Inside the highlight tape: A six pack of cool, refreshing big plays in a Frost-brewed win

mundtTaylor WilderEmeraldScott Frost, settling into his role as Oregon’s offensive coordinator, pitched a masterful game yesterday. He worked the corners and blazed letter-high fastballs. He mixed in biting curves and a clever change of pace. He looked like a veteran pitcher in the heat of a pennant race, and the Ducks look ready for the September stretch drive on the eve of a bye week. September 28th they’ll host Cal in their PAC-12 opener, rested and fresh.

Crafty coaching: In their first three games the 3-0 Ducks have scored 184 points without committing a single turnover. Offensive coordinator Scott Frost has utilized talents like Tyler Jonstone, Johnny Mundt and Josh Huff brilliantly (Taylor Wilder/Oregon Daily Emerald photo). 

All during the game the Ducks gave Tennessee looks that were familiar from the Virginia game, but ran plays off those plays that provided a key element of misdirection. The Volunteer players responded to keys from film study, and each time those keys led them to make the wrong decision, resulting in wide open looks and big plays for the Ducks. It was a masterful game plan by the Oregon coaches, great execution by the Oregon players. Here are some examples:

Highlight 1 is a 16 yard td pass to Mundt. Mariota gets great blocking on the line. This one fooled the Tennesseee defense, a play designed to look like a different play. Line blocking is like a stretch play/outside zone read right, with a slide-step, and Mariota keeps the way he did against Virginia for an 8-yard run early in the game. The quarterback does a great job of evading a blitzing linebacker with a free shot at him, using his quick feet to scoot around him and buy time. Meanwhile, Mundt first blocks down on the defensive end, selling the running play, then releases into an open area in the left flat.

Highlight 2 The Ducks fake a quick screen to Addison on 4th and 6, and the cornerback bites hard on the screen, just as a Virginia defender did last week, nearly nabbing a pick six. Mariota opens his shoulders as if to toss the screen but then goes up top to Daryle Hawkins releasing along the right sideline. It’s a great play call against tendency, a great read by Mariota, and a nice pitch and catch as Hawkins gathers the ball in and streaks for a 45-yard td, the longest touchdown of his career.

Good blocks on the blind side by Tyler Johnstone and Mana Greig, and a nice double team on the big defensive tackle by Hroniss Grasu and Hamani Stevens. Uncharacteristically, Jake Fisher whiffs on a block on the defensive end, but Mariota stands in there and delivers to his wide open receiver. Hawkins has to adjust to the ball, showing nice footwork pivoting his body around to gather in a ball that’s behind him, a nice athletic play by the receiver, showing good body control and concentration–sometimes on the wide open, gonna-score-a-touchdown catches, a receiver will be in too much of a hurry, but Hawkins completes this play beautifully. Note also that the senior tosses the ball to the official and celebrates with his teammates. A gutsy call by Frost on 4th and 6.

Ducks were 6-12 on 3rd downs and 1-1 on 4th down for the game, only punting three times. Maldonado has done a terrific job with the punting duties this season; Saturday he averaged 46.3 yards a kick, one downed at the 11, and only one returned, for -1 yard after a nifty open field tackle by Terrance Mitchell.

Highlight 3 is a 28-yard touchdown run by De’Anthony Thomas, a wonderful, patient run by the speedster. Tyler Johnstone shows his agility getting out in front of the play and shielding the force man. Mundt gets a nice seal block on the defensive end, walling him off completely. Keanon Lowe cracks back on the linebacker and throws a crisp block with great technique, controlling the defender with a shot to his ribs, smartly avoiding the block in the back or a block before the waist. A smart, hard-nosed football play by Lowe.

On this play it wasn’t merely DAT’s speed but great execution by the entire offense that leads to an easy touchdown. Thomas shows good balance and acceleration beating the safety to the goal line.

Highlight 4 is Mariota’s fourth td pass, a simple throw in the left flat to Mundt who lines up in the slot off the line on the left side. Note the great block in the end zone by Bralon Addison, which gives Oregon’s Johnny Football a clear path for the score. Addison completely ties up the cornerback on that side, giving Mundt all the room he needs.

On the line, Greig, Grasu, Johnstone, Stevens and Fisher provide good protection, walling off their quarterback in the protective pocket. He has plenty of time to gather in a low snap, make his read and deliver the football to a waiting Mundt, who gathers the ball in first, then makes a smooth transition after the catch. The freshman was impressive today as a reliable target who knew where he was supposed to go throughout the day, a good day’s work for a young man who’s only been practicing for six weeks.

57-yard catch and run, Mariota to Johnny Mundt

It’s still a close game when Mundt made this play 10-7, 1st and 10 on the Oregon 34 at the end of the 1st quarter. Tennessee has seven in the box with the secondary 10 yards off the ball. Mariota sees this and he’s changing the play at the line. That’s important here–every player picked up the change, including the freshman tight end. Good communication, first, and good recognition by the quarterback.

It’s a fake to Marshall, and when he clears into the right flat, two defenders suck in and follow him. Contain Oregon’s running backs! That was probably drilled into them all week in practice. Not much time was spent in the walk-through stressing Oregon’s #2 tight end. The play highlight’s DAT and Marshall’s exceptional value in the offense. Their explosiveness makes them playmakers even as decoys. Here Byron takes two defenders out of the play with a simple flat route.

Mundt settles in the vacated area, runs a basic five-yard hitch. The outside receivers have all released deep, so the tight end has a gaping hole in the middle. The line again gives Mariota plenty of time for the play to develop and he gets the ball out quickly to the right guy. Mundt makes a nice cut to elude one defender, gets a block from Lowe, and rumbles all the way down to the 9. Mariota runs a keeper around left end for the touchdown on the very next play.

Byron Marshall 11-yard td run

Marshall runs with authority and good balance, following blocks by Tyler Johnstone, Mana Greig, and Addison. This is a basic outside zone read play, but by this time Oregon has shown so many wrinkles and so thoroughly worn down the Tennessee defense that a routine play with good fundamental execution is all they need. Nothing fancy here. 

Frost also did a great job of sticking with what works in this game. The Ducks seemed to know they wouldn’t have much success running inside on the big, strong Tennessee front seven, so they attacked them on the edges and with a passing game that used every receiver and the entire field. They made the Vols play them in space and exploited mismatches. It was close for nine minutes, but a shellacking after that.