When it comes to the Oregon Ducks football season this year, the accomplishments the team and program made are unreal. For the team, for individual players, for the coaches and the university, it was more than a successful season; it was a historical one. After the 2013-’14 season ended last year, a group of writers for ESPN wrote team-by-team season reviews for all the Pac-12 football programs and graded them based on their performance that season.
Kevin Gemmell wrote the one on the Oregon Ducks football program. Here is a brief discussion of what Gemmell wrote in his review for each of the following positions: offensive and defensive performance and then what they could possibly be given for a grade after ’14-’15 season.
Offense: “The Ducks stormed out of the gates and scored at least 50 points in their first five games and in six of their first seven. Then Marcus Mariota quietly, partially, tore his MCL and Oregon’s offensive decline was evident. They went from scoring an average of 57.5 points per game in the first seven to 31.3 over the final six.” After Mariota was injured the game changed for the Ducks. They averaged less points and struggled more on the offensive side of the ball. Mariota’s injury not only hurt himself but the team as well. Regardless, the offensive squad still played well and having three key players in Byron Marshall, Josh Huff and Bralon Addison, the Ducks maintained a strong offense. “Aside from a couple of games, the Ducks offense was explosive and potent. Grade: A“
This season the Ducks had one of the best seasons in college football. A lot of the responsibility of that success laid on Mariota’s shoulders; however, one player doesn’t win games and the whole offense is to thank for the Ducks’ success this season. Mariota staying healthy throughout the season helped a lot when the Ducks suffered other offensive losses due to injury such as LT Jake Fisher early in the season. The Ducks scored at least 40 points against all their opponents this season except for against Arizona in the regular season where they scored 31 and in the national championship game where they only scored 20. Mariota set various records for the university, the Pac-12 and was named the best quarterback in the nation by winning the Heisman trophy. 2014-’15 Grade: A+
Defense: ”Stanford and Arizona used similar tactics in their wins over the Ducks. Run, rinse, repeat. Tyler Gaffney carried the ball 45 times and Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu were as advertised, combining for eight interceptions and Derrick Malone posted a team-high 105 tackles with two interceptions.” Last season the Ducks struggled and the idea of having a soft defense probably carried into this season due to last season’s defensive results. The biggest difficulty for the Ducks was third-down defense where they allowed teams to convert better than 40% of the time. “In the games when things got tight, the defense wasn’t able to get off the field. Grade: B“
There was still a lot of controversy and opinion on Oregon’s defense throughout the season this year and in some ways, no matter what the players executed on that field they were still being referred to as “soft”. It is interesting that the defensive report for last season begins comparing Stanford and Arizona’s defensive game to the Ducks as they dominated both teams this season. Granted, Arizona defeated the Ducks early in the regular season but this only caused Oregon to work harder and to learn from the mistakes during that game. They came back to stomp the Wildcats into the ground in the post-season to earn the Pac-12 Championship title a berth in the first-ever College Football Playoff. The best example of the growth of the Ducks defense this season would come from how they played in the Rose Bowl against FSU, especially in the redzone and putting pressure on FSU QB Jameis Winston. 2014-’15 Grade: A
Gemmell also discussed the special teams unit and the overall team performance. It is definitely safe to say that the Ducks’ recent season and their previous season were very different in many ways, but mostly when it came to the success of the offense and defense. The ’13-’14 season had obstacles, such as Mariota being injured and unable to run the ball as much as he did this season. The Ducks ’14-’15 season came with different injury challenges that affected the team but also revealed some diamonds in the rough who took advantage of their field time, such as Evan Baylis in the Rose Bowl. Overall, this was an A+ season for the Ducks on the field and off the field, not to mention one that will be remembered in the history of college football for a long time!
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck