Sunday, November 2, 2014

BASTA: Oregon Beats Stanford At Their Own Game

((HT: BASTA/Ben Leonard))

Despite a dominant start by Oregon that left the Cardinal down 14-3 mid-way through the first quarter, Stanford charged back and pulled within striking distance. However, the Ducks and Heisman Trophy favorite Marcus Mariota made plays when the Cardinal could not, making the game an absolute laugher. Oregon gave Stanford a dose of their own medicine, dominating them on the ground behind a healthy (finally) offensive front. The Ducks outrushed Stanford 267-131, and were too much for a usually-dominant unit. The Ducks did not let up with the score out of hand until midway through the fourth, clearly releasing two years of pent-up frustration in a 46-16 blowout. Oregon was the first team to score more than thirty points against Stanford since Arizona in 2012.

The Ducks took the ball on the opening kickoff, and wasted no time in marching down the field, going seventy-five yards in just over four minutes. Mariota burned Stanford on the ground and through the air, totaling twenty-seven yards rushing and capping the drive with a six-yard touchdown pass. Stanford’s depleted front seven offered little resistance, letting the star quarterback have his way. Stanford felt the absences of nose tackle David Parry and end Aziz Shittu, key parts of the previously first-ranked defense nationwide. This drive was a microcosm of the rest of the game; Oregon’s speed and physicality brutalized the Cardinal.

Kevin Hogan quite possibly had the best half of his career in the first half, completing thirteen of his seventeen attempts for 162 yards and a touchdown, but he could not finish drives, including the first drive of the game. He was not plagued many of his customary miscues, and was very accurate and collected. He wasted great field position stemming from a Ty Montgomery return, forcing Jordan Williamson into attempting a forty-seven yard field goal, which he nailed. Autzen Stadium has been kind to the fifth-year senior, who hit the redemptive game-winning field goal in 2012. Oregon answered with an even quicker score, taking just over two minutes to go seventy-five yards for the touchdown, a twenty-two yard run in which Mariota escaped pressure and ran in untouched to take the 14-3 lead. Hogan played better on the next drive, but the end result was the same, another field goal to cut the lead to 14-6. The early deficit left Stanford on its heels, forced to play catch-up against the high-tempo Ducks, not a position the Cardinal are built to succeed in.

The Cardinal’s defense let Mariota have all day to throw, and they paid for it, falling behind 24-6 midway into the second quarter. With their backs to the wall, Stanford mustered an excellent seventy-five yard drive for a touchdown, capped by a one-yard touchdown from Patrick Skov to cut the lead to 24-13. Hogan completed eight passes for fifty-five yards on the drive, utilizing screens and sideline passes to his speedy, physical receivers, including Devon Cajuste. Cajuste had a field day against the undersized Oregon secondary, snagging five catches for 115 yards. Stanford went into the half with a chance to steal a win from the Ducks despite only scoring one touchdown in four trips inside the thirty-five yard line.

Stanford came out of the locker room energized, taking the ball all the way down to Oregon’s thirty-two yard line. Hogan ruined a seemingly promising drive with an ugly interception, throwing into double coverage on a pass intended for Devon Cajuste, handing the ball to the potential Heisman Trophy winner at his own one yard line. He had become overly reliant on Cajuste, and missed multiple open options shorter on the right side. Hogan’s blunder ultimately did not cost the Cardinal too much, as Alex Carter snagged an interception on the ensuing drive. Had Mariota thrown outside to his receiver, Carter would have had no play, but Mariota threw it right into Carter’s hands for an easy pick at Oregon’s forty yard-line.

Down 24-13, the ensuing drive could have been a defining moment for the embattled Hogan. Instead, it was just another typical Stanford drive, stalling in the red zone. A holding call against the undersized, overmatched center Graham Shuler contributed to this, leaving Stanford with a first and twenty at Oregon’s twenty-six yard line. Shaw also made a questionable decision on fourth and two at the eight, electing to take a field goal. Stanford needed a catalyst, and a first down would have been. A score would have cut the lead to four points, yet Shaw stayed with his conservative ways, destroying any potential momentum, despite cutting the lead to 24-16.

The end of the third and fourth quarters were another story for the Cardinal. After another Ducks’ touchdown, Kevin Hogan was stripped on an apparently promising drive, giving the Ducks the ball at the forty and the victory. Tony Washington stripped the ball from Hogan on a strong man’s play; ball security was not an issue for Hogan, but it killed any waning hope. Marcus Mariota took advantage of the field position, running in for two more touchdowns to make the game a rout. Mariota finished with 258 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and eighty-five yards and two scores on the ground.

Here's the highlights as proof...
((HT: Pac-12/FoxCFB))

Stanford’s ineptitude on both the offensive and defensive lines is concerning going forward. Oregon’s offensive line was a perceived weakness, yet there was no “Party in the Backfield,” as the Cardinal put almost no pressure on Mariota, and sacked him just once. With the loss, Stanford falls to 5-4 and loses all realistic hope for a Pac-12 North title (The Cardinal would have to win out and Oregon would have to lose out). The loss was their most lopsided since 2007, in which they went 1-11 and fell 41-3 to ASU. Oregon showed no weaknesses, and barring injuries, their path to the College Football Playoff should be relatively easy. They pushed the Cardinal around on both sides, imposing their will on a team that had previously established such an identity.

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