Chris Petersen is 2-0 against Chip Kelly, and UW’s defensive staff has a history of slowing down Kelly’s dynamic spread offense.
The game is infamously remembered most for the right-handed punch Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount delivered to the chin of Boise State defensive end Byron Hout in a postgame scrum.
Up until the punch, the most stunning development on Boise’s blue turf on Sept. 3, 2009, was the Broncos’ complete shut down of Chip Kelly’s offense. No college team has ever quieted Kelly’s offense quite like Boise State did that night in its 19-8 victory over the Ducks to open the 2009 season.
In Kelly’s four years as the Ducks’ head coach, from 2009 to 2012, Oregon’s blur offense routinely embarrassed Pac-12 defenses, to the tune of 44.7 points per game. That’s not the case any more — or at least not yet — in Kelly’s return to the Pac-12.
In his four years at Oregon, Kelly lost a total of seven games — and just three against Pac-12 team. Now in his first season at UCLA, Kelly is 0-4 and the Bruins’ offense ranks dead last in the Pac-12 with an average of 17.0 points per game.
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No. 10 Washington (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12), boasting the nation’s top-ranked scoring defense, is a 21-point favorite heading to the Rose Bowl for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday.
“We all get how hard it is to be new, to be a new staff, putting your system and how you do everything,” UW coach Chris Petersen said.
“Each week they’re getting a little bit better. Obviously, the respect we have for Chip and his staff — those are smart guys. They’ll stick to their process and their script and those guys will continually get better.”
At Oregon, Kelly was 4-0 against Washington, with an average margin of victory of 27.2 points in those games.
“I always thought they were a good team when I was in the league,” Kelly said this week. “The history that Washington has, you can date back a long time when Don James was there. … I think the history of Washington football and the Pac-8, Pac-10, Pac-12 has always been really, really good, and I think Chris is one of the best coaches out there, so it doesn’t surprise me at all the success they’re having.”
Petersen is 2-0 head-to-head against Kelly.
After Boise State’s victory in Eugene in 2008, their rematch to open the 2009 season was at the time called the biggest home game in Boise history.
“Our guys knew how big that game was,” said Washington co-defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, then Boise State’s defensive-line coach. “It was a Pac-12 school coming to Boise, so it was this big deal and our guys were fired up. It was an awesome win for those guys.”
Kwiatkowski remembered being especially concerned about Oregon’s running game going into that matchup. Boise State’ defense recorded a safety when Blount was tackled in the end zone, and wound up holding the Ducks to 31 yards on 17 carries — the fewest rushing yards in Kelly’s run at Oregon. The Ducks’ eight points were also Oregon’s fewest during those four years.
“You’ve got to be able to play tight coverage because of their RPO (run-pass option) and all the other stuff they do in the pass game, and then they had really good backs and we almost felt like we had to be perfect (in our run fits),” Kwiatkowski said this week. “If one guy was out of position (it would be trouble) because we were playing more of a ‘zero’ concept back then.”
The proliferation of the spread offense throughout college football can be traced, in part, to Kelly’s success at Oregon.
Defenses had to adapt, and the Huskies are a prime example of that. Washington has made speed a priority on defense, and they almost exclusively run a nickel defense (five defensive backs) now.
“(The spread) totally changed the way defenses are structured now,” Kwiatkowski said.
Offenses are starting to adjust again. And the Huskies are an example of that, too, with their use of multi tight ends (something Petersen has long favored) and with senior QB Jake Browning going more and more under center to take traditional snaps.
“It always goes in cycles,” Kwiatkowski said. “It’s funny: Now it’s coming back. You’re starting to see more condensed formations because teams want (defenses) in zone coverage. Or if they are in ‘man,’ the offense will run picks. Back then (in 2009), everything was spread out and they’d try to get the ball out and try to get the ball to their playmakers in space.”