CFN Analysis: Stanford Solves Oregon Problem
Posted Nov 18, 2012

CFN Analysis: The Cardinal throws a shock into the system with an OT win over the Ducks.

By Richard Cirminiello

Oregon lost. And shockingly, the monumental upset had little to do with the play of the defense.

All week, the talk around Eugene centered on a Ducks D that was banged up and missing a slew of starters. How well would it hold up in the face of the power ground game of Stanford? Sure, Oregon yielded a lot of yards to RB Stepfan Taylor, but it also only gave up 14 points in regulation, including not one for a stretch of more than 41 minutes. Two measly touchdowns—the Ducks usually produce that output in most quarters, right?

Oregon is unbeaten no longer because Stanford, led by coordinator Derek Mason, was brilliant in its defensive preparation. The Cardinal did what no one else has this season, and few have since Chip Kelly left the Northeast for the Pacific Northwest—it contained the Ducks' speed, limited big plays and avoided the knockout punch. Stanford scored 17 points, and beat Oregon in Autzen Stadium; in a weekend of shocker, that is easily the biggest one for me.

It's going to get lost in the haze of the BCS and Pac-12 North impacts, but the Zach Ertz touchdown catch with two minutes left in regulation will go down as one of the best plays of the 2012 season. It was an incredible grab, both from the standpoint of concentration and timing of the game. No one will ever know what happens if Ertz drops Kevin Hogan's pass, or if the officials don't overturn the original incomplete call on the field. What is known is that it's a reception that Cardinal—and Ducks—fans are going to remember for a very, very long time.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN

Welcome back to the party SEC.

If the last two weeks of the college football season has taught us anything (and shame on us for not knowing this by now), it's that no team is invincible. Everyone and their second, third, and fourth cousins were ready to buy the airfare and hotel rooms for Alabama and Oregon two weeks ago, but the travel dates were apparently blacked out by teams talented enough to ruin the vacation plans of many.

And so it was in this one.

I said this on radio this week, but little did I know that it would become reality. This game was a very interesting contrast of styles. You had the flash-and-dash of Oregon versus the bruising, physical-style of Stanford. Unlike other teams that the Ducks have played, the Tree is not so easily worn down. You just got the feeling that if the game were close early on, Stanford would be in it for the entire game.

Yup. The Cardinal was able to wreck the flight plan of the Ducks by controlling the line of scrimmage and disrupting the rhythm of an extremely potent Oregon offensive-scheme and attack. In the end, the smaller, quicker Nike-clad team from the Pacific Northwest got bullied around by the brawn and might of Stanford.

So, it's November, and here we go again. What was known is not. What was supposed to be, will not be, and where everyone is headed, they won't go. Welcome to college football. Let's hope this drama doesn't get lost with the new playoff format in 2014.

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

Oregon has been contained, even shut down, on offense through the first half of several games during the Chip Kelly era. However, on most of those occasions, the Ducks wound up scoring at least 31 points by the end of four quarters. On several occasions, Kelly's Oregon teams would respond to a dead first half by hanging more than half a hundred points on the scoreboard. On one point, the college football cognoscenti was pretty much unanimous heading into Saturday night's showdown with the Stanford Cardinal: The visitors from The Farm couldn't win without scoring a respectable amount of points, at least 24 and very likely more.

So much for that piece of conventional wisdom.

Oregon scored only 15 points against the Bay Area's other Pac-12 team, California, two years ago. Fortunately for the Ducks, that November struggle didn't prove fatal on the march to the national championship game. Oregon was able to hold California to 13 points… and survive a missed field goal by the Golden Bears after kicker Giorgio Tavecchio committed a false start on a shorter kick.

This time, Oregon was felled… not by the swipe of a Bear's claw, but by Trees who kept reading Oregon's plays and received timely forward nudges from an Oregon offensive line that performed horribly.

In analyzing this game, the most surprising reality of all is that Oregon's offensive line, not its defensive line, cost UO (in all likelihood) a shot at the national championship and (quite possibly) the Pac-12 championship itself. Oregon's defensive line had been decimated by injuries the week before against California, so it was reasonable to think that Stanford could move the ball with regularity on Oregon's defense. Yet, the Cardinal threw errantly in the second quarter and booted the ball on the carpet in the third, throwing up goose-eggs after a bright start in the first 20 minutes of play. Oregon's defense, if told that it would allow only 14 regulation-time points to Stanford, would have been elated with its performance. The Ducks had to figure that if they held the Cardinal to 14 points in 60 minutes, they would have won by at least 21 points if not many more.

Enter Oregon's offensive line… and Stanford's defensive front.

When Oregon gained multiple drive starts in favorable positions during the third quarter, the Ducks – leading 14-7 – seemed to be on the verge of initiating their very familiar second-half runaway. Yet, precisely when the Ducks stood on the precipice of a comfortable victory, holding penalties – more than anything else – gummed up drives and halted their progress. Missed field goals by Alejandro Maldonado certainly didn't help, but Oregon doesn't play for field goals, and the Ducks certainly don't expect to lose (especially at home) when their defense holds an opponent under 18 points.

Stanford's front seven reacted uncommonly well – better than any other Oregon opponent this year – to what the Ducks tried to do on offense. The Cardinal banished the memories of the second-half curb-stompings that marked their previous two losses to the Ducks, ones in which UO snoozed for the first 20 minutes and then had 52 points (2010) or 53 (2011) on the scoreboard in the blink of an eye.

Let this point sink in: Stanford's offense did not play well… in Autzen Stadium… at night… and it didn't matter. That's how tough Stanford is in the post-Jim Harbaugh era.

David Shaw and his kids are most certainly all right. They're also one win next week (over UCLA) from locking Oregon outside the Pac-12 Championship Game, if you can possibly believe it.

By Bart Doan
Follow me @Bart_cfn

So then, that happened. The irresistible force apparently met the immovable object, and that object was rooted in Palo Alto, CA.

You could say a lot of things about this Stanford-Oregon game, but the bottom line was, again, Oregon fell victim to a top flite front seven with a suspect secondary because they couldn't complete passes down the field when it mattered. Stanford tried hard to lose the game, with two second half fumbles and one in overtime. But Oregon was having none of it. The wild and wacky, quacky fast paced offense they brought in slipped up to the old fail safe of college football: the kicking game. Twice, Oregon missed field goals, one in the second half, one in overtime, that ostensibly would have ended the game.

But that's not the narrative. It never will be. The bottom line is what we worried about Oregon to begin with. Could Marcus Mariota, a redshirt freshman, make the throws when they counted? What might happen when Oregon faces a front seven that doesn't allow their fast paced offense to run like a hot knife through butter? Will they be able to adjust? The answer was a resounding "no." Mariota time and time again was just a tick off, mostly throwing the ball too hard, indicating nerves. And it finally cost a team built to play from far ahead.

Give Stanford credit. This wasn't supposed to happen. Not losing Andrew Luck. Not losing the allure of Jim Harbaugh. But it did happen, and it wasn't a picture of beauty. Stanford just destroyed 2012 college football, because losing at home to a good Cardinal team in the eyes of many pales in comparison to losing at home to a completely questionable Texas A&M team. And so goes the subjective sport we watch and write about, and Oregon, again, is incapable of saving us.

By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

This is an absolutely amazing win by Stanford. Since Oregon had run all over its opposition this season, there was simply no reason to expect the Cardinal defense to hold the Ducks to just 14 points.

However, that's exactly what happened. The Stanford front seven dominated the line of scrimmage, never allowing Oregon to get in any sort of rhythm. Sure, they gave up over 400 yards, but the Cardinal defense held Oregon to just 3 of 16 on third down, which speaks volumes about how well they played in crucial situations.

Believe it or not, tonight's outcome could shape the future of the Pac 12. Let's be honest: Oregon has clearly been the class of the league ever since Chip Kelly took over in Eugene, because no one has been able to stop his vaunted high-octane attack. However, it's clear from watching game film that the only way to stop the Ducks is to play the old-school physical defense that Stanford plays.

If that recipe for success sounds familiar, it should. Auburn, LSU, and Ohio State all defeated Oregon using this exact same approach.

Imagine that: hard-nosed, smash mouth football coming to the Pac 12.