Considering Oregon’s current record, Oregon football isn’t at all what fans hoped it would be this season.
Between the early season secondary woes and the post-Mariota quarterback carousel, things were looking pretty dim, but with starting QB, Vernon Adams Jr. back in the mix, suddenly the season seems much brighter. That being said, Adams Jr. has yet to lead the Ducks to back-to-back wins this season. Sure, he was clearly limited by a finger injury but some may still wonder if this guy is the real deal. Tonight, Adams Jr. will have the opportunity to silence those naysayers. My guess is he will have no problem doing just that.
As the Ducks prepare to face off against the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe this evening, the nation will be watching. Though not the “big” game many thought it would be, fans on both sides know it’s a must win game that will set the tone for the rest of the season. In short, there is still a lot for each team to play for, even if the national media isn’t talking about it.
So what story line will play out? Will Oregon’s critics be validated? Or, will Oregon exploit Arizona State’s “blitz-heavy” defense? Wait! Did someone say blitz?
In case you haven’t heard, Arizona State loves to rush the quarterback. A lot.
“Blitz-heavy is an understatement,” offensive coordinator Frost said, this week. “These guys blitz not just one extra guy, but two extra guys a bunch of the time. … They try to create chaos and they take away the easy things so that hopefully your quarterback is standing back there and they can get to him.”
So what does all this mean for Vernon Adams Jr. and Co.? A major opportunity.
In a defensive blitz, 5 or more defenders are sent to rush the passer. Although ASU has shown this can be very effective at times, it has also shown it can be very dangerous. If unsuccessful, running a blitz allows for undefended wide-open receivers, ready to make big plays. If an offensive line is on their game, they will buy time for their quarterback to connect with those receivers.
In Arizona State’s case, teams have been able to make those big plays (20 yards or more) against them 38 times this season. Perhaps what is more encouraging for Ducks fans is the fact that Oregon, despite its quarterback switcheroo, has managed to accumulate 42 of their own big plays this season.
Back to Vernon Adams Jr.
Watching back through Adams Jr.’s play this season, 3 big things stand out that could in fact spell disaster for the Sun Devils, should they stick with their blitz-heavy attack.
In facing a blitz-happy ASU defense, Oregon Head Coach, Mark Helfrich, said this week that tempo would be a big factor. That tempo is something Oregon has been trying to find this season and perhaps it’s the team’s youth that has slowed things down a bit. For most players, the first year in Oregon’s fast-paced system can be overwhelming. The up-tempo style is by far one of the biggest challenges talked about by freshman entering the system. Though a 5th year senior, Adams Jr. was expended by many to endure some growing pains as he adapted to Oregon’s no-huddle offense. Thankfully, he proved everyone wrong.
From the gate, Adams Jr. seems to be doing all he can to speed up the guys around him, even the coaches at times. This week he talked about the team focusing on picking up the pace and “practicing fast”. If anyone is ready to speed things up at the line of scrimmage, it’s Big Play VA.
As mentioned above, running the blitz often leaves receivers wide open. Against Oregon, this could spell disaster for ASU. Especially against Washington, Adams Jr. proved he can make incredible plays down field. Although he recently told gridirongirl it wasn’t the tempo he was having to adjust to but rather connecting with Oregon’s speedy receivers, he proved against Washington he has adjusted just fine. Adams clearly has some favorite targets (Darren Carrington and Bralon Addison) but watch out for receiver, Devon Allen, who will be playing in front of a hometown crowd, to make a big splash this game. Oh! And an added bonus, keep your eye on all-around-threat, Charles Nelson, to confuse the heck out of the Sun Devils’ coaches. That should be fun.
Vernon Adams Jr. may not be a fast as Mariota when taking off in a straight line, but man can he make some scrambled eggs out of a defense. Just when it looks like a play is doomed, Adams Jr. seems to find a way, time and time again, to get those first downs- often times in glorious fashion. As it turns out, Adams Jr. thrives in the midst of pressure.
“I like teams that blitz, Adams Jr. said. “. . .it gives a lot of one on one opportunities.”
If Oregon’s offensive line takes care of business tonight, look for Adams Jr. to make the best of those “opportunities”. How exactly does he plan to do that?
“Just trust what you see,” Adams Jr. Said. “. . . Don’t force anything and just have fun while you’re out their playing.”
Yes, VA. Have fun out there. And while you’re at it, bring home the win.
Agree? Disagree? Send us your comments.
Follow Nichole on Twitter @UOgridirongirl