With trick plays expected, Ducks will have to stay disciplined to not get burned

The Ducks are the superior team, and Oregon State knows it. But successful trick plays are the great equalizers


Key Matchup:Oregon’s defensive discipline vs. Oregon State’s trick plays

It’s very apparent that when Oregon and Oregon State lineup on Friday, the difference in skill level and talent will be aplenty.

The Ducks are the far superior team in size, strength and overall athleticism, traits Oregon has used to dominate the series with nine wins in its last 10 meetings with the Beavers.

But to win the 122nd meeting of the Civil War, the Ducks will have to be very disciplined on defense knowing that Oregon State head coach Jonathon Smith will have some tricks awaiting.

“Those are things that are game-changers, gaining possessions,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said of the trick plays. “We've got to make sure that we're on the road playing a conference game… we can't give up any possessions."

One of the best ways Oregon State can even the odds is by using trick plays to keep the Ducks defense honest. If the Beavers try to go toe-to-toe with Oregon and match its physicality, the results won’t be their favor. Instead, using a multitude of trick plays will not only surprise the Ducks with success, it will also force Oregon to play more honest and not cheat on plays it might recognize.

“Discipline is at a premium — it always has been. No. 1, that can never change, that always has to be one of the absolute principles and values of what you do,” Cristobal said.

Smith is widely regarded as one of the Pac-12’s most gambling coaches, in the sense that he has no problem pulling out a trick play whenever he feels. Special teams seem to be where his specialty lies in these gadgets plays, particularly after last week’s game against Washington when the Beavers used three of them on special teams alone.

The trick plays are something Oregon State practices regularly, making sure the players and everyone involved be as comfortable and as prepared as possible for when the right situation occurs. But not all trick plays make it to the game, only the ones with perceived success.

“We’ve had a couple fake punts in practice that just had no chance,” Smith said.

Because of Smith’s play-calling capabilities and perpetual love of gadget plays, Oregon must be more prepared than ever for what’s to come.

To be successful, the Ducks must stay focused on their individual tasks and trust that their teammates are doing the same. The last thing Oregon needs in a game like this is a player trying to do too much and getting himself out of position. It’s plays like these that Smith will be looking to expose and catch the Ducks out of position.

"Play disciplined because if you start telling your players 'watch this, watch that,' they've got to watch their own job and their own responsibilities because we've seen all kinds of stuff on offense and on special teams as well,” Cristobal said. “You show them the tape so that you understand look some other teams might have shown one every now and then maybe not run it. But these guys do, they run it. So, don't let your eyes drift. Don't take for granted your responsibility has been taken care of.

The game within the game promises to be an exciting affair.

If the Beavers want any chance of taking out the Ducks, the trick plays will have to be executed to perfection to either sustain drives or lead to explosion plays and scores. Likewise, Oregon must stay disciplined and trust in its preparation to not be caught off guard by anything and make this game as simple as possible.