On the first drive of the game Oregon was moving the ball and had a 3rd&1 around midfield when all of the sudden a false start which turned into a 3rd & 6. On the following play Mariota under threw a wide open receiver (Lowe I believe) for a TD.
Throughout the first half they had opportunities to score TD's and came up empty mainly due to unforced errors with the one caveat being Stanford's goal line defense seemed to give us fits. Part of that is play calling and other part was Stanford just being more physical and overly aggressive at the point of attack which we couldn't expose. All in all I counted at least three Oregon scores that "should have been in the first half".
Defensively for Oregon there was a mix of ingredients that lead to Stanford's success. One very specific pass interference call against Ifo where he intercepted a pass at the Oregon 3 yard line which Stanford ended up scoring a TD and some really bad missed tackles. For the most part I felt like the D-line played well but the LB's were out of their gaps on quite a few run plays. Now I don't know what assignments were on those specific plays but it seemed like multiple times LB's were either in the same gap or late to their assignments. As far as tackling goes there is a specific 3rd down play that is baffling in which 3 Ducks got to Hogan on a run to his left on 3rd & long and he breaks all 3 tackles keeping the drive alive. They eventually scored a FG to end the half on that drive. Also it wasn't just that particular play but it seemed as if the entire game Hogan had vasoline on him every time Oregon tried to tackle him. To his credit he made some great reads however on many of those plays I'd give him a 2-10 chance of gaining yards and it seemed like he was 10 for 10 on those.
The other part of the defensive problem was Tyler Gaffney. He played one of the toughest games at as a running back that I've ever seen. He waited for his blocks, made several good reads, and rarely went down on first contact. In short yardage he made sure that his first priority was getting north to the line to gain. Oregon actually had quite a few plays holding Stanford to 1 yard to negative yards however it seemed like when it counted Stanford just made plays. Gaffney carried the ball some 45 times in that game and even when Oregon stripped him in the 3rd quarter the ball just bounced right back to him as he was going to the ground. Sometimes its just the way things go but I believe a mix of missed tackles and great individual effort by Hogan and Gaffney was key in last years game.
Marcus Mariota and all his greatness was injured last year and watching the film it was apparent in the running and passing game. In the running game there were times that he normally would have run or the read option would have been dialed up and wasn't. In the passing game aside from the first quarter underthrow with Trent Murphy on the ground next to him Marcus seemed very uncomfortable in the pocket and a few times fled early when he could have stepped up comfortably. In the third quarter when Oregon was driving inside Stanford's 30 yard line Marcus goes down hard by 3 Stanford defenders after scrambling and loses a fumble. He obviously was in a lot of pain after that play and the next series looked indecisive when he missed wide open Byron Marshall on a play where I think he normally would have ran and then on third down missed a wide open Josh Huff. He seemed to regain his composure later in the game but that is really one of the only times I've ever seen him rattled. All in all with as much pressure as Stanford was bringing I felt like the O-line did a really good job but Stanford's defense seemed to just get enough pressure to make Marcus uncomfortable. I'm sure the injury had a lot to do with his discomfort and regardless he still played like a warrior which I don't think he gets enough credit for his toughness.
In the running game (again not knowing the play call) a few RB's seemed to miss at least three times cut back lanes that could have gone for big gains. I believe these are plays that LMJ would make and those are game changing plays. I believer Royce Freeman will make those plays this year.
To sum it up you could say that Oregon has a "Stanford problem" as it's impossible to say if all of Oregon's unforced errors were due to great plays by Stanford or if they were just uncharacteristic plays by Oregon all happening in one game. Or you could say that Oregon has an "Oregon problem" which to me after watching the film is more accurate based on all the unforced errors and uncharacteristic mistakes they made. Keep in mind the 2013 Stanford game looked similar to the 2014 Arizona game and if the same Oregon team that played against Arizona shows up against Stanford it could be another battle. I don't think that will happen and if Oregon can limit its unforced errors and play with passion I don't see them losing this game. I think Oregon will fix it's "Oregon problem".
With that said here is my prediction:
Major factors in my prediction that will make an immediate impact compared to last year are the addition of Royce Freeman, a healthy Mariota, and an increased emphasis on the run game. Not to be forgotten is at wide receiver Oregon's new red zone threat and possession receiver Dwayne Stanford will be a factor thus causing Stanford to have a "Stanford problem". Also considering Stanford is minus Tyler Gaffney and no longer "playing in a phonebooth" which to me are two huge factors in last years game make it an easy pick for me. I don't think Hogan can beat Oregon again especially with the new offensive scheme they are running (though I wouldn't be surprised if they go back to the "phonebooth" scheme often for this game) and he will have the Ducks full attention. I realize that Oregon may have some deficiencies on defense but overall I believe they have made gigantic improvements the last few weeks (yes even over Cal as I think Goff played as good as he has all year and is a future NFL QB). Between Freeman, Mariota's Health, and Dwayne Stanford I think the red zone play will be much improved this year along with having new play-makers, and a high degree of motivation to beat Stanford, Oregon puts on its best showing of the season and rolls 41-13.
Now with that said I think the following week at Utah (Stanford 2.0) will be a different story but for this week enjoy the beat down!
Thanks for reading!