“Be he live or be he dead I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.” That’s what I was thinking as I watched the Buckeyes destroy the Oregon Ducks in the inaugural College Football National Championship Game.
The brutality of the game of football, the physicality of the game of football, beat the Oregon Ducks. Where Oregon tries to run a play every 14 seconds and wear down their opponents, they were defeated by an old-school axiom that has been around the game of football from its beginning: a bloody face will make a player quit sooner than fatigue.
OSU attacked the middle of the field with their running game. Zeke Elliot and the counter OF destroyed the Ducks. They pummeled the Ducks’ defensive front; they controlled the LOS; they physically bludgeoned the Ducks and forced them to quit. And I was reminded of something one of my old coaches, Bill Belichick, used to say: “He who controls the middle of the field, more times than not, wins the game.”
But Oregon’s offense is different. The Ducks’ offense is predicated on deception, creating mental errors, and forcing you to play vanilla defenses. The snap-the-ball-as-quickly-as-you-can offense is not about what YOU can do, it’s about what your opponent CAN’T do. It dumbs down the game. It turns a game of chess into checkers and that’s why it sucks buttermilk.
Oregon mocks conventional thought in the game of football. Time of possession means nothing to Oregon; third down conversions are devalued because fourth down conversions are part of their offense; points are de-emphasized because a TD or bust mentality pervades the coaching booth; forget about field goals and, by the way, we’re going for two after we score a touchdown.
But a conventional, fundamental, old school belief derailed the Ducks’ National Championship dreams in 2015. The Buckeyes controlled the LOS on both sides of the ball. Ohio State got Oregon into a street fight, jammed them into a telephone booth, and that’s not where Mark Helfrich’s team wants to be.
And it showed.
Football is a game of emotion. Teams emote on the field and on the sideline. Defense is about morale and offense is about hope, unless you’re Oregon. Their offense is so good these truths don’t apply. Their offense provides morale and hope. And when the Ducks’ offense faltered, their defense was suddenly put into position to win a game. The opportunity to pick up the offense and provide morale was there but they were unable to capitalize on this opportunity. In truth, the exact opposite happened.
Unfortunately for Oregon, the antonym for morale is fear and nothing will make a team more fearful than not being able to stop another team from running the ball…right…down…your…throat.