Oregon Football: What Could the Ducks Have Done Differently in 2013?

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Oregon Football: What Could the Ducks Have Done Differently in 2013?
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Mark Helfrich kept the Ducks rolling in 2013, but a few changes could have made the season even better.

When a program goes through the kind of transition that the Oregon Ducks did after the 2012 season, there will be questions regarding the state of the team.

After a 2-2 finish in their last four games, the Ducks missed out on an opportunity to make a BCS bowl for a fifth consecutive season.

Mark Helfrich guided the team to a fast start, but it all came crumbling down in early November after his first loss as a head coach.

What could Helfrich and the staff have done differently in 2013 to help the season end the way in which they had hoped?

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The Ducks limped out of Arizona Stadium with shattered dreams and lessons to be learned, following a 42-16 loss.

 

Discipline

Maybe it has been too easy for the Ducks or maybe they paid too much attention to those who said Stanford is the only Pac-12 team capable of beating them.

Either way, the Ducks looked like they didn't care very much in the loss to the Wildcats. Arizona lost three of its final four games. The only win came in blowout fashion against then-No. 5 Oregon.

Being a first-time head coach, maybe Helfrich didn't get the vibe from his players that they felt they deserved something they hadn't earned. Maybe he did and didn't think it would matter with two average teams left.

Either way, the intense focus and the "win the day" mantra made famous by his predecessor Chip Kelly seemed to fade further into history with each passing week. Kelly made it a priority to teach his players about how to answer questions from the mediay. Helfrich needs to follow suit.

Prior to the loss at Stanford, and with an 8-0 start that had Oregon sitting at No. 3 in the BCSjunior running back De'Anthony Thomas told reporters that scoring 40 against Stanford shouldn't be a problem. He should have been off limits to the media or at least schooled on what to say from that point on.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Stanford has taken over the top spot in the Pac-12 from Oregon.

A bounce-back win against Utah, combined with Stanford's loss to USC the following week, gave the Ducks control of their own destiny in the Pac-12 North.

It didn't last long, as the lack of discipline and sense of entitlement seemed to grab a hold of the previously unstoppable Ducks. If something was done to combat the lack of focus, it wasn't enough.

The wheels fell off the following week when the Ducks traveled to Arizona. Leading up to the game, two of Oregon's most experienced leaders gave the Wildcats plenty of motivation while giving away the Ducks' mindset.

Thomas and senior wide receiver Josh Huff made comments to the media about how the Ducks don't care about going to the Rose Bowl. They believed that they deserved a shot at the BCS title.

The problem was they truly believed it. The Ducks came out flat against the Wildcats and played as poorly as any Oregon team has in a game since a 38-8 loss to BYU in the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl.

The Oregon team on the field for the final four games was a far different team than the one that dominated their first eight opponents. The one thing that didn't change was was the amount of penalties they committed, which is another problem stemming from a lack of discipline.

The Ducks finished the season ranked 119th in the country with an average of 7.91 penalties per game. Of the 95 penalties they committed on the season, 28 of them came in games against Stanford, Utah and Arizona.

Christopher Barth/Getty Images
Even late in the year, Mark Helfrich was unable to get his team to limit the penalties.

By November, a championship team should have learned how to limit penalties to a normal level. The Ducks never figured it out, and it continued to haunt them until the end of the season.

 

Utilizing weapons correctly

Thomas has been one of the most dynamic playmakers in college football over the past three seasons. Some of his biggest plays have come when he was lined up as a running back, but that doesn't allow him or the team to maximize the talent of the Oregon roster.

Thomas was solid at running back to start the season, but he wasn't the same after returning from an ankle injury that kept him out for over a month. When he did return, running backs Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner had established themselves as stars.

The two backs are both bigger and stronger than Thomas, while Thomas is better in space.

After being unable to control the line of scrimmage against Stanford, the staff should have adjusted and sent Thomas on some deep routes to take advantage of the speed he possesses. 

 

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