Several of you alerted me to a story last week in The Oregonian about Oregon installing a new system of signals for its fast-paced offense. The juicy part suggests that Ohio State might have stolen the Ducks' signals in its 26-17 Rose Bowl victory on Jan. 1.
John Hunt's story starts off like this:
Ohio State was so successful at stopping Oregon’s offense in its 26-17 win over the Ducks in the Rose Bowl that, at times, it seemed as if the Buckeyes knew what was coming.
“There were a couple times last year when we kind of felt like our signals were, maybe, compromised,’’ offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said.
It's very important to note that Helfrich never calls out Ohio State by name or cites specific examples from the Rose Bowl. The reporter makes a stronger suggestion than the coach does. But when you look at Oregon's incredible offensive numbers from 2009 and how rarely the Ducks struggled to move the ball and score points, it's a good bet Helfrich was referring to Ohio State. Oregon scored 31 points or more in 10 games last fall and eclipsed 40 points seven times. The Ducks put up just 17 against Ohio State despite having great field position all game.
Did the Buckeyes steal signals? We might never know for sure, but I don't think it's why they won the Rose Bowl. I saw a physically superior group of defenders execute the scheme and their fundamentals against a gimmicky offense. Ohio State was extremely well prepared for the game, and Oregon ball carriers didn't have the room to run or the arm tackles that they were accustomed to in the Pac-10.
Oregon had its chances to win, and the Ducks didn't make enough plays. Sideline signals are an important part of the game.
So is not fumbling the ball through the end zone for a touchback.