Oregon Ducks

Cristobal & Moorhead agree running the ball is of 'primary importance'

Oregon Ducks

With the addition of new Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead to Eugene, the Ducks will be attacking through the air with new-found aggression.

“We’re taking a lot of shots in practice, and that’s what I’ve noticed. Tyler [Shough] and the other quarterbacks, they’re opening up and it’s awesome,” junior running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio said near the beginning of fall camp.

The new, aggressive passing philosophy has gained headlines during fall camp before Oregon fans get to see the offense on November 7th, but throwing will not be the basis of the offense.

Physicality and running the ball will still be a priority for Moorhead and the Oregon Ducks.

"When Coach [Cristobal] and I talked about what he wanted from this position and what we were going to do, our shared belief that running the football is a primary importance is a big part of it," said Moorhead Friday afternoon.

Moorhead's experience and results as a play-caller speak for itself. 

"We've done a nice job throwing the ball and creating explosive plays throughout the history of this offense, but I believe for the last 11 years that I've called plays, we've had a 1,000-yard rusher in the offense. So, our ability to be successful offensively I think is predicated on our success running the ball because everything stems off of that."

With just seven games in 2020, that streak may come to an end but not if starting running back CJ Verdell has anything to say about it.


“I’d definitely like to reach that 1,000-yard mark once again, definitely a big goal of mine,” Verdell said on October 14th. 

Moorhead's comments align with the mentality Mario Cristobal brought to Eugene after his promotion in 2018.

"Just the mentality that Coach Cristobal has brought here... 22 years and the best teams I've been on, the mentality of the teams is dictated by the offensive and defensive lines. Coach [Cristobal] always harps about... playing with physicality and knocking people back."

That doesn't mean the Ducks will be running a pro-style system. When Chip Kelly revolutionized college offenses in Eugene, his offenses still ran the ball more often than not and took shots downfield when appropriate. 

That philosophy appears to be similar to what Moorhead wants to run in the 2020 season, and the running back room has already seen how it helps make the running lanes even wider. 

“I love that we’re taking shots, because it even softens up the defense for the run game and vice versa," added Habibi-Likio. “Same philosophy with smashmouth football and I think that’s always going to be here as long as Cristobal is here and I hope it is. But really, just opening it up and going downfield. I know we want to start fast.”

However, don't expect the hurry-up offense of the Chip Kelly Ducks to return, even if Moorhead is bringing back that level of rushing and vertical passing. 

"We're a multi-tempo team. We're more concerned with running the best play against the look presented as opposed to running a bad play, quickly," said Moorhead. "We can play as fast or as slow as we need to."

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent]