OREGON — Ducks fans might want to take a nap before making their way to Autzen Stadium for No. 2 Oregon’s Pac-12 opener against Cal.
“We’re going to be here late Saturday night. Real late,” defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti warns. “I don’t know why they moved (the kickoff) to 7:30 (p.m.).”
The Ducks (3-0) are averaging 61.3 points and 672 yards per game. Due to the efficiency of the Marcus Mariota-led offense, which has completed 21 of its 25 touchdown drives in under two minutes, Oregon is averaging only 72 plays per game.
The Bears (1-2) are averaging 94.7 plays per game through the first three games of the Sonny Dykes era.
“We can’t match that,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “Hopefully our guys are used to playing up tempo. Our communication, how we do those things different, hopefully pays off in a situation like this.”
Aliotti described the pace of Oregon’s closed-door practices in the Moshofsky Center as “ridiculous.” When one play ends, another football has already been placed for the offense to snap for the next play.
Anything the Bears can do, the Ducks believe they can do faster.
“In practice, you probably don’t even have 10 seconds in order to get ready for the next play,” safety Brian Jackson said. “I’m pretty sure that a ref would spot it a little bit slower than that. I think we’ll be prepared.”
Dykes is the son of legendary Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes. As an assistant under Hal Mumme at Kentucky and Mike Leach at Texas Tech, Sonny Dykes was able to learn from the masters of the “Air Raid” attack, which helped start the modern spread offense revolution in college football.
Last season under Sonny Dykes and new Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, Louisiana Tech led the nation in total offense (577.9 yards per game) and scoring offense (51.5 points per game).
Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff is currently leading the nation in total offense, averaging 429.7 yards per game, running the “Bear Raid” this season.
“You see how they roll, and then we adjust to it,” Jackson said. “If it’s faster than we’re used to, then that’s going to be pretty fast.“
The Ducks have plenty of depth and talent on the defensive side of the ball this season. The tricky part for Aliotti will be finding time to rotate players in and out of the game when the Bears are driving.
“We’ve seen guys snap the ball fast before, and it’s not going to make our guys instantly uncomfortable,” Helfrich said. “You can see in some of these other games there’s teams that aren’t lined up or trying to substitute at the wrong time. Hopefully, that’s not something that throws us off too much.“
Cal’s defense will also be up to speed on Oregon’s defense. That doesn’t mean the visitors will be able to slow the Ducks down, considering the Bears have yielded 42.0 points and 556.3 yards per game this season.
“The good thing is we play fast, so our defense sees it every day in spring practice and fall camp, so that puts you a little ahead of the curve,” Dykes said. “We are up around 90 plays per game, so our offense goes pretty fast as well. When you are trying to prepare for Oregon and run specific plays, that does make it hard for your scout team to play at that tempo. You have to adjust your practice schedule, how you teach and implement things when you are preparing to play an offense like that.
“So we will make some changes, but the good thing is that our guys go about 75 percent of the time in practice against a fast-paced offense.“
With plenty of commercial breaks expected after Oregon scores, and Cal averaging 56.3 pass attempts, the conference opener at Autzen Stadium figures to be an exhausting late shift for coaches and players.
“Until the game goes, you don’t know, but if somebody can no-huddle us and tire us out, then more power to them,” Aliotti said. “Then we’re in a world of hurt. Both teams would be tired then.“