South Dakota’s coach Joe Glenn once took over a program at Northern Colorado that had won 13 games in 5 years.
He won 98 games and 6 league titles, coaching the team to FCS National Championship in 1996 and ’97.
This weekend he faces perhaps the most imposing task of his coaching career, taking the Coyotes, 4-8 last season, 7th place in the Missouri Valley Conference, into Autzen Stadium to face the #3-ranked Ducks. The school’s athletic department receives a $525,000 paycheck, but it’s Glenn who has to earn his money, getting his roster out of the House That Rich Built with their health and dignity reasonably intact.
It’s a beach-ball game. A 7:30 kickoff before a thoroughly-lubricated crowd that will linger at the tailgate in third quarter, with many making for the freeway exits by the time Marcus Mariota puts on a baseball cap. South Dakota isn’t beating Oregon; this isn’t Appalachian State, a small-college powerhouse, sneaking in to town to expose a bloated, one-powerful program led by a caretaker coach.
Instead the Ducks are loaded and motivated, itching to show that the talk of improvement, toughness, discipline and execution is genuine and authentic. Charles Nelson or Thomas Tyner will be at the goal line to receive the opening kickoff along with Keanon Lowe, and they both have the speed to create some instant electricity. If the Ducks lose the toss (one of the few things they’re likely to lose all day) Ifo Ekpre-Olomu takes Bralon Addison’s familiar spot returning kicks, and he has the poise, instincts and athletic ability to adequately replace the dynamic Addison, who may be available later in the year.
Educated fans will ignore the scoreboard and stay in their seats for the third and the fourth quarter. It’s an opportunity to get a thorough look at the depth and development in the Oregon roster. I hope Jeff Lockie gets to run the offense rather than just run 20 straight zone read plays. All three lead backs should get 12-15 carries, and we’ll see what the enormous anticipation over Royce Freeman is about (he is the real deal, all reports say, powerful and dynamic, the latest in a chain of great weapons at running back, with the character and humility to match).
The healthy competition has Tyner and Marshall practicing and training hard, and the result of it will be that Oregon could indeed feature an unprecedented THREE 1000-yard backs, and Mariota can be selective about when he chooses to keep.
Oregon’s fast and talented but inexperienced receiver corps gets to show what they can do in a live situation.
The offensive line should get a chunk of snaps for the full rotation.
On defense, the thing to look for is how the Ducks tackle and how they rally to the ball. With a decided physical advantage they should be stifling in this game, keeping in mind that next week is an exponentially tougher challenge.
Discipline, execution, fundamentals and focus. To be a success this year, the Ducks have to bring a quality of effort to every one of the 12 weekends of the regular season, and they have to practice like champions.
It’s the first opportunity to evaluate how they’re being coached, and how seriously they’re taking their mission.