ASU Football: Behind Oregon’s recent struggles

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 16: Quaterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Oregon Ducks runs with the ball against the Boise State Broncos in the Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 16, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Boise State won 38-28. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 16: Quaterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Oregon Ducks runs with the ball against the Boise State Broncos in the Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 16, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Boise State won 38-28. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images) /

Prior to ASU football facing Oregon on Saturday night, it’s time to take a look at what has contributed to the Ducks’ three losses in the last four games.

Depending on a variety of factors, hangovers usually last a couple hours and are gone a day after a late night. The hangover for the Oregon Ducks football team came following a late-night victory over rival Washington.

After ending a two-year losing streak to the Huskies, in which the Ducks lost by scores of 70-21 in 2016 and 38-3 last season, Oregon entered a matchup against Washington State ranked No. 12 in the nation.

The Ducks entered with their College Football Playoff hopes largely intact with a 5-1 record. What happened after the game and eventual 34-20 loss to WSU, has proven to be a season changing – and a disappointing – hangover.

The hangover has come in form of a 1-3 record since the 5-1 start due to a less than productive offense and a struggling defense. After the WSU loss, the Ducks allowed 44 points in a loss to Arizona who entered the matchup averaging around 28 points per game.

Oregon’s other loss during the four-game stretch came against a Utah team that was led by both a backup quarterback and running back. The last play of the game came from quarterback Justin Herbert, who spiked the ball at the 50-yard line in hope of one last attempt at the end zone but instead threw the ball as the clock struck zero.

What has caused the hangover to last so long? Here’s a statistical dive into why the Ducks have struggled in their last four games.

Oregon’s Obsolete Offense

One of the biggest differences from the first six games to the last four has been the performance of the offense. After averaging an outstanding mark of 43 points per game during the team’s 5-1 start, Oregon’s offense has struggled to put points on the board, falling to 26 per game during the four-game skid.

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While the points per game are slightly inflated in the first six games due to playing opponents such as Bowling Green and Portland State, the offense has still shown a decline in the last four games.

Here are three main reasons why the offense has struggled to both move the ball effectively and put points on the board of late.

Justin Herbert

Let’s be honest here.  Herbert will play on Sunday’s and most likely be taken very early in the 2019 NFL Draft. A big part of that has come due to Herbert’s accuracy and his body that closely represents the NFL prototype as he stands at 6-feet-6 inches tall.

Finding bad performances in Herbert may be donned as nitpicking but is necessary when discussing the Ducks troubles. After completing 67 percent of his passes last season, Herbert appeared to be on the same track after completing over 70 percent of his passes in half of the first six games on the year.

Since the start, the junior quarterback has completed over 60 percent of his passes just once during the four-game skid, including a performance against Arizona where he completed only 24 of his 48 pass attempts in the 44-15 loss.

The Running Attack & CJ Verdell

While Herbert has struggled to complete the ball through the air, the Ducks have also struggled running the ball.

Oregon has been known as a top-rushing team year in and year out with the main success coming under now-UCLA head coach Chip Kelly. While the Ducks are taking advantage of their successful quarterback play, running the ball has been a recipe for success.

In the team’s victories, they have averaged just over 200 yards on the ground, while in their losses, they struggled to barely gain 100, sitting at the 109 mark in all four losses on the year.  The Ducks have seen a drop off in production from the team’s leading rusher in CJ Verdell during the four-game skid.

Verdell began the season averaging 89 yards per game with four touchdowns on the ground. In the last four, the freshman back has  a rate of 47 yards per game, including a game against Arizona where he ran the ball six times for 14 yards.

The inability to run the ball hinders Herbert and the offense as opposing defenses are able to drop back into coverage, leaving fewer players in the box. This has been evident in several games, including the loss to Washington State where the Ducks ran the ball 24 times for 58 yards.

Disappointing Duck Defense

To wrap up the struggles of Oregon, we must flip to the defensive side of the ball where the numbers have also been on a downward trajectory since the Washington win. These numbers include points allowed where the Ducks went from allowing 25 points per game through the first six games to 33 points per game in the last four.

This is due in large part to the defense also allowing more yards in losses. The Ducks allow 442 yards in losses compared to 381 in wins.

While there is no direct problem on the defensive side of the football, and several problems on the offensive side of the ball, the Ducks have simply been outplayed of late. The transition to a first-year coach can be difficult and it’s something that Oregon has had to deal with for two straight seasons.

Next. ASU Football: Sun Devils radiating confidence after third consecutive win. dark

The team will look to get back to their original form against a team that is trending in quite literally the opposite direction. Arizona State enters the bout on a three-game winning streak while looking to secure a spot in the conference title game.