Analyzing Stanford: What to Watch for as a Fan
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?
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.
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.
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!
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 . . .
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.
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!”