Expect unexpected from big-play Ducks

  • JOHN SLEEPER / Herald Writer
  • Friday, September 29, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By JOHN SLEEPER

Herald Writer

EUGENE, Ore. – The crowd at Autzen Stadium is a given. No surprises there.

What’s more of a guess is what wild offensive schemes the No. 20 Oregon Ducks will throw at the sixth-ranked Washington Huskies today.

Against UCLA a week ago, the Ducks lined up flanker Jason Willis as a tailback for one play and sent him on a sweep to the right. Throw in a wildly entertaining array of reverses, halfback option passes and other gimmicks and you have nothing in particular that you can expect.

Other than the Ducks can break a big play from anywhere on the field.

“Oregon is very creative, offensively,” UW coach Rick Neuheisel said. “They think outside the dots. They don’t limit themselves to running backs lining up as running backs. They do a lot of different things that make defenses try to keep up with them.”

If a gimmick works, it sends an already frenzied Autzen crowd into convulsions. UCLA got caught up in it. So rattled was the offensive line that it was flagged for six false starts, including three on three plays.

Washington can’t afford to have that happen. A solid Rose Bowl hopeful, the Huskies have too much at stake to let the crowd derail them.

“We’re going in with the idea that we have yet to see a stadium make a tackle,” Neuheisel said.

While many give Autzen credit for Oregon’s 17-game home winning streak, the fact is that Oregon is just plain good.

“(Autzen) is loud, aggressive and it’s hard to use audibles,” Washington State coach Mike Price said. “No one can hear. The fans break your focus and concentration.

“The other thing is the Duck football team. You aren’t playing St. Mary’s Sisters of the Poor. They’ve got it going there.”

It starts with tailback Maurice Morris, the most highly sought JC player in the nation last year. Morris averages better than 118 yards a game and 5.2 yards a carry. The Ducks also use him as a pass receiver out of the backfield in their wide array of screen passes.

“He was one we counted on to come in and fill the void left by Reuben Droughns,” UO coach Mike Bellotti said. “He’s a tough kid with great speed. He’s one of those backs who seems to get stronger as the game goes on.”

As high-powered and unpredictable as Oregon’s offense is, however, the Ducks have had to do it without a great game from quarterback Joey Harrington. Harrington, a junior, completes just 48 percent of his passes.

“I think, by Joey’s own admission, he’s had a couple of fairly average games,” Bellotti said. “And in a great performance in one game, he did not get great support from his receivers. We dropped about 10 passes against Wisconsin and three touchdowns. But Joey is a winner. He finds ways to make plays.”

Keenan Howry and Marshaun Tucker lead a talented receiving corps that can break open a game at any time.

To counter Oregon’s big-play capability, Washington will need another impressive performance by tackle Larry Tripplett, who has four sacks this season, and the rest of the front seven has to keep up its play against the run. If the Huskies bottle up Morris in the same fashion as they did Miami’s trio of backs, Washington has a chance.

By the same token, the secondary has to keep Howry and Tucker in front of it.

“I don’t think you can stop Morris,” Neuheisel said. “What you want to do is try to prevent him from going crazy. It’s the same with their receivers. We can’t afford to give up the big play. We have to play good, sound defense.”

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Sports

The Herald's Athlete of the Week poll.
Vote for The Herald’s Prep Athlete of the Week for April 8-14

The Athlete of the Week nominees for April 8-14. Voting closes at… Continue reading

Archbishop Murphy players celebrate during a boys soccer game between Archbishop Murphy and Arlington at Arlington High School on Monday, April 15, 2024 in Arlington, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Archbishop Murphy routs Arlington 7-0 in boys soccer

Gabe Herrera scores a hat trick, and Zach Mohr contributes two goals for the Wildcats.

X
Prep roundup for Monday, April 15

Prep roundup for Monday, April 15: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson, top, forces out the Seattle Mariners’ Jorge Polanco (7) at second base and makes the throw to first for the double play against Mariners’ Ty France to end the eighth inning of Sunday’s game in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
Hitting woes plague Mariners again in series loss to Cubs

Seattle ended the weekend 6-10, and the offense has been the main culprit.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith may have been a Pro Bowler, but should Seattle consider prioritizing a quarterback in the NFL draft? (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Should Seahawks prioritize quarterback in draft?

A challenger to Geno Smith is something worth considering for Seattle.

Snohomish's Morgan Gibson returns the ball in her match against Stanwood's Ryann Reep on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. Gibson lost the first set 4-6 but rallied back to win 6-2 in the second and 6-0 in the third. The Panthers bested the Spartans 5-2. (Taras McCurdie / The Herald)
Snohomish girls tennis bests Stanwood, 5-2

Panthers sweep singles, Spartans win first and second doubles

X
Prep roundup for Saturday, April 13

Prep roundup for Saturday, April 13: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

X
Prep roundup for Friday, April 12

Prep roundup for Friday, April 12: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Lake Stevens’ Jesse Lewis takes the handoff as the anchor in the 4x400 during a meet Thursday, April 11, 2024, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens track and field retains Pilchuck Cup

Vikings’ David Brown, Jada Sarrys and Arlington’s Dallas Miller were standouts.

X
Prep roundup for Thursday, April 11

Prep roundup for Thursday, April 11: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

X
Prep roundup for Wednesday, April 10

Prep roundup for Wednesday, April 10: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

O.J. Simpson stands as he listens to Municipal Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell as she reads her decision to hold him over for trial on July 8, 1994, in connection with the June 12 slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Simpson, the decorated football superstar and Hollywood actor who was acquitted of charges he killed his former wife and her friend but later found liable in a separate civil trial, has died. He was 76. (AP Photo/Eric Draper, Pool, File)
OJ Simpson, fallen football hero acquitted of murder, dies at 76

Simpson’s legacy was forever changed by the June 1994 slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.