Analyzing Stanford: What to Watch for as a Fan

from Video

How about an article concerning our upcoming game against Stanford with information you have NOT seen in all the innumerable media sources out there?  It seems that there are a few analysis points that we, as fans, can look for during this game that are not complicated, and yet our understanding of them will enhance the fun of watching this epic game for both you and I.  Let’s take a look . . .

A Crashing One-Gap Defense?

LBs crashing a gap

From Video

LBs crashing a gap

A defensive strategy I noticed in last year’s game was a “crashing one-gap” defense where our defensive linemen would shoot a gap between offensive linemen, and the linebackers would crash hard into the remaining gaps to plug the powerful running plays of the Cardinal.

1 gap crash

Look how both Clay and Alonso (above) were crashing the gap and how it messed up the Cardinal blocking, blowing up the play.  It makes us ponder how the Oregon defense will do this year against the Stanford power game.  While we don’t have last year’s starting MLB and ILB, I noted that current LB starter Derrick Malone played extensively last year, and our defensive line should be better with Wade Keliikipi back along with Arik Armstead, Alex Balducci and DeForest Buckner, being that much more experienced (they were freshmen playing big minutes in last year’s game).

Can their FOUR defeat our FIVE?

An area that has made the Stanford defense so difficult for their opponents is how they can rush four against the opponent’s five offensive linemen — and frequently win those battles.  That leaves seven for the Cardinal to have back in coverage, which sets up many turnovers and incomplete passes for them.

Trent Murphy #93

From Video

Trent Murphy, #93 in white.

Trent Murphy

Everyone is talking about the loss of DE Ben Gardner for the Cardinal defense, which IS big, but I noticed in the OSU/Stanford game that their pass rush did not miss a beat, even with his loss.  A player who has emerged into a monster rush threat is 6’6, 260 lb. LB/DE Trent Murphy (above), who had multiple sacks, TFLs and blocked passes, in the game at Corvallis.  He was not on the radar last year, and we fans have some huge matchups to keep an eye on.  Watch Murphy against the Ducks’ Tyler Johnstone, who is guarding the blindside for Marcus, and also watch the Josh Maura/Hroniss Grasu battle in the middle of the trenches.  These are four exceptional players at their positions and those battles will help determine the end result.

Watch for the Mid-Level Zone Read!

The Mid-Level Zone Read!

From Video

The Mid-Level Zone Read!

MIdline Zone read

How do you slow down the defensive line penetration into Oregon’s running game?  You Zone Read the defensive tackle on occasion instead of the defensive end!  This is called a Mid-Level Zone Read and is something that Marcus has become very skilled at reading.  We either don’t block the defensive tackle, or the Nose Tackle, as in the case above.  If the Nose Tackle “sits,” then the QB hands off to the RB, but if the NT chases the RB, (which is usually what they do) then Marcus pulls the ball out and takes off!  It DOES make defensive tackles/Nose Tackles hesitate, and it’s another great running play for the Ducks.  Watch to see how often we pop this play, and the way to detect it occurring is if Mariota is pulling the ball and running up the center of the field.  Watch the replay and look for a Stanford defender unblocked in the middle of the line; that IS intentional as Mariota is Zone Reading him.

Marcus Needs a Good Day . . .

Another missed opportunity

From Video

Another missed opportunity.

As a fellow fan . . . I hate to belabor the obvious, but Marcus has to be accurate passing the football in this game.  The Cardinal front seven is not just SEC-quality, but nearly NFL, since most will play on Sundays in that group.  Our running attack is going to be hit-and-miss, thus the passing game needs to be sharp.  Last year we had four situations on 3rd or 4th down, where if the pass was accurate — the game changes.  The good news is that Mariota is a BCS-experienced QB who WILL pass the ball well, and with the emergence of Bralon Addison to complement Josh Huff — it bodes well for our balanced attack against the Cardinal.


Stanford Can’t Afford to Play Catch-up . . .

A new factor surfaced recently for us Oregon fans to keep an eye on, and that would be whether the Ducks come out and grab a 17-point lead or more.  I rate that as a low probability, but if it occurs, then everything about defending the Cardinal offense dramatically changes.  We know their power running game is not conducive to rapid comebacks, and lately, Hogan has been going through the proverbial ”sophomore slump, ” compared to last year’s passing numbers.

Zach Ertz (left)

From Video

Zach Ertz (left)

Against the Beavers, his long ball throws were NOT impressive, which adds further credence to the concept.  Let’s face it . . . the converted defensive ends-to-tight ends for the Cardinal have NOT replaced the freak athletes who occupied those positions last year.  Zach Ertz could block AND run like a wide receiver, and I don’t see anyone that has truly replaced him.  Watch the points pile up for the Ducks if Oregon gets a sizeable early lead!

These are not complicated things for fans such as you and I to watch for, and see if you notice them in the game and whether they have the impact that this hack believes.

“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer
Eugene, Oregon

Print Friendly
Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks for thirty years and has written reports on football boards for over a dozen years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, a daughter, Christine, and their dog (Abbie) reside in Eugene, Oregon, where he has been a financial advisor for 30 years serving clients in seven different states. He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More...

  • QuackAddict

    If Oregon does run midline reads, (which I don’t think they will), it’ll be interesting to see grasu one on one with a MLB in space. Watch that GIF above, The MLB recognizes the play and takes an angle Grasu can’t block. Good run for Marcus but that is not the best play against Stanford’s front.

    • Ericsson

      First off, great work Charles. This is EXACTLY what I was looking for…

      In response to QuackAddict, I think you made a good observation, HOWEVER, I also think that a more developed Marcus might have bounced that play to the outside for a few more yards… We will see how he responds this year…

      • QuackAddict

        Should be interesting. Something I missed was a blown block by 61. However, I’d bet a lot that Stanford preps for this and will try to use an exchange type look. Every time the MLB sees the nose get read, he bolts backside. We’ve seen Oregon in the past read the MLB, this may be the week to do so.

  • Jean Tate

    Watch your prepositions. (both you and me/ for you and me). As an old English teacher, I can’t help myself.

    • FishDuck

      And THAT Jean…is why we have a staff of astute editors looking over my articles before publication. We had some editing problems for a few months, but the team above led by Steven Wright have solved most of them, but EVERYONE can find something to change that got by the staff. Thanks for the heads up…

  • Douglas Fur ’74

    bummer. you were right. post mortem we had an upward trend. the tree’s scoring went downhill and our’s increased. what was defense doing later that worked?
    it looked like they could anticipate the read and cut off the most likely lanes.(they’re nerds a statistical analysis of our plays could show the most likely routes. block the top 3 or4 and the other 39 steps may as well be a movie title.) the read option takes advantage of the opponent’s reaction time. if they take immediate action we’re trapped in the backfield.
    what’s the next level? a pre- snap read?
    the goal of our intense practices is automaticity for each play. how do we get think time to zero and action to 100%?