Don’t take your eyes off …
Oregon junior wide receiver Dillon Mitchell thrives in press coverage situations, and these past three weeks, in any situation. Mitchell’s hands weren’t so reliable in Oregon’s first three games, when he caught just six balls for 98 yards against lower-tier opponents Bowling Green, Portland State and San Jose State. But he more than doubled his season catch total and yards total in the next game alone, with 14 receptions for 239 yards against No. 7 Stanford. Then it was seven for 105 against No. 24 Cal, and most recently eight for 199 against No. 7 Washington. Seeing the No. 25 in front of Washington State’s name could be what fuels a third consecutive 100-yard outing for the 6-foot-2 Mitchell.
When Oregon has the ball …
The Ducks still run traditional spread schemes and still try to operate with tempo, but they’ve gone away from the blur offense that Chip Kelly used when he modernized the college game nearly a decade ago. An offensive line guru, Mario Cristobal, is now at the helm of the Eugene program. Even with a Heisman-caliber quarterback under center, the Ducks have only thrown it 178 times this season while logging 278 run plays. Cristobal’s intentions were on display, front and center, when the Ducks beat the Huskies in overtime last Saturday. Oregon’s final offensive play in that game was a 6-yard inside zone run by CJ Verdell, who sprinted through a big gap created by the Duck blockers to punch in the winning touchdown.
When WSU has the ball …
Inside zone might as well be foreign language to Mike Leach and the Cougars. They’ll stay on-brand against an Oregon team that ranks third to last in the Pac-12, allowing 239 passing yards per game. Gardner Minshew comes off one of his most efficient games of the season, completing 30 for 40 passes for 430 yards and five touchdowns against Oregon State, and continues to put lots of faith in his outside receivers. Easop Winston Jr., Tay Martin and Dezmon Patmon have caught 45 passes for 697 yards and eight touchdowns in the past three games. If those three continue to get open, and Minshew stays interception free, the Cougars could be in line for another high-scoring game.
Did you know?
WSU may not be running the ball much this season, and may rank 127th nationally in total carries (127), but the Cougars have shown they’re dedicated to getting the ball into the end zone via the ground. In 13 games last season, they rushed for eight touchdowns. WSU has already surpassed that number in six games this season, and the Cougars enter this game with 12 rushing scores under their belt. Junior James Williams has become a more consistent finisher in the red zone, with five rushing touchdowns, and freshman Max Borghi, also with five rushing TDs, employs a physical running style that’s built for goal-line scenarios.
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