September 22, 2012; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks tight end Colt Lyerla (15) runs the ball against the Arizona Wildcats at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE
By nature, all shutouts require an element of luck.
A defense can be absolutely lights out, but the shutout will not be attained. Perhaps the offense commits a turnover in the other team's field goal range. Perhaps the opponent hits one big play in a game where the defense otherwise dominated. Maybe the opponent scored on a safety, or some kind of play in special teams. Even for great defenses, a shutout is hard to get, and depends on a number of elements that have nothing at all to do with the defense itself. Which makes it all the more odd that Arizona could make six trips to the red zone and come out with nary a point, as they were throttled by Oregon 49-0 Saturday night at Autzen Stadium. The shutout was the first by Oregon against a conference opponent since beating Stanford 35-0 in 2003.
There are actually a number of odd stats from the game that would give you the impression that Arizona made this a real game. We could talk about how Oregon's offense was clicking. Marcus Mariota was inefficient. Oregon failed to break 500 yards or produce a 100-yard rusher. They scored only 13 points in the first half. But the oddest stat is the fact that Arizona made six trips to the red zone, and didn't score a single point. A snap was miffed on a field goal attempt. Another was blocked. Twice the Ducks got red zone interceptions, and twice more Arizona was in a position to go for it on fourth down and both times were denied. If a shutout requires an element of luck, the Ducks certainly got a great deal of it, but that also shouldn't diminish how well the Oregon defense played.
Arizona only averaged 3.83 yards per play on Saturday night. The Duck defense forced five turnovers. What was really impressive was that it was a complete defensive efffort. Arizona never could get their running game going, gaining only 89 yards on 32 carries. This forced the Wildcats to pass--a lot--with 52 attempts in the game. Their strategy was to try and pick on Ifo Ekpre-Olomu by throwing it to a taller Dan Bucker--and Ifo responded with two interceptions--one in the red zone, and a pick six late in the game.
Offensively, Oregon was not on target. Arizona was doing a good job, especially early in the game, of containing Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas, and neither of them was able to break for a big play, get 100 yards, or score a touchdown in the game. The Wildcats wouldn't let the running backs get to the sideline, and did an excellent job tackling in space. However, the Ducks went to a change of pace package that was unseen before this game. Bryan Bennett lined up at quarterback instead of Marioa, while Colt Lyerla was the running back. Unable to get the corner or pound the middle with Barner and Thomas, Lyera proved a major spark, notching 63 on seven carries and a touchdown, while Bryan Bennett scored another on the ground. Up only 13-0 after the offense sputtered for most of the first half, the Bennett-Lyerla package proved to be the offensive adjustment that Oregon needed to break the game wide open. From there, the Ducks would pour it on, while Arizona did a lot more finding ways not to score.
The win puts Oregon at 1-0 in conference play. It also serves notice to the rest of the country. Oregon can destroy a good team even when its not clicking offensively. That's really bad news for everybody else.