Myths of a Stanford Victory
Has the emotion of the Stanford game worn off of you yet? For so many of us — it is almost impossible to objectively look at an Oregon football game as it is being played or shortly after, and give an accurate assessment of it. Yet after some days have passed and I have gone back to study the game — completely new impressions emerge that run contrary to much of what has been written about this top five team contest. There are many “myths” about the Stanford game that many Duck fans believe, and I wish to offer a different view about them for all to consider.
“We’re going to hang 40 on Stanford!”
This is a misguided notion that not only De’Anthony Thomas believed, but also even yours truly going into this game, held. It is based upon the Ducks’ ability to put up points easily without taking into account the team we were playing, and the true situation of the game conditions. We had only four possessions in each half, due to the nature of the Stanford offense with their ball-control attack. (We will discuss our defense in the game on another day.)
When Oregon is playing perhaps the best defense ever faced by the Ducks, then it is unrealistic to fail to take into account the fewer times Oregon will have the ball in the game, thus fewer chances to score. By nature, Duck scoring will drop in a game such as this.
Oregon only had two possessions of punting quickly, and even the first punt was after a long missed TD pass opportunity. If you go back and watch the game . . . you’ll see that the Ducks’ move the ball extremely well quite a bit of the time. However, when you have so few opportunities to score — you must capitalize inside the Red Zone.
Knowing how stout the Cardinal are, and now knowing the vanilla game plan used by Oregon — it makes sense that the Ducks attacked with the passing game — and ending with 300 yards of total offense, which is not a surprise in a game such as this.
If the Ducks had achieved perfection on offense, then Oregon would have lead at halftime by only a 21-17 score. That is assuming three touchdowns out of four possessions and that while it sounds a bit optimistic, it was, in fact, completely possible.
“Marcus Mariota was injured and it limited our offense.”
Much has been made of the injury suffered in the UCLA game, yet I went through the game and found numerous times of Marcus moving well or running for a first down or buying additional time in the pocket. Look at the play above, which occurred with ten minutes left in the third. He’s running pretty well!
Notice how in this play we watched Mariota move his feet in the pocket (above) and then run outside to give himself more time and space to throw the touchdown pass to Brown. Again, this was at the end of the game and he was moving well, even then.
A myth that has made the rounds of the Duck message boards is how the Zone Read play was rendered ineffective due to the injury to Marcus and that is just plain false. I checked through the game and noted that he handed the ball off (as he is doing above with five minutes left in the game) when the defensive end or outside linebacker of the Cardinal was “sitting” in the lane to prevent the QB run option.
I did not see obvious hand-offs in a Zone Read play, and while I would like to have seen some Mid-Level Zone Reads — I understand that this would have exposed Mariota to more potential injury, and I agree with that decision.
For Oregon fans to claim that Mariota’s injury kept us from winning the game? They are only fooling themselves; the Stanford offense, defense and Oregon’s poor decisions in the Red Zone, are the reasons for this loss.
“Our repetition in play-calling works!”
I agree with Managing Editor & Writer for FishDuck.com Nathan Roholt in his article yesterday where he felt the Stanford 2013 game is for Coach Helfrich as Boise State of 2009 was for Coach Kelly. Both coaches felt that if they simply played their style of game with no alteration, that victory would ensue. That is TRUE for weaker opponents, but when you are playing one of the top ten college football teams in the US — you must dig deeper into your playbook and open the number of plays available for a game.
Our Red Zone play calling often consisted of Power Plays followed up by pass plays when we were in 3rd-and-long situations. We have to show more innovation than running repeated Inside Zone Reads twice consecutively inside the ten-yard line against eight rigid Stanford defenders in the box. The Cardinal defense was well prepared for those plays, and our usual repetition will not produce points that are so badly needed when we get so few opportunities.
The judgment used by both the coaches and players surprised and disappointed me at times. Where was the usual Oregon Game Plan for big games? You know the plays pulled out from 2008, or from last year? In 2011, Oregon surprised the Cardinal with an unbalanced line down on the Farm, and so how were the Ducks going to offset the “Bear set” with the Stanford players blasting into the “A” gaps (the space on both sides of the center)? I did not see ANY new wrinkles and frankly have been stunned by that since we witnessed quite a few when we played the Huskies AND Oregon had the extra time to prepare!
I was also disappointed with ball security decisions made by the Duck skill players, (above) but upon reflection have considered that the huge winning margins in other games may have contributed to that phenomenon. Oregon’s players simply have not been in many close games, and do not have the experience in clutch situations. Do we, as fans want closer games? NO — but the above condition is a byproduct of those lopsided victories.
Of course, exposing these myths makes the loss harder for Oregon fans to swallow, but we need to know the truth –thus sayeth FishDuck.
We made too many mistakes to win against a truly great Stanford team, and even with the elimination of those errors? We still would have been in a close dogfight that would have been very entertaining. Just as we watch the growth and maturity of the players, as they get more experienced, I believe we just watched a young head coach learn some lessons against Stanford, as well.
This will pay off in the huge games of the future, as I believe Coach Helfrich has this program headed toward an eventual step up from where he inherited it. Those lessons are necessary for that next step!
Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks . . .