Stanford vs. Oregon: It’s Not The End Of The World – Even If It Feels Like It

The #1 Oregon Ducks’ national championship title hopes took a significant blow last night when they dropped their match with #14 Stanford, 17-14 (OT). In a game where statistics demonstrated how closely matched this contest was, small errors loomed large. What was particularly disconcerting to fans, however, was the fact that (losing notwithstanding) we did not recognize the team that played the Cardinal.

The game started as a slugfest and neither defense let up. It was a relief that there were no apparent physical injuries during this game, which was remarkable, as both sides were playing tough, physical football. Given the concerns going into this game about the health of the Duck defense, the defense played well enough throughout the game to keep it close. If the offense had shown up and held up their end then the final result would have been different. A lot of credit needs to go to the Ducks defensive coaches. They’ve successfully dealt with some unfortunate injuries and changes in starting personnel, and the defense played an excellent game last night. They kept the game winnable, which is all one can ask for.

The Oregon offense we saw against Stanford was unfamiliar. It was not the runaway blur that we’ve come to know this season. This was an offense that struggled to move the ball. They had great difficulty, with a few exceptions, in getting in the red zone. When in the red zone, they could not convert to points. We saw 3-and-outs. We were even reminded that we have a punter! Unfortunately, we were reminded of that quite a bit. One can hardly blame fans for feeling like they were cold-cocked – the offense had an off night, and we’re not used to that. Oregon became a victim of it’s offensive success; seeing the offense struggle like it did only magnified the mediocrity of their play.

The inept nature of the offense was especially apparent in the 1st and 4th quarters. Were it not for a 77 yard run by Marcus Mariota, the 1st quarter statistics would be truly horrific. As it was, Mariota’s stellar run was all for naught – it was only one of the 2 first downs Oregon managed in the first quarter, and the Ducks could not convert it into points. It was an ominous indication of what was in store throughout the game.

Midway into the 2nd quarter, the Ducks started to show an offensive pulse, even if it was fainter than we were used to or would have liked. In the first quarter, not including Mariota’s run, Oregon had 20 total yards of offense. By the half, the Ducks statistically had pulled even with the Cardinal in rushing, passing, and total yards, and were pulling closer in first downs. One had a glimmer of hope that after some halftime corrections, the Ducks could come out, get some drives going, and wear Stanford down.

The team hoped for after halftime never entered the field. In hindsight, there were clearly dark clouds on the horizon at the half that led to feelings of unease. We were tied 7-7, but troublesome numbers jumped out – especially not being able to score from the red zone, converting only 2 of 8 third downs, and converting no fourth downs. Even so, aren’t the Ducks always a better 2nd half team?

After trading punts, the Ducks put together their best quarter of the game in the 3rd quarter. They were having success on the ground. In spite of incompletions, Colt Lyerla and Josh Huff had drive-saving receptions. The drive was capped by DeAnthony Thomas’ 6-yard run into the end zone. It was easy to feel better about the offense. We had 8 first downs to the Cardinal’s two. We were better in rushing and passing. We managed to pull ahead. And yet…there were still those darned clouds. Oregon converted 2 of 5 3rd downs, but still had only converted 4 of 13 by the end of the 3rd quarter. Beyond that, there were two glaring problems that became apparent. First, the Ducks did not, could not, convert turnovers into points. Second, they still can’t kick a field goal to save their skin – or the game. That special teams failure would come back to haunt them in overtime.

In the fourth quarter, the wheels came loose. Stanford ate up significant portions of the clock, and clearly they were able to get some offense going while the Ducks could not. Oregon did not convert 3rd downs. They did not make any first downs. The Ducks only gained a pitiful 20 yards of offense the entire quarter. When Stanford tied the game, the foreboding cloud of doom that hung over Autzen bore down painfully on all. One had the uneasy feeling that, given how badly the offense was playing, overtime was going to be a losing proposition.

Stanford won the toss to Oregon’s first overtime since the 2007 season. After the flip didn’t go our way, it was not surprising when the Ducks generated no offense, yet again. Time to kick a field goal. While it may be unfair to suggest that the loss of a game is due solely to having missed a field goal, it cannot be ignored that the Ducks’ field goal kicking stinks this year. It is perhaps the most glaring weakness of this team. No one could have been surprised that Oregon missed the field goal attempt. With that miss, the sense that the Cardinal was going to come through with a field goal of their own to win the game was unavoidable. It felt like a foregone conclusion. Stanford did indeed make their kick, and then rushed deliriously on the field, having knocked off another #1 foe, and having deflated the undefeated hopes of yet another Oregon team. Autzen hushed immediately into silence, and stunned fans left the stadium, speechless.


 

“We don’t make excuses. Stanford played better than us tonight, and they won the football game.”

- Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly

 


The loss, the suddenness of the conclusion to overtime, felt like the Ducks had lost it all. It will not be easy to shake the disappointment at seeing Oregon’s national title hopes take what could very well be a terminal blow. When the disappointment has faded, and clearer thoughts form, we’ll be able to rationalize the fact that not all is lost. Oregon could still be in the PAC-12 championship. Oregon still has a shot at a BCS game. The Ducks even have a shot, however slim it may be, to find their way into the title game. The first order of business is to defeat the Beavers in Civil War.

The rest is out of their hands. UCLA needs to beat Stanford for the Ducks to be in the PAC-12 championship game, provided Oregon can beat Oregon State. If USC can defeat Notre Dame next weekend, that has the potential to start the ball rolling that the Ducks need to find their way back into the national title conversation. It’s a long shot, but not outside of the realm of possibility. Even if the Ducks land in the Rose Bowl or another BCS game, it would be a fact that they would be the only team to have made it to 4 BCS games is a row. That’s something for this young team to hang their hat on and it would mean that the Oregon Ducks would have ended another very successful season.

We’ll have to remind ourselves of that, though, because this morning it sure doesn’t feel like the feeling of success. Consciously remind yourself that it’s not the end of the world.

 


 

  • It was senior day at Autzen Stadium.
  • Oregon had 20 first downs and Stanford had 21.
  • Both teams were well matched on offense with Oregon having 405 yard total offense and Stanford with 411 yards of total offense.
  • Stanford had 3 fumbles, 2 recovered by Oregon, while Oregon had none.
  • Oregon had 5 players receiving with a total of 207 yards. Stanford had 8 players receiving with a total of 211 yards.
  • Both teams punted often with 6 punts for Stanford and 8 for Oregon.
  • Oregon rushed for a total of 226 yards with a average of 4.9 yards per play.
  • Stanford had a total of 216 yards rushing with a average of 4.3 yards per play.
  • This game is Oregon’s 4th loss in 38 games. It was also QB Marcus Mariota’s first loss as a starter.
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Carl Blackwell

Carl Blackwell

Carl has been an avid fan of the Ducks for nearly 20 years. He worked in a great variety of professions, as well as being a business owner and manager, before lending his talents to the Fishduck team.Carl does writing, but is mostly behind the scenes at Fishduck, in providing management and vision support, and as the Publisher and Senior Editor.

  • Len Swanson

    I think Mariota has to take some of the heat. Sure, he’s a freshman, but the quarterback has to assume some firey leadership. Chip might have trusted the Hawaiian too much, Bennett could have provided a key spark off the bench. Go Ducks

    • http://www.facebook.com/gilbert.medina Gilbert Medina Jr.

      I agree with taking some of the heat. 10 games of praise of his poise and leadership flushed down the toilet in the first qtr. Rough game for the kid. I think we should’ve seen bennett at least for a few series.

  • sws

    Mariota played like a freshman finally and had some mistakes but we still should have won the game.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gilbert.medina Gilbert Medina Jr.

      That as a tough game, but the final should’ve been 17-7 Oregon or even 17-14 Oregon. That would’ve been acceptable.

  • sws

    2 years in a row Maldonado cost us a chance to play in the national championship. It’s time he sits on the bench and we get a real kicker that can handle the pressure. All he does is kick the ball in practice every day, he’s the reason we lost so hopefully he will lost his scholarship.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gilbert.medina Gilbert Medina Jr.

      ^ so 4 quarters of bad calls from chip and failed attempts from the offense didn’t lose the game? 2 missed kicks for a kicker that’s only kicked once before in 10 games? ok. if you say so.

    • Megan Fox

      He has no range and lets the pressure get to him, we obviously need another kicker! He had his second shot and failed!

  • LADuck

    Great report..spot on…small mistakes in a tight game seriously magnified the potential for a loss. You could feel them adding up…But Ducks D held Stanford to 7 points until one minute left in the game. + 3 Stanford turnovers we could not convert on…Even on a night when our offensive was challenged we should have won. Love my Ducks!

    • Carl

      Also … isn’t it odd that a week after Stanford beats the Beavers while losing the turnover battle, Stanford beats the Ducks while losing the turnover battle? A one-time fluke I can see. But in what backwards college football parellel universe do you get to lose the turnover battle week after week and still win games??

      • LADuck

        Guess in the cfb universe where you are playing against what seems like four or five defensive players that could start in the NFL today! Unfortunately, most were wearing red and white last night…

  • Jason

    I love my fellow Duck fans, but the idea that you yank Mariota, the guy who was #1 in QB rating in the country, is ridiculous. As a group Duck fans may be as quick as Eagle fans to turn on a player. Maybe we should have put Marshall in????? Kenjon had a rough night too.
    They say football is a game of inches. DAT missing a block on Marcus’s long run would have certainly = 7 points. On that same drive on 4th down I think we missed a read, Marcus should have pitched to KB in space with 1 defender and 1 blocker. Ifo jumping the route and almost coming down with a pick. And allow me to jump into the back seat driver seat for a moment. I thought the play calling was off last night. I’m certainly not going to say I know more than Chip…..I just felt like everything was off last night.

    • LADuck

      Absolutely correct..the DAT missed block, the Lowe dropped pass on third down…and the play calling WAS off. Not going for the field goal on 4th and 1 (inside the 10) when it was already obvious the red zone was going to be a challenge. We failed and the MM run went for nothing. It was weird. The third down call in OT? The constantly trying to get outside with Barner when the Cardinal had totally penetrated the edges on almost every play. No Byron Marshall? It seemed our receivers were often too deep and MM had no one to dump off to hwen rushed out of the pocket; no bubble screens, no screens off blitzes…but Stanford always seemed to have a tight end in place to save Hogan from our blitz and many of those saves ended up as Cardinal first downs.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gilbert.medina Gilbert Medina Jr.

      ^ well said. Missed opportunities, missed blocks, bad reads, penalties, missed tackles, mental mistakes… all self inflicted wounds. As much as it pains me to say, Stanford played a better game; at our house. I’m not an analyst but have played and loved the game my whole life. I have to say that coach Kelly seemed off his game. I’m a huge fan of Kelly and credit him with the transformation of a great program to a superior, champion program. Oregon’s “2nd half team” credit is because of the regrouping they do at half time. With this game it felt like we were watching a replay of the 1st half. Same play calls, same mistakes. No pace, the team hung their heads. I heard commentary “Marriota showed his inexperience on the big stage” BS! he’s been poised all season, even through the USC game. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. I’m not saying Bennett should’ve taken over for Marcus, but this is a winning team with lots of depth. We should’ve seen the Bennett/Lyerla package at least a couple times. Marshall should’ve been in for that “raw power” It’s like you brought an arsenal of weapons to war but elected to stick to the assault rifle and never brought out the RPGs. I love the motto Win The Day, but it wasn’t the case last night. Time to view film, put pride aside, accept our failures and Win the next game. BCS is kinduva joke anyway, eff the computers. The title is nice but not indicatory of a true championship team. That road will be crossed if they get there, for now time to secure the win on the Beavs.

  • LADuck

    Is this scenario correct? UCLA has locked up the PAC 12 South. Stanford plays Bruins at the Rose Bowl this Saturday. If Stanford wins (regardless of Civil War outcome) they have to play UCLA again five days later in Palo Alto. (PAC12 Championship Game is following Friday night)

    If Stanford loses (and Beavers win) Stanford has to play UCLA at the Rose Bowl AGAIN on Friday night at the Rose Bowl. Five days later!

    If Ducks beat the Beavers and Stanford loses, Ducks play UCLA at Autzen
    for PAC 12 Champ. by virtue of the Bruin loss to the Beavers earlier in the season.

    If Bruins win out they have potential home field advantage at the Rose Bowl (in the 2013 Rose Bowl!) against Nebraska who they already beat this year at the Rose Bowl!!

    Go Ducks! We can still do this!

    • http://www.facebook.com/gilbert.medina Gilbert Medina Jr.

      I love when people put it in perspective like that. thank you.

  • Megan Fox

    We killed them with wide receiver screens 2 years ago and came back from a 21-3 first quarter deficit yet i only recall like 2 or 3 in this game and we gave up on them after one or two didnt yield much yardage. Play calling felt wrong all night. Id like to see more Bennett and the Beast and DAT as a third option back. Also lets give marshall a few touches to change the flow of the game. And for the love of god lets practice all those pass plays in the playbook

  • kleptolia

    That was a strange game. How many times did Mariota run toward the sidelines, with nobody finding the holes in the zone so that he could have a place to throw to? Where were the receivers going?
    Also, there were several times that the pocket collapsed around Marcus, but he chose not to run. I understand the need to not give up on the play, but sometimes a quarterback’s exercising his right to run will make the linebackers more willing to break coverage and come after the qb when he exits the pocket. Maybe that would have helped his receivers get open on some of those plays where he had to throw the ball away. He chose to stay in the pocket, though. I have a feeling that he was playing hurt.
    Also, I have seen a number of articles on this very site describing the many varied formations that the Ducks have used this year. Last night, I didn’t see much variation at all. Of course, I am not an expert analyst, so I may have just missed something. Still, I didn’t see the Ducks use a stacked receiver formation once. I didn’t see Lyerla in the backfield on more than a couple of occasions. I wonder what the coaches saw that I didn’t.
    Also, the officiating was bad; it was bad for both sides. I don’t blame the loss on the refs, though. It’s just an independent observation.
    Finally, most of the credit has to go to Stanford. They played a very smart disciplined game. Staying on the correct assignment is the key to beating the Ducks or any other football team. Whether you are playing Alabama or Oregon, or Wofford State, staying on your man is what will get you the farthest. Stanford reminded the college football world of that truth on Saturday night.
    It was as fascinating to watch as it was frustrating.

  • DrDon

    Gentle commenters:

    At least one of you should be open enough to admit that you ran into the best defense in the nation. That did matter.

    • http://twitter.com/joshschlichter Josh Schlichter

      Totally agree. Hard to say that they are anything else

    • http://twitter.com/joewaisman Joseph Waisman

      The Ducks would run through a brick wall to score…so, you could say that Stanford’s defense presented more than a brick wall.

      The reality though is admitting that does little. What is more interesting is trying to understand what our team can do better. In short, how can they benefit from this loss by improving as a team? Criticism of the Ducks should not be considered insulting, but rather an attempt to understand what happened, and what should happen in the future.

  • Craig

    (Stanford fan) I’ve read a lot of comment streams since Saturday night about the game (and added to none of them), but I have to hand it to the Duck fans on this particular site. In general, you guys seem to be the most fair-minded, no excuses, credit-where-credit’s due bunch I’ve seen — with the possible exception of the author of this article. Sure, maybe some of the Duck players might have made some uncharacteristic errors, but his premise seems to be that UO lost because “the offense had an off night.” Well, you know what? Maybe “[t]he Oregon offense we saw against Stanford was unfamiliar” BECAUSE of Stanford and a defensive squad that had the Ducks’ number, time and time again. The commenters on this article give more props to the Cardinal D than the author seems to be able to do. Tip of the hat. You have an incredible team that I hope earns a BCS bowl bid (for the PAC-12’s sake), with or without beating the Beavers. Go Card.

    • Carl

      Thank you for reading, Craig. It may not have been obvious that this article was not written for you or for any of the other Stanford fans. My recap is written for Ducks who watched the game and did not comprehend what they saw. I think I clearly stated the point of my article in the title and contents.

      My job is not to analyze the great job that the Stanford defense did during the game. My job was to tap into the emotions that all of us as Ducks felt at the loss. You will find with this week’s analysis that we at Fishduck will, and do, give credit where credit is due in regards to the great job Stanford did last Saturday. But right after the game? That will fall on deaf ears to the fairest-minded of fans right after a loss.

      Ultimately, I write as a Duck fan for Duck fans. While I understand and appreciate your sentiment, with all due respect, in the same situation, I would write the same article.

      • Craig

        Fair enough. Your reply was as unexpected as it was appreciated. Best of luck.

  • OREGONu4ever

    This whole season sucks now that we lost to Stanford…I dont even care anymore. UCLA is going to throw the game so they can play stanford again and not worry about Oregon….UGH….We will probably even lose to OREGON STATE….SUCKS SUCKS SUCKS….this whole season is a waste!

    • JDWebfoot

      Great comments from a Duck fan that doesn’t even know how to say the school’s name. Really believable! Go back to Alabama.

      • JDWebfootisadouche

        Your just a negative person…your mean and horrible. I will go to Alabama…at least they win championships!