Well, here we are.
This week, Oregon vs. Stanford
Offensive. How else to put it? Now I get it— Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead was not at the game to day due to a sudden illness (and we wish him the best, here’s hoping it was nothing serious— ed.)— but we’re now five games into this season, and this is definitely an offense in dire need of some serious tweaking.
Oregon today ran for 228 yards against The Cardinal defense— but emergency OC and Running Game Coordinator Jim Mastro often went away from the run game, when defending the run had been Stanford’s weakness coming into Saturday’s contest. Travis Dye had another big game running the ball, repeatedly gashing Stanford for big gains while tallying 96 yards rushing on 19 carries. But he tired noticeably late in the game after stablemate C.J. Verdell went out with an undisclosed injury.
The Ducks’ passing game under Anthony Brown struggled again, with Brown going 14 of 26 for 186 yards, no touchdowns and his first interception of the season. But more troubling than the turnover was the fact that Brown again failed to drive the ball down the field, and relied almost exclusively on dinking and dunking. While the offensive line regularly failed to give Brown time to go through his progressions, he more often than not went straight to his check down receivers regardless. And while he did manage to rush for 2 touchdowns while picking up 35 yards on 12 carries, his decision making on the RPOs led much to be desired, capped by his egregious failure to pitch the ball to a wide-open Verdell and instead run a quarterback keeper at the goal line late in the second quarter that cost the Ducks points, and arguably the game as well.
Conclusion: I really like Anthony Brown. He’s tough, he’s mature, and he led Oregon to it’s biggest ever non-conference win in the victory over Ohio State. But with Brown behind center, our passing game is predictable and horizontal. He either can’t or won’t throw the ball vertical, and he apparently can’t throw his receivers open. We’ve got dynamic, blue-chip receivers on the roster now, but a starting quarterback that can’t throw to them. It’s time for the Ty Thompson Era to begin.
Final Grade: C-
Another instance where the statistics don’t tell the whole story. Oregon held Stanford to 354 total yards (230 passing, 124 rushing), but the Ducks repeatedly allowed the Cardinal to gouge them with big plays, perhaps none more galling than the 23-yard completion on 2nd and 19 with 1:44 to go in the fourth quarter after Stanford had been called for back-to-back false start penalties and backed themselves up to their own 8 yard line. Stanford was able to exploit their size difference at receiver and tight end— especially acute after Oregon lost it’s tallest defensive back Trikweze Bridges to a targeting call on the opening kickoff— turning quarterback Tanner McKee into the second coming of Andrew Luck. McKee finished the game 20 of 36 for 230 yards and 3 touchdowns while picking apart Oregon’s porous pass defense. For just the second time this season, the Ducks’ defense failed to tally an interception— for the game, Stanford did not turn the ball over, another huge factor in Oregon’s demise.
After a terrible first half in which Oregon found itself trailing going into the locker room for the first time this season, the Ducks seemingly had figured out Stanford’s offense in the second half, forcing four straight Cardinal punts prior to the fateful final drive.
Individually, linebackers Nate Heaukulani and Noah Sewell had strong games, combining for 14 tackles, two tackles for losses, and a sack. Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, finally healthy after missing the bulk of the previous three games, had a solid if unspectacular game, though was called for possibly the most costly penalty of the game, when his hit to Tanner McKee with 1:33 to go in the fourth quarter was deemed to be targeting, and was subsequently ejected from the game.
Conclusion: Oregon’s ‘Bend-But-Not-Break’ defense finally broke. The loss of Bridges and the absence of safety Bennett Williams to an undisclosed injury definitely hurt the Ducks’ pass defense, but their teammates failed to step up into the breech, allowing far too many big pass plays to sustain Stanford drives. Costly penalties too hurt the Ducks’ chances, none more so than on the final drive of regulation. Yes, this is a very young defensive unit, but these kind of mental lapses are inexcusable at this point in the season. The defense did some good things today, but ultimately their utter collapse on Stanford’s scoring drive to tie the game ultimately cost Oregon the win.
Final Grade: C
The Special Teams unit continued their solid play on Saturday, led by placekicker Cam Lewis who hit all three of his PATs along with his sole field goal try, a 22-yarder that tied the game at 17. Punter Tom Snee had another strong game, averaging 42.8 yards per punt, including a 57-yarder in the third quarter. Mycah Pittman had 4 punt returns for 48 yards, including a scintillating 32 yard return midway through the third quarter. Oregon’s punt and kick coverage didn’t allow any big run backs.
Conclusion: Another solid effort from the steadiest unit on the team.
Final Grade: B+
After three less than stellar showings following the huge victory in Columbus, I’m through giving this coaching staff the benefit of the doubt— they cost their team a win today against Stanford.
Yes, Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead was unavailable today, but that’s simply no excuse for some of the head-scratching playcalling, Anthony Brown’s shortcomings in the passing game, or their biggest sin, Oregon’s utter failure to take full advantage of Stanford’s Achilles’ Heel— stopping the run. The defensive backfield is a mess, the linebackers can’t cover in space, and the d-line fails to get pressure. Costly penalties continue to pile up, the team tends to come out of the gates flat and then play to the level of their opponents. Yes, this team has been decimated by injuries, but this team also has more talent waiting in the wings than ever before. Oregon is a paper tiger, and sadly it was our old adversary Stanford that exposed the Ducks for what they are. This team has talent, but it’s raw and undisciplined; it’s versatile, but unsure how to use it; it’s good, but not great. Is this the coaching staff to unlock this team’s potential? I don’t know. Defensive Coordinator Tim DeRuyter is still only in his first season with Oregon, Moorhead his second; 2020 was ravaged due to Covid-19, so I think this staff is still trying to find it’s collective footing. But, and I think I can speak for many Duck Fans, we want to see improvement, and yet we’ve seen the same sloppy, uninspired play in four of the five games so far this season. I’m hoping if today’s loss does nothing else, it wakes the players up to the realization that they can’t just coast through the season on their four-and-five star ratings and a big win against Ohio State.
Conclusion: I’m certainly not at a point to start calling for anyone’s head, especially considering the injuries that Oregon has sustained— and we don’t even yet know the status of C.J. Verdell or Bennett Williams— but again, if the Ducks don’t start putting together some complete game efforts in the second half of the season, I think maybe some staff shake-up may be in order down the road.
Final Grade: D+
Oregon’s uniforms: hard to get excited about the kit when the lads lose, but today’s were sharp, A.
Atmosphere: Dear Stanford Fans— 31,000 in the seats on a perfect October day with the #3 ranked team in town? You’re pathetic. Dear Oregon Fans— you were louder than your Furd adversaries; bravo, and thank you, A.
The gameday broadcast: How could ABC allow two Stnafrod grads to call this game? Once again, thank the gods for Jerry and Jorgy. And WTF was up with the atrocious camera angles and picture quality? It was like I was transported back to 1985, D