Nevada at Oregon Recap
The Oregon Ducks rebounded nicely from the LSU game by beating the Nevada Wolfpack 69-20. Oregon totaled 603 yards of total offense, passed for 331 yards, and rushed for 272 yards.
There were a lot of improvements in this game from the season opener against the LSU Tigers. Part of the answer may be that the Ducks were playing Nevada instead of LSU but there was significant improvement in some areas.
First, the wide receivers looked much better. 9 players caught passes, 7 of them were receivers (De’Anthony Thomas I consider a running back and LaMichael James is the other back who caught a pass). It appears this offense is going to go as far as the wide receivers can get open. LSU and Nevada both stacked the box against the run, and it was only when Darron Thomas started throwing really well did Nevada back off. LSU had great cover corners who could bump and run and I don’t think another team in the PAC-12 comes close to the talent the LSU secondary has.
Darron Thomas also looked much better coming back strong from probably the worst game of his career. Thomas handled the blitzes well and found the open receivers. There were no close-interceptions (where a player was close to intercepting it but didn’t, a sign of luck when the number is high) and threw almost all great balls while tying the record for most touchdown passes in a single game by an Oregon quarterback (6). Nevada came in attempting to go Cover 0 on the offense (no safeties), stack the box, and let the corners cover. Darron Thomas and the receivers didn’t let themselves get beat this time.
The last thing I noticed that was a big improvement was turnovers. Oregon had no turnovers at all, no fumbles (except for a De’Anthony Thomas muffed punt), and no picks, even once Bryan Bennett went in. On defense the Ducks defense forced three interceptions by a member of the defensive line, one from a linebacker, and one from a defensive back. Oregon missed a few opportunities for fumbles against LSU, and everyone can agree that the turnovers killed Oregon two weeks ago. Almost most importantly, a guy who is getting over ten touches a game in De’Anthony Thomas had much better ball security when carrying the ball.
There are a few things that still worry me. Nevada gained 516 yards against the defense, and a lot of it was up the middle. To give credit to Nevada they have a dangerous offense and they had 1000-yard rushers before Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua got there, those two just took it to another level. The Wolfpack coach invented the pistol offense and the quarterback playing Saturday was a senior. It would have been safe to assume that Nevada puts points on the board with a unique offense that has been successful no matter who is running it. But letting Nevada gain 516 yards is a letdown. Missing Ricky Heimuli and Wade Keliikipi, two big buffet busters who take up a lot of space in the middle, has hurt Oregon’s rush defense so far. After allowing 283 yards rushing to Nevada, I really want to see the Ducks hold the Missouri State Bears to less than 50.
The last thing that worries me is the offensive line. This is a group that did open up some holes against LSU that weren’t taken advantage of due to hesitation by the running backs, but the holes aren’t always there. Against Nevada I was hoping for longer runs than just De’Anthony Thomas’ 62-yard carry. LaMichael James carried 12 times for 67 yards, or 5.6 yards per carry. I don’t think this is because LaMichael James got too big and slowed, the holes just aren’t showing up. James runs harder between the tackles this year than ever before. For me to feel comfortable I’d really like to see some more holes that semi-trucks could get through. Against Missouri State, I really want to see multiple 50-yard rushing touchdowns.
While Darron Thomas, the receivers, and the turnover margin are improving, the lines are still worrisome and haven’t answered questions that were asked of them before the season started. I wish Oregon could have filled the Utah game with a better team that was in a BCS conference. This game won’t be a great tune-up for the opening PAC-12 game in Tucson, Arizona against the Wildcats on the 24th. What we can see though, is a top ten team impose its will, on both sides of the line, against a foe that shouldn’t be on the same field.