Oregon's Whack Passing Attack: How to Get the Ducks Back on Track

Caleb M.Analyst ISeptember 21, 2009

EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 19: Jeremiah Masoli #8 of the Oregon Ducks looks to pass the ball in the third quarter of the game against the Utah Utes at Autzen Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Eugene, Oregon. James had 157 yards and scored a touchdown as Oregon won the game 31-24. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

The Ducks are now 2-1. It seems we're light-years away from Blount's idiotic punch, and I often catch myself asking, "LeGarrette who?"

If you had a chance to catch the Utes game, you know exactly what I'm talking about. LaMichael James—as I predicted—stepped up big-time and took care of business.

Our running game is right on track. It's outstanding. Crenshaw had a rough day, running for negative yardage. But James sure made up for it in the 31-24 win over the Utes, with Masoli also getting about 50 yards in addition to two touchdowns.

A surprise, though, came out of Kenjon Barner—a freshman who switched from defensive back to running back. The stats are unimpressive, but he really played well and had two key runs. Look for good things from him. 

Bair and Thurmond led the defensive attack on the Utes, keeping us in the game when they were in dangerous territory. In fact, if not for the defense and LaMichael James, we would have lost.

While I'm overjoyed with our victory, the rushing game, and our defense, there's always room for improvement.

The passing game is where that improvement is necessary. It was sloppy, and really worries me. A fellow Duck writer wrote this article, pointing out the new coordinator (Mark Helfrich) should be to blame.

And seriously, he makes a good point. Helfrich is from Colorado, which can't be good. He hasn't run the option play like he should, and really should be fired if not for our awesome running game led by LaMichael James.

Helfrich has headed unsuccessful offenses in Boise State, Colorado, and a few before that. He doesn't deserve the spot, and has turned our passing game into something horrific. 

Masoli threw some really terrible passes during the Utah game. He ended up running it or throwing it away almost every pass. There were even a couple drives during the third quarter that were pathetic and all-around painful to watch.

Masoli isn't at totally at fault. As I mentioned earlier, it's coaching. 

The Ducks' offensive talent includes two star tight ends, a decent scrambling quarterback, three decent backs, and an above-average receiving corps. Not to mention a good offensive line.

Our receivers are definitely not the problem. We have transfer Jamere Holland and Jeff Maehl leading the pack. Maehl had a huge 50-plus yard catch against Utah, in fact. Then there's Ed Dickson and Rory Cavaille to consider.

So what's the problem?

The play-calling must change, and Masoli needs to improve his accuracy. These are the two things Oregon needs to change in order for the passing game to pick up.

Why are we not running more option and reverse plays? When we have, it either ends up a first down or at least a gain of good yardage. The play-calling, frankly, is terrible, and forcing Masoli to scramble or make bad passes. 

Masoli's accuracy was also off when playing Utah. He zipped the ball too many times and threw the ball behind his receivers numerous times. It resulted in some picks and a lot of fourth downs.

If Masoli can work on the passing and the play-calling improves, we could have a real shot at Cal. James takes care of business on the ground, while Thurmond, Bair, and Thomas do the same on defense.

Passing will really make the difference in the upcoming game, especially with the linebackers on Cal's defense...they could really make a difference.

That's not to mention Jahvid Best on offense, a potential Heisman-winner and a real force to be reckoned with.

If they shut down our passing completely, we'll need a miracle to win if we simply rush the ball with James, Barner, and Masoli—despite how good they are. Especially if Best scores some touchdowns.

It's going to be a great game come Saturday, but the passing really has to improve. It has to change before we can contend with teams like Cal, USC, Arizona State, or think about serious bowl games.