Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
The Cal game was by far the scariest, most nerve wracking 42-point blowout win I've ever seen. It's a tale of injuries, a tale of halves, and a tale of Mariota becoming one of if not the best quarterback in the nation. It's also a tale of Panic!
Nine in the afternoon
The most important stat that came out of this week:
5. The number of defensive line players in order of depth chart that were injured by the half of this game. Not only did Oregon lose all of its starting front 4, it lost another player in the backups. Isaac Remington, Taylor Hart, Jared Ebert, Wade Keliikipi, Ricky Heimuli all out. That meant starting the 3rd string nose guard and the 3rd string defensive tackle. In addition to that, we were starting (and almost certainly will be starting) a 3rd string safety after Avery Patterson's injury.
The good news (if you can call it that) is that this explains a lot about previous games.
5.9: the yards per rush Cal gained. (and 2: the number of DLinemen lost)
5.0: the yards per rush USC gained. (and 1.5: the number of DLinemen lost)
4.5: the yards per rush Colorado gained (and 1.5: the number of DLinemen lost)
4.06: the yards per rush average Oregon had (including the above three games)
Shocking no one, the rushing average has increased against Oregon as Oregon's D takes hit after hit. This couldn't come at a worse time given that Stanford is coming to town with an offense that basically runs first, second, and then passes to a great Tight End if needed. This is an actual reason to worry somewhat. Oregon's D is getting worse against the run against teams who aren't particularly adept at running the ball, and that correlates almost entirely with injuries suffered. Look closely at the 2-deep when it's release, and hope. Hope a whole lot.
I write sins not tragedies
Sinning is a good metaphor for what happened in the second half of the Oregon-Cal game. As I've talked about before, one of the ways that Oregon wins the ground game defensively is by simply putting too much pressure on the opposing team to score quickly. And Oregon did that once again.
24: number of rushes Cal did including the drive to get to 24-17
10: number of rushes Cal did the rest of the game when it mattered (excluding two series where all they did was rush the ball when the score was 52-17).
Now some of this was Oregon making some really nice stops early in the count that forced Cal to stop trying to run so hard - but a lot of it was simply Cal abandoning the run early. As an example, in their drive to score in the 3rd quarter they ran 7 times in a row, and every run was successful. They never gained that much again, and they never ran that much in a drive again.
2/2/14: The number of interceptions thrown by Bridgford in the second half, the number of plays it took to score after those interceptions and the points scored because of those interceptions.
Allan Bridgford got into some manageable but difficult 3rd down positions (3rd and 9, 3rd and 6) and in both cases tried too hard to make a play. In another case, after a great Cal kickoff return, they went 4 and out after needing 12 yards and failing to get anything on passes. That's the pressure that Oregon puts on you. Some teams feel it when they're down a bunch; in this case, Cal seemed to start pressing when they could get within striking distance.
The Ballad of Mariota
1st: The ranking of Marcus Mariota's passer rating in the entire nation
18: the number of TD passes Marcus Mariota has thrown in the first 8 weeks of the season
10: the number of TD passes Marcus Mariota has thrown in the last two weeks.
6th: the approximate ranking of where Marcus Mariota would be in the Heisman voting if it was done today.
176.96: the overall rating of Marcus Mariota, a full 5 points ahead of the next best QB
240.71: Marcus Mariota's rating against USC and Cal.
82.5: the completion percentage in those two games
11.9: the yards per attempt in those two games
0: the number of interceptions in those two games
8/9, 152 yards, 4 TDs: Mariota's stat line between the 3rd and 4th quarter in 4 consecutive possessions.
There are countless other absurd stats I can bring up about his performance in the last two weeks - his ability to run successfully, his lack of turnovers, his raw production, his ridiculous composure on the road in two very hard to play places. If this were a ballad, this would be a 10-minute heavy metal rock ballad sung by Def Leppard (because it rocks so very hard) that makes you cry and headbang all at the same time. But possibly the most incredible number is this:
158.66: Darron Thomas' best rating throughout his career
I don't like to compare Mariota to Thomas because he hasn't accomplished anything in the postseason (yet) and it's not entirely fair to either player, but at this point I can't really help it. Mariota is within 600 yards (and three games) of beating DT's passing yardage, 5 TDs of beating DT's TDs in a season, and well within the turnover ratio that DT had during this time, all while being 9 percentage points more accurate than DT was last year. Oh yeah, he's already run for more yards than DT had in any of his seasons.
As a redshirt freshman.
I would like to see him do a bit better at the mesh read and have a bit more pocket awareness. But these are quibbles about a phenomenal player playing at the top of his game. Of all the injuries and potential injuries on Saturday Mariota's was by far the scariest to me.
Quite simply, at this point of the season Oregon is looking hugely vulnerable due to injuries - as many teams are 10 games into a season. Their depth on defense is getting tested very hard. They're especially hurt because of losses at specific positions instead of across the board. And at this moment, Mariota is looking his absolute best when Oregon needs him to step up and perform the most.
Against Stanford, it may be the case that Mariota is going to have to carry the team. Fortunately for Oregon he looks completely up to the task.