Now that the Dust has settled after a VERY hard/sad/frustrating/stunning/is this really happening loss to Stanford last night, I figured we might as well talk about the elephant in the room: what went wrong?
Before we go there though, I want to take a minute to jump on a soap box. College football is weird. I love it (obviously), but sports media is soooooooooooooooooooo fickle (no the “O” on my keyboard didn’t get stuck). Seriously though, I know I’m kind of biased right now but it’s kind of stupid just how a team can be “unstoppable” and “one of the best teams in the country” all season long- until they lose one game. Yes, there were issues, and we will get to those, but for cryin’ out loud, can all you sports writers just calm down. The fact is, sometimes teams have a bad day. That doesn’t mean all is lost and suddenly “all their weaknesses are exposed”. I’m not saying that Stanford didn’t deserve to win last night, what I’m saying is that the win doesn’t mean the Ducks deserve a media whoopin’. They’ve blown out every other opponent and are STILL in the top 5 best teams in the country. OK soap box is over.
As a fan base we naturally want to rationalize this unexpected loss, so I’m going to do my best to break down what went wrong. Then, we are going to move on. The season isn’t over and there IS still a chance the Ducks can make it to the National championship. Don’t let anyone tell you that they can’t. It will take a miracle, but that’s what many people thought it would take for Stanford to beat the Ducks. Ya Dig?
So what happened?
1. Oregon’s offensive line struggled to keep up with the Stanford defense. Ultimately this put a lot of pressure on Mariota, making his job really hard. The O-line is there to protect the quarterback and they didn’t do that well last night. Mariota therefore never really found his flow aka Island Finesse. He had to scramble all night and had a hard time finding open receivers,who frequently didn’t have enough time to get open. This caused Mariota to have to throw the ball away (too many times). Basically, too much pressure on Mariota affected the whole game because it made it hard for him to pass, forcing him to hand the ball off more- something the Cardinal can shut down…easily.
2. The Spread offense was limited. The Spread offense thrives when a team can pass and run well, and has a dual threat quarterback who can run with the ball as well as he passes it. This type of offense keeps defenses guessing where the ball is going. Because Stanford was able to put so much pressure on Mariota, essentially limited his ability to pass, they forced the Ducks to run-eliminating the guessing game. They knew where the ball was going to go- most likely Barner, or Mariota was going to take off with it; Stanford has the best rush defense in the country, so they were then able to shut them both down, most of the time.
3. Missed field goals. Maldonado, had a bad night. It happens. There’s nothing else to really say about it.
I know there is probably a lot more to critique, and a whole lot of opinions out there, but that’s true for any game. I imagine these are just a couple things the coaches will hammer on and I have no doubt they will pick up the pieces and come out stronger than ever. The Beavers better be on their game. Bring on Hurdle #2.
Go Ducks! You still got this.