Can the Ducks Ride Momentum to Win Over Stanford?
Stanford Week is upon us, and our Ducks seem to be hitting stride at just the right time, coming off a 44-28 victory against Cal that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
Oregon scored 31 unanswered points to end the first half after being down 10-0 early to the Golden Bears, and it seems as if most of the offensive issues that plagued the Ducks have disappeared with the return of a fully healthy Vernon Adams.
Oregon racked up a school-record 777 total yards on Saturday, and it would have been uglier if not for two ill-advised throws in the red zone that resulted in interceptions.
Speaking of miscues, the Ducks had two blocked punts in this game that resulted in short fields and lead to touchdowns for the Golden Bears.
Including the 10 points scored following the end zone interceptions, that’s 24 points off of Oregon miscues for Cal. Again, this game was not nearly as close as the final score indicated.
However, as Mark Helfrich said following the win, the way the Ducks showed resiliency despite these mistakes speaks to the development of this young team.
“Despite all the things we did to kick ourselves in the gut, we never flinched, and that’s a good thing,” Helfrich said. “You don’t want to be tested like that, but how they responded was good.”
Oregon will have to fix these mental errors quickly, as a prime time matchup on the road with No. 9 Stanford looms this weekend. Stanford is on an eight-game win streak, and has looked like the best team on the west coast since a season-opening loss to Northwestern.
ESPN’s Ted Miller published an article on the ESPN Pac-12 blog detailing how this year and last year’s matchups have a different feel than years prior, when Oregon vs Stanford was a national title-shaping affair.
For this year’s battle, in a cruel inverse of last year’s, Oregon comes into the game unranked and on the road against a heavily favored Stanford team with College Football Playoff aspirations.
Do the Ducks have a shot at knocking off the Cardinal? Absolutely.
The offense (both rushing and passing the ball) has played well over the past three games. The defense has been improving and was solid on Saturday, allowing Cal to convert on only 6-of-15 third downs.
It also held consensus top NFL prospect Jared Goff to a woeful 43.9 completion percentage. Tyree Robinson’s move to corner along with Charles Nelson’s play at safety have paid dividends in the secondary, and both made great plays on Saturday.
Stanford’s offense isn’t particularly good throwing the ball, but they use their prolific running game, spearheaded by do-it-all back Christian McCaffrey, to set up opportunities in the play-action game.
Oregon’s defense will need to build on Saturday’s success and stay disciplined, and hopefully they create some turnovers. That being said, Stanford is good at taking care of the football, experiencing only nine giveaways on the season.
The contrast in team philosophies is the same as it has been over the course of this rivalry (explosive offense and tempo vs stout defense and power running). In truth, the only difference between this game and the matchups of years past is where the teams are ranked.
The Ducks are still in the Pac-12 North race (they need help even if they win out, as Stanford will remain ahead in the division by one game even with a loss to the Ducks).
This, along with the history between the teams, should provide plenty of motivation on Saturday. Oregon will have to play their best game of the year, but crazier things have happened (and will continue to happen) in college football.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove