Third times a charm, right?
For the first time since 2011, Oregon defeated Stanford last Saturday. After back to back years of Stanford playing spoiler to Oregon's quest for a national championship, the Ducks were able to get their revenge by blowing the doors off the Cardinal by a score of 45-16.
Oregon controlled the line of scrimmage on both side of the ball, and for the second time this year (Michigan State) proved that this Ducks team can play with the most physical teams in the country. Let's look at how Oregon set the tempo for this game and dominated the Cardinal from start to finish.
Marcus Mariota 21-yard rush on 4th and 5
On Oregon's first drive of the game, the Ducks marched down the field from their own 20-yard line down into Stanford territory, leaning primarily on Royce Freeman and the ground game. The Ducks faced a 4th and 5 from the Stanford 40-yard line, and Helfrich opted to go for it. This first drive was pivotal as to how the rest of the game would unfold, as a Stanford stop here might have planted the "here we go again" seed of doubt into the Oregon mindset. However, Mariota and the Ducks made an early statement that this was not going to be a repeat of previous years.
On this play, Oregon lines up in a four-wide, one back set with trips to the left and one receiver split out to the right. Stanford is crowding the box, attempting to confuse Mariota and the offensive line with who is rushing and who is dropping back into coverage.
Before the snap, Mariota sends Charles Nelson in motion from left to right, something Oregon did quite a few times against Stanford. The Stanford corner follows Nelson across the formation, alerting Mariota that Stanford is lined up in man coverage with one deep safety.
Stanford lines up with a blitz look to the left side of the line, and the Oregon line must shift their blocking scheme accordingly. However when the ball is snapped Stanford drops one of the potential blitzers out and another defender flips which gap he is rushing through. This leaves the right tackle Matt Pierson with two Stanford defenders to block.
The unsung hero of this play is Royce Freeman who picks up the extra blitzer beautifully after the play fake. Freeman cuts the blitzer down, allowing Mariota time to take off out of the pocket to his left. At the same time, the Stanford linebacker, who is presumably tasked with the middle of the field and spying on Mariota, grows impatient. He sees the imminent sack and tries to get in on the party, rushing up the middle of the pocket.
Since this defender ran up into the pocket prematurely, Mariota is able to escape and beat him to the edge.
Once there, there are no other Stanford defenders in sight because they are all locked up down the field in man to man coverage. Mariota is able to pick up 21 yards and the first down, setting up the first Oregon touchdown of the day in the process.
Thomas Tyner 21-yard touchdown run
With Oregon up 24-16 and driving late in the 3rd quarter, the Ducks were looking to take a two score lead into the fourth quarter, knowing that such a lead would be difficult for Stanford and its inept offense to come back from. But a stop here would have given the ball back to Stanford with a chance to tie the game up in the fourth. With everyone else worrying about Stanford possibly climbing back into the game, all Thomas Tyner could think about was going home and playing his dang copy of Madden 25.
While the spin gets all the glory on this play (AND MAY I SAY RIGHTFULLY SO), the Oregon offensive line beautifully executes their run blocking scheme here, so let's look at this step by step and give everyone their due props. There are three huge blocks are able to spring Tyner. The first two come from Cameron Hunt and Tyrell Crosby, both of who have improved greatly as this season has gone on. Hunt gets position on his man's outside shoulder, giving him leverage to drive him towards the middle of the line, while Crosby just overpowers his man to seal the lane for Tyner to hit.
The third great block comes courtesy of Hroniss Grasu, who chips the Stanford tackle before quickly moving to the second level of the defense and picking up the linebacker in the box.
The combination of these three blocks spring Tyner, who now has all the room in the world to operate.
The reason this play is so incredible is because it is the exact type of play Oregon has not been able to run against Stanford the last couple of years. There's no gimmick here. Not even a read or an option. Just a straight up run play, strength against strength, and Oregon dominated the Stanford front.
Oh right, and that spin.
Kevin Hogan stripped by Erick Dargan
The last play we're looking at today isn't a whole lot of X's and O's. It's really just Erick Dargan doing Erick Dargan things.
Dargan begins this play from his safety position, but runs up and shows blitz before the snap.
Dargan's blitz is quickly picked up by the running back and the left tackle, who double him while Hogan steps up in the pocket.
Hogan can't find anyone open downfield, and with the pocket breaking down he decides it is in his best interests to try and run for the first down. Dargan is able to fight off the double team and pursue Hogan out of the pocket.
Dargan gets re-routed by a couple of his teammates who are trying, unsuccessfully, to bring down Hogan. He eventually meets up with Hogan around the Oregon 47-yard line, after he ran, oh about 50 yards. Pure hustle play.
Here's to you, Erick Dargan.