Myths of a Stanford Victory

From Video

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.

Daryle Hawkins scores!

Craig Strobeck

Daryle Hawkins scores!

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.”

Running for 1st Down

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!

Brown TD

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.

Zone Reading

From Video

Zone Reading

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 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.

Tough yards

Craig Strobeck

Tough yards

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!

Tough to watch

Craig Strobeck

Tough to watch.

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.

Thumbnail HelfrichOf 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 . . .

Charles Fischer
Eugene, Oregon

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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...

  • tristanh314

    Thank you for the insight Charles. This was a TOUGH one, in addition to everything you mentioned I thought the tackling from the defence was poor, especially in a few key situations (i.e. 3rd and 8 in Stanford’s red zone).

    It is curious how your analysis dispels that Mariota’s knee was a major issue with his mobility. I recall a quote from Coach Shaw after the game (I paraphrase here):
    “We didn’t know how hurt he was until we saw he had huge lane on a read and didn’t take it.”

    I wonder if perhaps rather than the knee affecting Mariota’s speed, it more affected his mindset?

  • Jason Curtis

    I’d probably disagree on the Mariota injury. There were certainly plays he looked good and plays he did what we needed. But there were several plays he just didn’t run. And a couple where he looked ‘slow’. (slow for Marcus). Not to say he played bad or we didn’t need him or anything like that. But I do feel that limits our O. Rendered inneffective? Nah. Alterterd and not quite as effective? Yes in my opinion.

  • Bill Lake

    Attended that game. As a season ticket holder, I’ve seen Mariota at his best and he WAS NOT at his best on Thursday – questionable throws, WIDE OPEN holes by the line (missed opportunities), tentativeness and looking like a deer in the headlights, the Ducks fumbled and failed fourth-downed their way into this loss. If the blamers are looking for targets, I’m afraid to say it was a coaching staff fail in this game…… where was Tyner, Mundt and Brown? Rather than picking the Cardinal apart, it always looked like we were looking for the Hail Mary, game saving prayer rather than a strategic tactical surgery. Props to the D for keeping us in the game, but look to the coaches, they need to stick to the game plans that brought us to that point . . .

  • Jesse

    My personal opinion, Stanford would have had to change their offensive game plan, had we scored early. If they’re down 10 or 14, they can’t shorten the game to the extent that they did. Do you agree?

    • John Canzano’s V necks

      YES. 100%. Jesse wins the internets!

    • FishDuck

      Hey Jesse,

      I covered that in my analysis last week-go into the Directory (tab above) to see it. And yes I agree.

  • Oregonizm

    I hear ya Charles … We could have, and should have, had a touchdown for each of Stanford’s four field goals. Four times we stalled in the red zone without taking away a single point. The only thing that kept us in striking distance was the defense limiting Stanford’s drives to field goals. This was a very winnable game.

  • errol barney

    My take on the Stanford defense, they were able to pin their ears back due to the snap count. As the 1st half progressed the timing of the Stanford backers hitting the gaps was apparent.
    Secondly, you can’t turn the ball over in the Red Zone against teams that are the caliber of Stanford.
    Lets go Trojans.

  • Keith Dennis

    I disagree with the assessment that Mariota’s knee didn’t affect the game. Of course it did. Simply pointing to a few examples of him moving and running doesn’t mean that post-knee-injury-Marcus is equal to pre-knee-injury-Marcus. Having a knee injury affects mobility and accuracy. Either the knee was hurting and entering his mind as part of his decision making process, or it was no longer hurting, but still entering his mind. Because after injury, until you’re 100% and have put your injured member to the test and had it pass, it will affect you. You still have to play the game with the team you’ve got. I’m sure Stanford would have preferred to have Ben Gardner in the game.

    • FishDuck

      Hey Keith,

      There are many on the boards out there trying to set up a straw man of my argument to then knock down. I acknowledge he was injured, but not to the dramatic extent that many would claim. For some to say “we lost because Mariota was injured” is giving other players/coaches a pass and is insulting to the effort of Stanford.

      We should have won this game despite MMs injury is my point.

  • hokieduck

    I am afraid that I have yet to shake the game; watched not one game this past Saturday, but very glad you called it like it was. While I do think that MM’s knee had a decided impact, I agree with your assessments. The Ducks got beaten in almost every way one can be beaten. It hurt.

    I would just love to see the Ducks offense against the power game. We certainly did not see that last Thursday night. The Ducks defense needs some bigger guys. The interesting thing that erupts from this game is whether it will adversely affect recruiting. That would be the lasting damage.

  • geoduc

    excellent piece Fish

  • oregon111

    ok, now about the defense: the graduated linebackers were missed and ghosts were in their place — LBs made very few plays

    that is a product of bad recruiting

    also, the only oregon players with ‘physical’ traits leave the Ducks: Lyerla, Harper, that RB from lamike’s school, anthony wallace

    which leaves the Ducks as a finnesse team — yes, its true