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The Stats Aftermath: downward spiral

Everything hurts. Everything is bad. The best thing we have to say is that we're not a team like Florida. The worst thing we have to say is that this is how becoming a team like Florida starts. When did Rome notice they were collapsing? When did Florida realize they were going to have a losing season? When do you start seeing the cracks in the veneer? And what do you do about it? This is Oregon's moment to start a new era - or start the long, slow rebuilding from mediocrity.

I hope Mariota face doesn't become a thing.
I hope Mariota face doesn't become a thing.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

2006: This was the last time that Oregon lost a game by 20 or more points to an unranked team. That was the Las Vegas Bowl. BYU wasn't a bad team, exactly, but they weren't a powerhouse. And they obliterated Oregon 38-8 in a game not remotely that close. If you're curious, we also lost to an unranked Arizona team by 20+ points that season as well.

That game was what prompted Bellotti to seek out Chip Kelly and change a few things about our program. That game changed the course of Oregon football history. But it also was a condemnation of the way things had been run.

I said this in a thread, but here it goes again: This wasn't just a loss. This wasn't just a loss to an unranked team. This wasn't just a loss on the road. This was the worst loss Oregon has suffered in 7 years by a large, large margin. This is equivalent to Stanford beating USC despite being a 41-point underdog. This isn't as crushing as that loss to Boise State; that BSU team was a top 5 team in the nation. This isn't as bad as losing to LSU - the best team in the nation. This isn't like losing by 34 to USC in 2008; that team went on to win the Rose Bowl. This isn't like losing to Stanford last year or this year.

This is ground that hasn't been covered in 7 years.

33%: the 4th down conversion rate for Oregon vs. Arizona. And that was another 4th and goal from the 1. The other two 4th down failures were essentially turnovers; put them together with the three actual turnovers and you have Oregon turning the ball over 5 times in the game.

46.43%: the overall 4th down conversion rate this season for Oregon. It is the lowest since 2008.

I mentioned early on this season that our 4th down conversion rate was not great. Well, it's still not great. We're still making fairly boring playcalls or worse, calling fade passes that have not worked well this season. We've been poor running or passing on 4th down. It's just not been good no matter how you slice it. This was a staple of Chip Kelly's teams - being able to go for it at the right time and call the right thing to get it done. Not only would he go for it, he'd go for it lightning fast - within 8 seconds some times.

Now? Our 4th downs are deliberate, slow. They don't often work. We're down 20% conversion rate from the Chip Kelly era.

Here's an interesting factoid: Chip Kelly in the NFL actually goes for 4th down conversions at a below-average pace. Why? Because he doesn't have the defense to back it up when it goes wrong. Oregon hasn't started doing that yet.

289.00: the amount of rushing yards on average Oregon has allowed in two losses.

65.5: The number of carries on average Oregon has allowed in two losses.

Seriously, look at that number. That's a number that Oregon hangs on other teams. That's a number that defines what Oregon's offense does to opponents. 300 yards of rushing? Sure, that's just a typical game. But Oregon's defense had been also about eliminating the running game. In the wins, that's been the case - only 125 yards per game when Oregon wins. Part of that is that teams abandon the run game when they're far down, and part of it is that Oregon had been allowing only 3.5 yards per carry.

65 carries is also absolutely remarkable. Opponents have not had to pass all that much against Oregon when they're beating Oregon. Having awesome blitzes, great cornerback play (in theory) and hard hitting safeties doesn't matter a whole lot when opponents are only passing 17 times a game on average. It also means teams aren't attempting to fool Oregon. This isn't some surprise that they're going to run the ball.

If you're curious, the numbers from previous year's losses don't look like that. Teams didn't carry 65 times and win. The average was about 40. In losses the worst year was 2010 - where Auburn ran for 254 yards. Beyond that, it's been closer  to 200.

31.5: the number of rushes Oregon has done, on average, in the two losses.

Of course Oregon's kind of lost their identity too. Bellotti used to preach there were two important things: run the ball, and stop the run. I'm not going to get into whether or not Bellotti was right to preach these things or how relevant they are in this day and age, but in the two losses Oregon looked eerily similar: the opponent could run the ball at will, and the opponent could stop Oregon from running. And Oregon gave up on running in both games to a large degree. This makes sense against Stanford. It doesn't make a lick of sense against Arizona.

12-16: Arizona's rate of converting 3rd and 4th down plays.

67.57: the rate in which teams have been converting 3rd downs against Oregon in their losses this season. This is a full 15 percentage points higher than any other team in the last 6 years, win or lose. (and the worst game prior to this was Auburn, with a 52% conversion). Arizona's conversion rate was a full 20% higher than any other game this season for them, win or lose. Stanford's was the second highest, right behind  San Jose State. Even Cal was able to stop Stanford more than Oregon.

This is pretty astounding to me. Oregon cannot kill drives this year. Just can't do it. It used to be this was a staple of an Oregon defense: you get behind in the count and Oregon gets the ball. Now? Not an issue. Part of it is that the 3rd downs are so much shorter than they were - but part of it is that Oregon just can't stop teams. Someone earlier asked if there's a blueprint to beating Oregon, and why doesn't Arizona do it; well, I think that this is a reasonable answer. There is a blueprint of sorts: it's simply run the ball down Oregon's throat and dare Oregon to stop them.

2-20: The number and yardage of penalties against Arizona. This was 6 penalties fewer than their average and about 24 yards less than their average.

0: the number of turnovers Arizona had. This was about 1.8 below their average.

8-66: the number and yardage of penalties against Oregon. Shockingly, this was slightly less than our average per game.

3: the number of turnovers Oregon had.

Oregon has not played particularly cleanly this season. The penalties are not odd for this team; they're about on pace. They sucked this game, mind you - each penalty seemed to be a drive-extending penalty for Arizona or a drive-killing penalty for Oregon - but they're not that different. The turnovers are a different story. Oregon has either turned the ball over not at all or multiple times a game.

Arizona, meanwhile, played brilliantly. Very clean game - though they tend to be a fairly disciplined team in general. No turnovers. No real mistakes. 3 incomplete passes. 2 runs that were lost yardage. They were just great at execution at all phases. Oregon didn't win the first half. They didn't win the second half either.

This isn't about Oregon losing a game more than Arizona won one. Don't take that from this. Arizona absolutely won this game in every way you can win a game. The only thing they lost was the coin flip, and as it turned out that too was in their favor as Oregon foolishly took the ball. The point here is that Oregon no longer is a team that can play sloppily and win games against what was thought to be outmatched opponents. Oregon no longer can casually come out and dominate thanks to their newfangled schemes. Oregon can not rely on their offense to make their defense have an easy time of it and cannot rely on their defense to get crucial stops.

And most of all, Oregon cannot rely on beating teams they should beat.

42: the number of seconds it took Arizona to score to make the game 28-9.

Think about that. Arizona has literally one minute left in the half. They've just stopped Oregon at the 41 after yet another fumble and yet another failed 4th down conversion. They proceed to run 4 times and pass three times, all successfully, in the space of 42 seconds and score a TD. They used one time out during this drive. (Oregon used another).

This is what Oregon used to do to teams. Oregon used to get a turnover and be able to score absurdly fast. They used to flip the field on a team so quickly that you wouldn't know the game was over. 42 seconds, 60 yards, no failed plays, no incompletes, one time out. This is the model of efficiency and poise under pressure. This is the model of an attacking offense that has full faith in itself and knows what it is about.

This, to me, said everything about this game. Those 42 seconds, where Arizona showed Oregon what a team with confidence, pride, emotion, focus and execution could do. This was where I saw the fundamental change in what Kelly's teams were like and what Helfrich's team is currently like.

Oregon looked like they had already gone in to halftime. How could a team come out and score on them? Wouldn't they just give up? Nope. Teams don't need to be concerned. They're going to go for the jugular. They're going to show Oregon what a fast pace is and what a quick scoring opportunity is. Oregon's offense looked horrible on that 4th down play, but those are the kinds of plays that Oregon used to get as a matter of course. Of course they'd convert. Of course they'd score to reduce the margin to one score. That's how it works. That's how Oregon always works. And sure, a team might get it back, but there's no way you're going to drive 60 yards in a minute and score a TD against the criminally underrated Oregon defense.

Well, those always and nevers are gone. When David Piper said that this is the end of an era and teams don't fear us, this is part of what he means. It's not that Oregon can't get back to being awesome or that we're all done. At the same time, Oregon isn't special any more. Oregon's isn't invulnerable. Oregon doesn't convert those crucial 4th downs. Oregon doesn't get those stops and turnovers and big sacks. Oregon's defense isn't criminally underrated; they're just undisciplined and the coaches are making bad adjustments. Oregon doesn't score going into halftime. Oregon isn't the pinnacle of offensive execution and poise. Oregon can't get 2 yards on the ground when it needs to.

Oregon doesn't execute like it's Robespierre. And that is an end of an era.

6: number of seasons in a row Oregon can have 10 or more wins

It is an empty consolation, but it exists: Oregon can still have 10 wins for the 6th consecutive year. That's pretty awesome. It can have 11 for the 4th consecutive year. That's also pretty amazing. But if that's going to happen, this team has to realize that they aren't special just because they're Oregon. They aren't entitled to anything. They earn their wins or they lose to teams that aren't afraid of the Oregon mystique. If they can do that - if they can pick themselves up off the mat, define who they are and what they are, there's some hope for seasons ahead.

We don't need to fire Helfrich. But it's clear that things need to change now - or they'll change for the worse in the future.