The Ducks had a Stanford problem. That was the media narrative, and there was a good deal of evidence to back the assertion up. In each of the past two seasons, Stanford crippled Oregon's run game, pummeled their defense, and kept the Ducks off the field en route to low scoring, old school, REAL MAN FOOTBAW victories. And, statistically, this Stanford defense was even better than the last two. The Stanford Problem again posed a serious threat to Oregon's postseason aspirations.
Despite their rough season thus far, Stanford had a chance to yet again upset Oregon and take control of the Pac-12 North race. Instead, the Ducks took their 'Stanford Problem,' slapped it upside the head with a hammer, let it pull itself up, only to slap it upside the head again and run it over with a truck. Oregon didn't just destroy the Cardinal on the scoreboard, it left no doubt who the more physical team was with a dominating rushing line in the process.
The Ducks won the toss, and there was no doubt what they wanted to do with it. They took the ball, and rode TMFree down the field. Royce Freeman had five carries on the drive, and Thomas Tyner had two. Marcus Mariota ended the drive with a six yard swing pass to Charles Nelson, but the Ducks established that they came to play physical, big boy football as they convincingly won the line of scrimmage against a previously dominant Stanford defensive front.
But the Oregon defense didn't look so hot early. The Stanford offense resembled the Oregon offense moreso than the old school Cardinal offense we're used to. Stanford spread the field, went no huddle, and moved the ball down the field. The Ducks held Stanford to a 47-yard field goal try, which of course Jordan Williamson made, because Jordan Williamson against Oregon.
Oregon didn't care about Stanford's field goal, and they marched 75 yards in two minutes. This was a Mariota showcase drive, with a 22 yard pass to Devon Allen on 3rd and 7, and a 22 yard touchdown run, untouched on a zone read. Stanford again marched down the field in their spread offense, and again was held to a field goal. The Ducks were getting touchdowns and giving up field goals. So far, so good.
And off went the Ducks on their third 75-yard touchdown drive. Freeman for 15. Freeman for 19. Freeman for 10. Royce Freeman was a major difference for the Ducks, because he took no negative plays. Hit him on the line of scrimmage? He goes forward for four yards. Hit him after he gains five? You're in real trouble. Stanford could never get the Ducks into many third and longs, and Freeman was a big reason for that. He's the physical runner Oregon hasn't had. Thomas Tyner put the bow on the present, scoring the touchdown, and it was Oregon with a commanding 21-3 lead.
This was the only real disappointing moment in the game for the Ducks. Oregon forced a turnover on downs, and had a chance to put the game away with another score. Instead, Mariota missed Devon Allen for a wide open touchdown, then missed Keanon Lowe, who had a step on his defender. Oregon had to settle for the field goal. Meanwhile, aided by an illegal hands to the face penalty, Stanford scored their only touchdown of the game to narrow the game to 24-13. Stanford just put together an impressive drive, and would get the ball back to start the second half. It was a nervous time.
And Stanford looked like they were going to capitalize on that momentum. They went to an old school Stanford offense, putting a bunch of guys on the line of scrimmage, and running the football right down the field. Fortunately, Kevin Hogan remembered that he was Kevin Hogan, and Erick Dargan picked off a floating overthrow at the one yard line. Unfortunately, the jubilation was short lived, as Mariota threw a rare interception of his own, and Stanford was back to the grind. The two drives looked like Stanford drives of old, but the Cardinal ran ten minutes off the clock and was held to a single field goal. Playing from behind, that wasn't a good recipe.
Mariota, Freeman, and Tyner put a quick end to any thoughts of a Stanford comeback. with another 75-yard touchdown drive in just over two minutes. Tyner capped it by putting his PlayStation spin move on:
Thomas Tyner's ice-cold spin move earns @iShares by @BlackRock Play of the Game honors for #STANvsUO: http://t.co/vzZwGmoDCd— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) November 2, 2014
After all the work Stanford had done for a single field goal, that play to make it 31-16 effectively ended it. But Oregon put on more points just for the sport of it. Dargan stripped Hogan on Stanford's next possession, and Mariota quickly turned it into another touchdown. A three and out on their next series ended with the same. Stanford tried to salvage some pride with a garbage time touchdown, and the Oregon defense stood them up at the goal line. Jeff Lockie mopped up the mess for Oregon, but the damage was done.
Oregon rushed for 267 yards and 5.8 yards per carry on the Cardinal. Mariota threw for 258 and two TDs, and ran for 85 yards a two TDs more. Royce Freeman rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns, and had another 52 yards receiving. Stanford had only 132 rushing yards on 3.4 yards per carry. Even Oregon kicked, Aidan Schneider, had a good game, making a rare 40-yard field goal for Oregon.
The win gives the Ducks a de facto three game lead in the dhat game won't be easy. But if the Ducks can play the way they did today, what Utah does may not even matter.ivision, all but sealing it up. It also keeps them in the race for a playoff berth, and should keep Mariota at the top of the Heisman boards. But it certainly ends the narrative of Oregon Stanford's problem, which is still lying flattened on the Autzen Stadium turf.
A game against Utah in Salt Lake City awaits, and that game won't be easy. But for a team that has won a number of big games lately, its just another in a long line.