After last Friday night's Pac-12 Championship game, Oregon has officially beaten everyone they played this year. In a revenge game against Arizona, the Ducks took care of business by whooping the Wildcats 51-13. Marcus Mariota added five touchdowns to bring his season total to 52, and the defense locked up a good Arizona offense for four quarters. Let's take a look.
Marcus Mariota 7-yard touchdown run
After having the offense stall out in or near the redzone on three of their first four possessions, Oregon finally found the endzone on this 7-yard run from Mariota.
This play is a great showcase of the way the Ducks handled their "Scooby Wright Problem" during this game. Wright is at his inside linebacker spot, where he resides for most Arizona defensive downs. Before the snap, Mariota motions Charles Nelson in towards him.
As you all are well aware, when an offense runs a read option there is almost always the read defender, the defensive player the offense intentionally leaves unblocked and who the quarterback is reading. Usually this player is a defensive end, and if the end crashes in the QB keeps, if the end stays home he hands the ball off.
On this look Oregon is blocking all of the Arizona linemen, but they are leaving Scooby Wright unblocked in the middle of the defense. If Wright cheats right with the expectation of a Nelson run, Mariota can keep and go right. If he stays put Mariota can hand it off and Nelson is fast enough to beat Wright to the edge. Now with the title of this play being Mariota touchdown run, I think you can guess which option Wright chose.
Now with Wright out of the play, all that is left for the Ducks to do is seal the edge for Mariota with a few good blocks, one from pulling guard Matt Pierson and one from Johnny Mundt.
This was a great strategy from Frost and the offensive brain trust. Instead of letting Scooby Wright wreck havoc by throwing blockers to the wayside, let him take himself out of the play. Oregon ran quite a few more outside read options like this game than they have in any one game this year, and this was the rationale.
Arizona 2nd Quarter 3 and Out
We can talk about Marcus Mariota for days - and we actually are going to do exactly that this week here at ATQ - but the real star of the Pac-12 Championship was the Oregon defense. This "drive" from Arizona is a microcosm of the the Wildcat's first half.
Three plays, -15 yards. Not too shabby.
The first play is really the story of the half for Arizona. In the first half, Arizona had nine first down plays which netted a total of 18 yards, and half of that came on a 9-yard pass. If you take that one out, the Wildcats only managed 9 yards on their other eight first down plays in the first half.
The reason why is pretty simple. The Oregon front seven dominated the Arizona offensive line. On this play, DeForest Buckner tosses his man asides easily, and Derrick Malone sheds the guard whose responsibility is to chip down on Balducci and then block Malone. The two easily bring down Nick Wilson for a 1-yard gain.
On second down we see a pretty common look from the Ducks, where Tony Washington is lined up over a slot reciever but blitzes off the edge.
Washington blows past the Arizona left tackle like he isn't even there and then it's just hustle. Without sounding too cliche, it was pretty obvious this game meant a little something extra to this Oregon defense. The revenge aspect was real, and it was spectacular.
There isn't a whole lot to say about the third down play. Just go back up to the video and watch all three of Buckner, Prevot, and Washington just man handle their blockers. Personally, I've watched it somewhere around 2,500 times.
Marcus Mariota 4-yard touchdown pass to Devon Allen
Now back to Marcus Mariota. Last week the last play we broke down was a play that should lead off Mariota's NFL scouting video. Well if last week's is the first clip, this one is probably like third or fourth.
Oregon is trying to run a rub route play, that should open up Devon Allen on a quick slant to the end zone. Mariota motions over Nelson, and the way the Arizona defense reacts lets him know that they are in man-to-man coverage.
The rub route works, but Arizona drops all three linebackers into middle zones to go along with the man coverage, only rushing three defenders in the process. So even though Allen's man has been taken out of the play, he is not open.
So with Allen neutralized, Mariota moves on his next option, Evan Baylis in the flats out to the right side. Marioat has a small window to throw into, but even is the pass is complete Baylis probably won't be able to turn upfield and get in the endzone with his man that close.
So with everyone guarded, it seems like its probably time to take off and run, right? Mariota seems to think this too, if only for a split second. This is another aspect where Mariota separates himself from other quarterbacks. Even when he goes to run, he keeps his eyes downfield, just in case something opens up.
So as he steps up in the pocket, he sees two men in front of him, like any quarterback would. But he also sees Allen shaking his man in the back of the end zone. So he gathers himself again, sets his feet and throws a nice ball to Allen in the back of the end zone.
Awesome Royce Freeman Run of the Day
Technically, this play never happened because of an offensive holding penalty. But Royce Freeman thinks you can stuff your technicalities in a sack, mister.