Saturday night, it rained in Autzen Stadium.
For the second November in a row the Ducks' hope of a second appearance in the national championship game ended with missed field goals, missed blocks and loose footballs that bounced the other way.
Stanford's defensive front didn't need a replay review to defeat Oregon at the line of scrimmage. The Ducks, now 51-7 in the Chip Kelly era, lost in a way that followed the pattern of previous losses. A quick, physical front seven frustrated the Oregon running game and destroyed their offensive tempo.
Their vaunted spread offense never got untracked, held to just 14 points as tailback Kenjon Barner met a wall of Stanford defenders on carry after carry, held to just 66 yards on 21 tries. For the first time this season Marcus Mariota looked like a redshirt freshman, rushed and harrassed as passes sailed high, long throws didn't come close to connecting, and he passed up chances to run for positive yards while being chased to the sideline and running out of room.
Images from the game will haunt Duck fans like a mixed drink hangover well into Tuesday. De'Anthony Thomas runs alongside Mariota on a 79-yard sprint that seemed destined for the end zone, if only DAT gets in the way of the last Stanford defender. Alejandro Maldonado's third quarter field goal donks off the left upright. Two critical replay reviews played out like revenge of the 2006 Oklahoma Schooners, a ball squirting off The Cardinal punt returner's rib cage as his knee goes down, and superb Cardinal tight end Zach Erst pinballing the football on his chest as his shoulder grazes the end line. Michael Clay, who has played like a warrior for four seasons and made an inspired 20 tackles Saturday night, had an overtime fumble bounce out of his grasp.
The Ducks aren't used to playing in close games, and it showed. Their timing and rhythm got a little glitchy. Stanford made fewer errors and kept their poise, playing determined, smashmouth football and dictating the style of the game.
On Oregon's last offensive play in overtime, Josh Huff broke inside while Mariota threw to the corner. Then Maldonado missed a second 40-plus field goal, wide right by about a yard.
Perfect seasons are lost in just that way.
The Ducks still have a possibility for hosting the PAC-12 Championship game and competing for their fourth straight conference title, but they'll need to rally for a win over the Beavers in Corvallis while hoping Stanford loses against UCLA at the Rose Bowl.
In a few weeks, Chip Kelly may bolt for the NFL and the NCAA could announce a decision in the Will Lyles investigation. Just this Tuesday an SEC-sized offensive lineman, 6-4, 290-lb. Alex Redmond from Los Alamitos, California, decommited from the Ducks to consider other opportunities. The Ducks reign of success, their open window to the biggest prize, might be endangered by a cold drizzle of unfavorable outcomes, replay reviews of fate.
The Webfoots still have a verbal commitment from Max Wogan, a kicker from Porterville, North Carolina rated #2 in the country. He blasted a 56-yarder through the uprights in a high school game this October, and 46 of 49 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks.
The Ducks only two conference losses in the last two seasons came down to missed kicks. Wogan will be a welcome sight in an Oregon uniform, provided they can make adjustments and improvements elsewhere.
With the lack of a natural recruiting base, the reality of a dreary climate in a small college town, and a donor pool heavily dependent on the largess of Nike and Phil Knight, the proverbial window can't remain open forever. Eventually the Ducks are likely to return to 5-7/6-6/7-5 and the hope of an occasional special season, a fall that will delight envious fans of the other schools here in the Northwest. Hiring the right coach to replace the inevitably departing Kelly will be a crucial step. Unpiling the wreckage wrought by a Lyles decision will be another.
Ask the USC Trojan fans how feels to return to mediocrity, and cope with the collapse of outsized expectations. College football is a wonderful game painted rich with passion, tradition and color, and sometimes it's a life lesson on fallen empires and deflated schemes.
Thanks Dale, you nailed it again. All of the things you mention were excruciating to watch. One other thing I felt was very important... The OTHER missed call by the referees - Stanford's 4th and short - how do they miss the false start by the right side of the line? That pushes them back and maybe they settle for the field goal. We'll never know. There was not a lot to like on the Duck offensive side. They shouldn't have been surprised since StanFURD is number ONE in the BCS against the run. Why we didn't have the scheme in place to combat that deficiency is a burning one. I've got more to say, but I think nyduck took up all of the blog space.. :-)
@goducks58 Good point on the false start. Frustrating too that in all the Ducks losses of the last four years they seem to have a common pattern, and an apparent failure to adjust when the plan wasn't working. De'Anthony Thomas was having more success running with his quick feet. Kenjon Barner had a big play with a little flair pass (easy to execute and a mismatch) but they never went back to it. Stanford got the ball to their tight end 11 times for 106 yards and a touchdown. Lyerla is more talented, but Oregon can't get him the rock more than two to four times a game. The Ducks pass up a chip shot early but try a field goal in the third quarter on 4th and short. The receivers don't seem to know how to help their quarterback when he's scrambling, break off their routes, come back to the ball, settle in an open space. Stanford did a great job in many ways, among them, using the sideline as a extra defender.
haha,, not trying for that,, be glad to read what you really think about on the failures of the duck offense - pretty amazing actually how well the duck defense played in the game. OPPORTUNISTIC/EKPRE OLUMU WOW! great game - plenty of space for that..go for it!
kelly got exposed again as a head coach. That loss was mostly becuase of him: he was clueless the entire game on what to change, how to react to what was not working with his offense, He could not figure out what ADJUSTMENTS were required to get the offense going in the least bit. At the core of the problem was stanfords defensive line beating the ducks offensive line. Yes, to begin with this was completely unexpected and surprising, since it was the real core strength of the overall ducks team this entire season up to the stanford game. If the duck o line was even 50/50 with the stanford d line, the ducks would have surely won the game by 2 touchdowns. But, it was clear early that this central problem was there for the ducks in the first half of the game. The solution to being beaten at the line of scrimmage, where the ducks and barner could not runn the ball - thier bread and butter, and the backbone of their offense - is to throw the ball. And it was known that stanfords secondary tough good, was the weak pint of their defense - that was all known to objective observers coming into the game. So the solution was not simply to throw the ball anywhere, it was to throw the ball deep and down the middle; just as they had many times in the cal and usc games prior to last nights game. It was clear that, regardless of the field conditions this was the most hihjly probable way that the ducks could defeat the line of scimmage losing battles for the run game that were experiencing. By going deep down the middle and connecting a few times, the defense would have been forced to adjust and react, and the ducks more than likely would have had much more possibilities and success in then running, optionong, and moving the ball. But, Kelly, for all his 'genius??' could not understand that that was his best move to make, ajustment to make. So, the entire game he stuck to the same pregame designed script, probably believing that it was simply a matter of time before his team and his plan broke through and started doing what it always had up to this game and in most games he has ever coached. But, this is Kelly's true achilles heel reappeared - stubborn and rigid to a fault - a miscalculation that is supremely costly. Deep down the middle could have scored points by itself, but more importantly have opened up the stanford defense and attacked its weakest point. Instead, they threw laterally and short and medium sidelines, mostly with mariota showing his inexperience, leaving the protected pocket and on the run(panicky/hearing footsteps that were mostly not there) and then making poor and off balance, feet nto set throws because of it, and the accuracy and efficeincy of mariota and the passing game was complete. Alot of that was unforced except by a young rattled qb, who lost his fromerly regarded unalterable COMPOSURE! Now, I put alot of the responsibility for that on Kelly, who should have seen that happening early on, and called those deep down the middle plays, and deep downfield, strecth the defense plays, to do 2 things: coach mariota to stay inside the pocket in a pro set, and dont even try to run unless and until the pocket was breaking down, and second to force stanfoed to react adjust or be beaten. The ducks showed they have the reciivers to make big plays in the passing game deep down field. But Kelly couldnt figure it outm stuck to his stubborn pregame plan, and did not take any/many shots deep downfield passing, did not show brilliance by adapting and shifting even breifly- so as to change the game- to a pro set style attack, that was the way for the ducks to adjust and defeat what stanford was doing to them defensively all night. Chip Kelly always said, he would run anything that works as needed to win a game. And the line was getting enough done as per pass protection, so that mariota could have stood inside the pocket and not run izr and ozr and standrad kelly offense last night, and really turned the tables against stanford, by suddenly running a pocket passing deep threat offense - I am sure that this would have shocked stanford, had Kelly done it, and Im sure stanford would then have had to react, and in doing so allowed oregon to run its more normal offense, or else run a pro set and cash in againts stanford in the passing game. But, instead Kelly showed NO genius, was completely out coached, and left his team dead in the water and bewildered, with no answers. Not to mention a kicking game, special teams units, that were and have been all year and last year, disastrous, inept, nonexistent, yet called upon again and again when it should've been clear there was zero reason to even consider it by now. All of that falls on Kelly, the not a genius coach, who I would have serious second and third thoughts of serious nfl coaching consideration of, as a gm or a fan. I think as good as he has been for the Ducks, he is overrated overall, and not a coach that you could feel confident would understand how to adjust and win critical big spot games when your team requires that to win. Kelly should stay at UO at least until he proves he wins a national title, and until he shows that he has learned to adjust and win the big ones, Unti that time he is just a very good college coach, and well suited and fitted in eugene with the ducks. I would not hire him for my NFL team. Not now.
@nyduck Nyd. I think you have a point. The Ducks seemingly never adjusted to what Stanford was doing, and didn't have an answer. With all their innovation they don't have a second option or a formation or a max protect for a situation like this, and it's come up in every one of their losses.
Kelly's almost certain to leave for the NFL, and his ability to adapt and adjust will be further tested, as will your theory of his limitations.
it will be interesting to watch and see if the nfl actually does come calling or not. I have much more doubts about that at this point. I think that most of the better pro teams can see that he really is not only unproven, but also not ready. I love Kelly in the many great ways he has improved the Ducks, and the way that he runs his program with respect to team unity, and what i believe is a program that gives alot to the players in terms of authority and responsibility to learn to lead and to grow as individuals personally by it. I think he running a great program, and his team's level of overall performnace is tremendous, especially given uo's inherent disdvantages in many rspects as per recruiting and talent. Not that that has not obviously risen to unprecendented levels of late, and that their player development is excellent, but he has shown his achilles heel in decision making that has cost the ducks in a few big spots - keeping him form his own stated goal of 'unfinished business' that everyone knows he has in mind. Now that is not simply a nit pick for a program that is knocking on the last unopened door of a national title win. It may well be the case for CK that he far better off to first create a true legacy that includes national title win or wins, before going to the pros, becuase he is paid plenty well enough, on par to pros, and if he fails in the pros he would not have already banked his legacy clinch pinnacle in collge, and might be left thereafter to only return to the collges somewhere and try to reach that same collegiate title goal again after. If I was him I'd stay at UO until he truly 'gets the job/goal done' and wins a title or 3 and then maybe think to try the pros if so inclined, but really he could stay the next 10 years at UO and compete for titles, and probably win a few. And announcing that to the world would let recruits know its safe to come and count on being coached by that same duck style and team that everyone sees, since he will be there and not leaving as you arrive. One thing is for sure he wont be able to operate his tight lipped no comment say nothingness at the NFL level should he wind up there. If I was an NFL GM id have too many questions about him to invest him as a guy you want to have confidence in to contend for REAL superbowls!! GO UCLA, GO usc, go fl st., and hope chipper or someone close to him is giving him some realistic constructive criticism. BY the way, how is that the ducks kick game is all around so pathetic? and special teams ditto generally - not a pillar of solidity or strength for the ducks. A rhetorical question out loud.... Thanks dale
having just watched the q&a press conferences of kellly and helfrich today, tuesday after the loss, I am more disgusted and unimpressed by them then ever. Basically, they placed all the blame or perhaps if you dont like the word 'blame' use responsibility or reason that the ducks lost on the palyers. Yep, not a single mention that they as coaches screwed up, or did not perform well in retrospect. Only that the plays they called were not executed as well as they thought they could be, NOT a single self deprecating comment that maybe just maybe the game plan was flawed?? or that in hind sight obvious adjustements on the fly were called for and should have been made by them the coaches. NOPe, not a peep or thought in that direction, That says alot alot. Tells me they really dont get it. Tells me they really are clueless still on what went wrong in the stanford loss. And tells me that if they were to play stanford again tomorrow, more than likely they would reapeat their mistakes, and lose. Becuase it was a very close game they might squeak a win, yeah possibly, but they have not got a clue as to what would and could be done to easily beat stanford tomorrow if they could. They are blinded by their own assuredness and becuase it was so close the loss, they are decieved and miss the bigger lesson, cannot see it, that a different approach, read react ajustments within the game , is what was required. They are blindly and narrowly focused in their retrospection such that they can only imagine, see, belive, fixate on, if only the players executed a little more offensively, if we just practiced a little more, that would be the best answer and solution. For them as coaches not to recognize their own blind spots, mistakes, and failures as the play callers, strategists, and directors of the players, is painful to listen to. The press there is utterly inept and clueless and never ever questions them on these points. NOT once, Not a one dares ask a potentially critical question. Either because, they to, it just does not cross there mind, or they cannot concieve that the coaches may be the real reason for the failure, or becuase they are plain and simple lacckies, who want to have ONLY good feelings, be LIKED!!, and would not dare to ask any question that might be regarded as sensitive, or god forbid challenging!!?, or even dare anybody say or think it CRITICAL!!... No sophisticated and winning history blue chip NFL team will hire Kelly as is. A middle tier joint might cause that is what seperates them blue chips and the also rans. I just wish soemone would shake Kelly and helfrich up a little so the ducks can get a title while they can, before the cycle turns on them and the window closes!! Come on CHIPPER. See the Foresst for the trees already!
@nyduck Kelly's 51-7 at Oregon and still has a solid chance for his fourth BCS bowl in four seasons. He has three conference championships, a Rose Bowl win and four 10+-win seasons at a school that had only one or two in its hundred years of football. It's certain that NFL GMs and owner will come calling after the season. Even after the Stanford loss he's a hot property for his energy and innovation. I agree with you he belongs in college football and would thrive with a long tenure in Eugene, but he's simply too competitive to resist the lure of pro football and the challenge of coaching the world's best football players. I think that's a gigantic mistake. I've said before the NFL is NOT the pinnacle of coaching, college football is, because a great college coach can do much more to shape the identity, style and direction of his program. The NFL is a league of conformity and parity, and it's all about the salaries and the players. He's almost certain to go, and all Duck fans can say is, "we'll miss you, but we'll get along without you."