There is a stark dividing line in this game for both teams’ statistical performances. It happens with about 8 and a half minutes left in the 3rd quarter, when Oregon State fumbled the ball for their third turnover of the day. This article will separate and examine those stats before and after that dividing line.
Before the Fumble
Up until that point, the game was fairly unremarkable from a statistical point of view – both teams were performing almost exactly as their season-long records indicated in terms of their relative strengths and weaknesses in efficiency and explosiveness on both sides of the ball.
On offense up to that point, Oregon had 17 successful designed passing plays vs 11 failures, given the down & distance, for a 61% efficiency rate, with 8.4 adjusted YPA and 25% of them gaining 15+ yards. The Ducks had 16 successful designed runs vs 5 failures for a 76% efficiency rate, 4.9 adjusted YPC, and 14.5% gained 10+ yards. Given the Beavers’ defensive stats prior to this game, those are much better efficiency rates in both phases than expected, though the rushing wasn’t quite as explosive as predicted.
On defense leading up to the fumble, Oregon successfully defended 10 designed passing plays vs 6 failures for a 62.5% defensive success rate, allowing 5.9 adjusted YPA and about 6% gaining 15+ yards. The Ducks were slightly underwater in rush defense, 10 successes vs 11 failures or 47.5%, allowing 5.8 adjusted YPC and 28.5% to gain 10+ yards. Those are flipped from expectation, a better passing defense performance but a worse rush defense one, though still manageable.
After the Fumble
For the remaining 23 and a half minutes, everything about this game reversed in one of the most astonishing collapses I’ve ever seen. Although I don’t review special teams, it should be noted that the remaining quarter and a half of football featured four consecutive special teams disasters for the Ducks: a long kickoff return by OSU aided by a facemask penalty, then an Oregon kickoff return called back on a holding flag to their own 8, followed by a botched punt snap that gave OSU the ball on Oregon’s 2, and finally a bad kick return that set up Oregon on their own 10.
From scrimmage, the performance completely flipped. Oregon had only five successful passing plays on 17 attempts, an abysmal 29.5% efficiency, gaining 5.6 adjusted YPA with 17.5% explosiveness. The Ducks were still a little above water in rushing, 10 successes vs 8 failures, but that’s a 20-point falloff in efficiency, and they were down to just 3.3 adjusted YPC and none went over 10 yards.
Oregon State completely stopped throwing the ball after that point. Instead they rushed 16 consecutive times, and Oregon didn’t stop a single one (the closest they came was a fullback dive from the 2 which was initially ruled a TD but then called back to just a yard’s gain). The Ducks allowed 9.0 adjusted YPC with more than 31% of them gaining 10+ yards. The four consecutive touchdowns this rush defense performance allowed gave the Beavers the win.
Film study on this game was excruciating. It was obviously the case that #10 QB Nix’s accuracy was off, with more than a dozen incompletions in which he threw the ball nowhere near his receiver. I can’t tell why that happened, his throwing motion doesn’t seem pained or labored and he has plenty of great throws in this game interspersed with the bad ones. Run blocking was fairly effective for the first part of the game, then failed thoroughly … again I don’t see personnel or injury reasons why this should be. Playcalling had some boneheaded mistakes, like repeated outside screens and sweep plays that should have been obvious weren’t working all season long on systemically poor perimeter blocking, but at other times was brilliant.
Defensively, the Ducks knew the Beavs would be running exclusively and somehow this information made their performance worse than the first part of the game, worse than their season-long strength at stopping the run indicated, and worse than even the performance of the Beavs’ excellent running back (who missed part of the game and was backed up by one guy we hadn’t seen in weeks and another who only had garbage time carries) would have predicted.
What made this particularly painful is that the film quality for this game is atrocious. I have a recording of the game in what looks like a digitally upscaled 480p, and the half-constructed stadium makes all the shots at nearly field level with virtually no reverse-angle replays. It took me three times longer to completely chart this game than it normally does because it’s almost impossible to make out jersey numbers or line technique from my copy. Worse, the film clips are totally unilluminating as to why there was such a dramatic change in the quality of line play on both sides of the ball after the fumble.
It’s simply beyond my ability as a film reviewer to say why this collapse occurred with the tape that I have. I assembled some representative video compilations but after two hours of staring at them I don’t believe that I’m capable of providing meaningful answers to the salient questions of this game, and so have decided to pull them from this article. I regret that I can’t serve the reader any better than this, but putting up bad videos and making guesses at analysis would be unproductive.
I am actively seeking out the all-22 from the game, which might give some better answers as to what changed; if I acquire it I will give a future analysis at a later date.