Sports

A Yard, A Yard, My Kingdom For 1 Yard

You can argue whether Michael Dyer was down and you can insist that Oregon needs more beef (both ideas have some merit), but the real issue for the Ducks in the BCS title game was this:

The lack of a short-yardage package. Why doesn’t Oregon have a handful of plays in which it uses a fullback as a blocking back and runs straight ahead? So what if they don’t have any fullbacks on the roster; take a defensive lineman or a linebacker and teach them to block for plays when the offense desperately needs 1 yard.

Yes, the Ducks’ spread option is brilliantly conceived and equally well executed. But it’s surprising they don’t have a better plan when they get inside the opponent’s 3-yard line or, equally important, are trying to get out of their own end zone.

— On the first play of the second quarter, Oregon had a third-and-2 at the Auburn 3 and had a running play blown up for a 6-yard loss. That resulted in a field goal.

— Late in the third quarter, the Ducks had a first-and-goal at the 3, and four running plays later they still were short of the end zone.

— And perhaps most damaging, in the second quarter they were trying to run out of their own end zone, attempting a slow-developing misdirection run on which LaMichael James was tackled for a safety.

Much credit goes to Auburn’s defensive line, which was the deciding factor in the game. But the Ducks’ struggles in such situations weren’t necessarily new. For all of its offensive brilliance, Oregon was fifth in the Pac-10 this year in red zone offense.

(Which brings up a relevant point: Red-zone stats are computed in an idiotic manner; they treat touchdowns and field goals equally. Why not list how many points each team scores per red-zone possession? Doesn’t that make more sense? Of course it does.)

Some of Oregon’s problems likely could be helped by adding more brawn on the offensive line. But such a move also could alter the speed and the efficiency of the offense. The Ducks don’t need to reinvent the wheel; they just need the ability to lower their heads and run straight ahead on occasion.