5 things to watch: WSU

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Pac-12 play opens for the Oregon football team on Saturday afternoon when the Ducks play in Washington State.

The No. 15 Ducks (2-1) have won two straight since their opener and are coming off a victory over Brigham Young in a battle of the top 25 teams. The Cougars are somewhat surprisingly unranked despite a 3-0 start that includes a win at Wisconsin.

Oregon leads the all-time series 52-40-7 and is 26-21-2 all-time in Pullman, Washington. The Ducks have won three in a row, having lost four in a row to WSU between 2015-18.

The match kicks off at 1 p.m. and is scheduled for a FOX television broadcast, with Tim Brando playing per play and Spencer Tillman providing analysis.

A few things to look out for when the Ducks take on the Cougars. …

1. Something must give the line of scrimmage when the Ducks have the ball. Washington State is tied for the Pac-12 lead and second in the nation with 14 sacks, while Oregon’s offensive line has yet to allow a sack through three games — despite some roster changes by the stance trainer Adrian Klemm due to injuries.

Chances are Oregon won’t go the entire season without allowing a sack. But as long as the Ducks continue to buy time to Bo Nix and by clearing lanes for the running backs, they get the job done regardless.

“I will say this: we don’t want to give up sacks, but in the same vein, our goal is not how many sacks we give up per game, our goal is to win,” the coach said. of the OU. Dan Lanning said. “It’s a really good job from our attacking staff, Coach Klemm and those guys up front, but that’s not the only yardstick for us offensively.”

2. Along with Oregon, the Cougars also benefit from the addition of a transfer to the quarterback. In WSU’s case, it’s Cameron Ward, FCS National Player of the Year finalist last fall while playing for Incarnate Word.

After using the ‘Air Raid’ system under former coach Mike Leach, it’s now the ‘Coug Raid’, which can distribute the ball in the passing game while capitalizing on Ward’s athleticism and carrying of dynamic balloons.

“They’re more balanced,” Lanning said. “It’s unique; when I’ve played against teams like this in the past, you kind of wear a defense, and that’s what you have to play all week and it’s usually a bit unique. for that. That being said, they still have 11 staff; they have 12 staff. They use the near end. So it’s more to prepare and they do a lot more, but they can still create some of these problems that the ‘air raid’ can create. There can’t be so much time spent on one thing in practice, and I think that’s a challenge.”

3. This will be the first Pac-12 conference game for the Ducks under Lanning, and also the first Pac-12 game for Nix. The Oregon senior quarterback is passing slightly better than 70% of his passes so far, and in the last two games he’s had 10 total touchdowns without a turnover.

The offensive line has done its part to keep Nix from taking excessive hits, but there’s not much they can do – against BYU, Nix entered the open field while trying to rush for a first down and absorbed a big shot just as he reaches the line to win. It was a high-profile collision, and Lanning appreciated the effort.

“I mean, I like guys who are winners – the ones who will get first downs like Bo wants to get a first down,” Lanning said. “Obviously you want to be smart, but you’re a competitor. Want to get a first? Go get a first. Sure, at some point I might be sitting here and regret saying that, but you don’t don’t tell guys how to compete Bo wanted to compete and get a first try.

4. Saturday’s game is the next chance to see which offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham has in his bag of tricks. Offensively, the Ducks attacked the perimeter, they took shots deep, they hammered it between tackles and even employed a fullback – a mix that was entertaining for fans and a source of consternation for defenses.

The foundation though, on both sides of the ball, are holding up at the line of scrimmage.

“I think we’re playing a bit more of a physical brand of football, really both sides of the ball,” Lanning said. “We’ve obviously been able to set the run and do a good job of cutting on the perimeter in the last two games. That’s something that has to continue for us. We said for us that it’s going to happen. was chopping wood and hauling water. There is work to be done if you want results; you have to keep chopping wood and hauling water.”

5. The work done by Oregon has given immediate results in the matches of the last two weeks. After breakdowns on the perimeter defensively against Georgia, the Ducks were much better against Eastern Washington. And when Lanning wanted to see a more explosive offense against BYU, the Ducks agreed, personified by the acrobatic play troy franklin made to carry in a reception of 50 meters.

Keep making improvements like this, and great things could be in store for this Oregon football team.

“I just think it speaks to the character of our team and our ability to take constructive criticism,” Lanning said. “…Our guys were hungry to get better, and if they see something they can improve on, and they can see a visual of why it matters, it usually continues. They do a very good job of getting the message and then trying to detail their work so they can be better at it.”

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