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Solving the Stanford Problem: A Retro-Diary

Rusty Ryan fills in for Tako and Tako Tuesdays with a retro diary of the Oregon-Stanford matchup. Oregon got its mojo back and Autzen exorcised some of its demons.

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the Stanford game I was nervous.  Stanford's defense has been admittedly designed to stop Oregon's offense.  For the last two years they generally did.  (With some help from Oregon shooting itself in the foot)  In a lot of ways, the games against Stanford turned into a zero-sum game, much like the way the UO-uw rivalry is, neither one can succeed without the other not.

How much of the credit goes to the stars that were on Stanford's defense?  How much of the credit goes to the designer of the defense who left the school for the head-coaching job at Vanderbilt?  How much difference is there between a healthy Marcus Mariota and the one we saw last year against Stanford?  Will Mark Helfrich come up with a game plan to beat Stanford and continue to improve as head coach?

We'd know the answers to these questions by the end of the game.

First Quarter

15:00: Oregon elects to receive.  I'm assuming to make Stanford have to play catch-up and to try and put the game at Oregon's pace right away.  The offense comes out onto the field after the touchback.  HERE WE GO!

13:30: The Ducks move efficiently.  I just want to point out that the tackles are a good four to five feet apart from the guards on the mid-line read.  Maybe in order to weaken the middle they are trying to get the ends to widen out?  Let's see how much crazier the splits get.

12:18:  Mariota identifies pressure early before squeezing through a gap to pick up the necessary yardage on fourth down.  Mariota turns the corner on a linebacker for a huge gain.  He's clearly much more eager to run for yardage than he previously was.

11:48Thomas Tyner with his hardest run of the year to get to the one.  He runs fast, hard, and smart when he finds a gap and then lowers his shoulder into a defender.  The perfect balance between strength and speed.

10:52:  Mariota rolls out on a play-action look to hit Charles Nelson separating from his defender for a touchdown.  The flood patterns work perfectly in Mariota's and Nelson's favor enabling their speed to produce a great angle.  Great opening drive by the Ducks.


10:02Ty Montgomery takes the wildcat read to the outside for a big gain.  Commence panicking.

9:05:  Ifo does a great job setting the edge and talking mad trash allowing Dargan to come in and blow up the running back on the Cardinal toss to the outside.  Huge plays by the defensive backs against offensive linemen.

8:25Joe Walker chases Kevin Hogan out of bounds to force a field goal.  Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson is 8/14 this season on field goals with a long of 40.  He nails a perfect kick from 47 yards out.  Every member of Stanford is on point today.

7:58Royce Freeman has the "knock into the tackler and roll forward for three yards" move down.  He always seems to get extra yardage.

6:32:  Mariota scrambles in the pocket and on a full run with a safety bearing down on him he hits Devon Allen for a first down.

6:18:  Marcus Mariota healthy seems to be a huge factor.  He faked out the Stanford outside linebacker so badly that #9 fell down as a sign of respect.  "Maserati Speed" as coined by Gus Johnson is accurate, but won't catch on.  Oregon up 14-3 and Stanford has yet to show a scheme or look that will cause consistent problems for the Duck offense.

5:22:  Stanford taking early advantage of Oregon playing their safeties in cover 2 by hitting the tight ends in the deep middle of the field.  Second big completion to a tight end in the soft spot.

4:36:  Kevin Hogan on some QB power for a first down.  He is then picked up and literally dropped by Dargan.  We'll call it a draw.  Hogan is a legit running threat and was a big wrinkle throughout the game.

1:30:  After a couple good passes by Hogan, Troy Hill blows up a power rushing play.  The corner blitz from the boundary side is a favorite of Oregon's defense and the risk pays off big creating a long third down, which resulted in an incompletion forcing another Stanford field goal attempt that is good.  Autzen is rocking like I haven't heard it in a while.  Maybe Michigan State also brought out this level of noise.  But it has been years since the stadium was this loud on every single down.

0:00:  Thomas Tyner is running with a lot of confidence.  He's found the sweet spot between being patient and running aggressively.  He turns the corner for a first down to end the quarter.

Second Quarter

14:37:  Tyner rushes for 5 yards and is overthrown on 2nd down.  Mariota seems to have some issues throwing the football.  It is wet but he seems to be off and unable to drop dimes.

14:29:  Mariota shows a ton of muscle dragging two Stanford players for a first down on 3rd and 5!  THE TABLES HAVE TURNED ON STANFORD!

13:09: After a couple quick hits to the outside receivers Royce Freeman rumbles for 19 yards through and around Stanford defenders.  Oregon's offense is bringing the pain to Stanford instead of the other way around.  Oregon really seems to be playing with the attitude Stanford used to play with: mean.

11:50:  Tyner barrels through the line for a touchdown.  Oregon leads 21-6 and has scored three touchdowns on three possessions.  Stanford hasn't been scored on or rushed on like this in what seems like years.  Also of note, the Stanford players are starting to get real chippy and the Oregon linemen are responding with some attitude of their own.  I love it.

8:34:  Stanford looks to be marching taking advantage of soft spots in the zone coverage with their tight ends.  The Cardinal go for it on 4th down, knowing that they have to score touchdowns to stay in the game, and the pass attempt to Ty Montgomery is tipped for an incompletion.  Oregon is pushing the Stanford line back on rushing downs and keeping close on all their receivers.  It's a thing of beauty.

8:12:  Ok, I want to touch on this real quick.   Fans need to stop booing every time a player takes an injury timeout.  No one except the UW kicker has abused the injury timeout in years.  There aren't players that are collectively out to get us, so stop booing kids barely in their 20's or late teens who are hurt on the field.

6:33:  Mariota misses an easy touchdown opportunity to Devon Allen, or Byron Marshall because they were both so open, before failing to punch it in.  On the bright side, the backup kicker nailed a field goal, which might have been the biggest surprise of the day.  Ducks lead 24-6.

5:28:  Oregon tallies its first sack of the day.  The Ducks rush five players and French blows the lineman assigned to him before chasing down Hogan.  Who would've guessed our line could bull rush Stanford offensive linemen?

2:27:  The tight end Cajuste is the mismatch for the Stanford offense.  Montgomery's speed has been neutralized but Cajuste is finding soft spots in zones and is boxing out Troy Hill out wide.  He's basically their Pharaoh Brown.

1:01:  It took Stanford almost a full 30 minutes to score their first touchdown.  The Ducks aided the Stanford drive with a hands to the face penalty but Stanford did a good job taking advantage of mismatches.  Ducks lead 24-13 headed into the second half.

Third Quarter

13:56:  Back-to-back QB power with Ty Montgomery in the wildcat and then Kevin Hogan from the shotgun.  Stanford really bringing back old-school football with moves that are reminiscent of the Wing-T and good for a first down.

11:00:  Whether it is Erik Dargan or Tony Washington the Ducks are tackling well in space on wide receiver screens.  It's nice to see improvement on the biggest glaring weakness the Ducks defense had.

10:15:  Erik Dargan picks off Kevin Hogan on the 1-yard line.  Stanford was marching until Cajuste and Hogan had a miscommunication on what route they were running.  It appeared to be an option route, but that was a near impossible throw with Dargan behind Cajuste and Ekpre-Olomu in front.

8:25:  Mariota makes a poor choice and a poor throw when he tossed a deep ball into double coverage.  His accuracy has been off this game and he finally paid the price for it.  It's only his second of the season though so you have to realize that he's having a bad game when all he does is throw a pick.  For a lot of quarterbacks that's an average day.

6:55:  A Hogan pass to Cajuste followed by another QB power moves the Cardinal deep into Oregon territory.  Stanford might be coming alive.

2:31:  Williamson hits his third field goal of the day.  Keep in mind Williamson is 68% against teams not named Oregon.  Oregon's rush defense has been superb.  Their heavy package featuring four down linemen and four players in linebacker positions are stuffing and minimizing any gains by the Stanford running back.

1:45:  Royce Freeman takes a swing pass and turns it into a 15-ish-yard gain.  Royce and Tyner, even though they are both so big, are such dangerous threats in the flats.  For example, Freeman takes the next pass, which is a screen play, for 30 yards.  What I love most about Oregon running screen plays is that the Oregon linemen weighing nearly 300 pounds each are in full stride leading the way for the running back twenty yards downfield.

:04:  Thomas Tyner.  Where the hell has that been all year?  He comes like a bat out of hell through the line, screams past the linebackers, and then spins the shit out of the safety trying to come up and make a play.  It was beautiful, wonderful, and any other adjective you could use to describe things that make you cry with joy.  If this is the Tyner we get for the rest of the season I am beyond excited because now we have an extra stud running back and fewer carries for Royce Freeman every game.  Oregon leads 31-16.

Fourth Quarter

13:22:  Tony Washington picks up a Kevin Hogan fumble when he was flushed from the pocket on a four-man rush.  Four man rushes seem to be the magic number of rushers throughout my time spent charting games.  It creates 1-on-1 matchups while leaving seven players in coverage.

12:49:  Oregon responds with some QB power of its own.  Mariota follows Freeman.  What really sealed this play was the block thrown by Charles Nelson who crack blocked the outside linebacker setting a clean seal for Mariota to get to the outside.  We might have just witnessed the breaking point that blows this game open.  Oregon leads 38-16.

11:46:  Oregon forces Stanford to punt and the first handoff is to Charles Nelson who takes an outside zone read into Stanford territory.  Royce Freeman follows that up by breaking two tackles en route to a first down.  Royce Freeman has been in the program for four months but his frame looks like he's been in the strength and conditioning program for four years.

9:20:  Mariota's touchdown to pass to Darren Carrington was a thing of beauty.  If you're an NFL scout and that play didn't turn you on then there is no helping you.  Mariota scrambles, extends the play, goes to his left, and against his body throws an absolute dime pass to Carrington in the back of the end zone.  What a play.  Good guys are up 45-16.

Oregon goes on to win 45-16 with Kenny Bassett and Jeff Lockie getting playing time.  The Ducks showed that Stanford didn't have a magic blueprint and that a healthy Mariota is the best player in the country and it's not even close.  Tyner reemerged as the player we all thought he would be and Royce Freeman continued to do things that someone his age shouldn't be doing, and I mean that in a good way.

After this game I feel much better about all the coaches.  I have confidence moving forward in this season.  Stanford scored only 3 second half points.  That's amazing.  That's the result of second half adjustments.

Mariota had an off day passing and I'm sure he'd be the first to admit it, but he still went 19/30 for 258 yards, two touchdowns with 1 interception, 85 yards on the ground with 9 carries, and 2 rushing touchdowns.  Again, that's an off week for him.

I couldn't be more excited to take on the tough Utah Utes in what will be one of the last real tests of the regular season.  Sorry I'm not sorry Colorado and Oregon State.