

The offense wants to create mismatches. They want to get four receivers matched up against two or three defenders, and their speedy backs matched up against generally slower linebackers. 

The one caveat for the Beavers here is that they have more overall speed on defense this year. Lance Mitchell and Cameron Collins are a big upgrade, speed-wise, from Afalava and Layborn. You need speed in the secondary to stop this defense, and the Beavers have more of that this year than last. 

The speed of the Oregon offense tends to make defensive substitutions difficult. The Beavers like to rotate fresh bodies into the game on the defensive line especially, and it's hard to do when the offense is going no-huddle. The offense also makes it harder for the defensive coaches to communicate with the guys on the field, and it forces the defense to commit to a particular package early in the play clock, allowing time for adjustments and reeds to be made. 

Bottom line, it's difficult to defend, especially with a running threat at quarterback like the Ducks have in Masoli. 

I'm confident in the plan that Mark Banker will develop to stop the Oregon offense. But discipline, execution, and heart on the part o f the eleven guys on the field will be key. 

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com)

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