From Mike Wines of Oregon Duck Soup and Youtube channel Madmike1951, the Alamo Bowl highlights. The Ducks faltered on offense but rode a tenacious defense and a great individual performance by Marcus Mariota to a 30-7 victory, capping off an 11-2 season with a bowl victory over one of the NCAA's richest and most storied programs.
Winning the last two games sets the Ducks up for a productive off season, a good close in recruiting (they're pursuing several prospects from the state of Texas) and a run at the PAC-12 and national titles in 2014.
Flyin' Hawaiian: Marcus Mariota sparked the Ducks with 386 total yards against Texas, but the Ducks have to get more consistent and productive in the red zone to achieve their goals next year (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports images).
Opening kickoff, Matt Wogan to the back of the Texas end zone.
Having a kicker with the ability to blast one deep and prevent a big return is a huge weapon for the defense. Wogan had 22 touchbacks this season, 3 in this game and starting the game with one prevents a big return, something that can give an underdog hope and momentum. Instead, Wogan and the kickoff team started them three times at the 25, once at the 21, once at the 20. Only two returns gained plus-field position for the Longhorns, one to the 36 and another to the 27. It was a night that the Ducks got solid efforts from both their coverage teams, something great teams strive to do.
First play from scrimmage, 1st and 10 Texas on Texas 25, Brown rush for no gain
All the gaps are filled. Wade Keliikipi negates two blocks at the line of scrimmage, and Rodney Hardrick steps up into the A gap to make the tackle at the line of scrimmage. Texas gets no push, and the Ducks have 9 jerseys around the ball, cutting off all cutback lanes and swarming the big Texas running back. Brown got yards during the game, but the Ducks forced enough 2nd and long, 3rd and long situations to keep Case McCoy pressured and uncomfortable, and when they did, he obliged with costly mistakes.
14:03 1st quarter Texas 3rd and 18 Texas 25 McCoy pass intercepted by Avery Patterson, returned 38 yards for touchdown.
After a costly holding penalty, Tyrell Robinson and Boseko Lokombo blitz, and they get enough pressure on McCoy that he slings a high, hurried throw to a covered receiver. Tony Washington gets a push on the blind side also. The ball skips off Shipley's hands and Avery Patterson alertly plucks the carom with an open field and blockers, and he weaves beautifully through the offense for a td. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu arrives just as the ball gets there to cause the carom. Immediately he sees that AP has it and turns into a blocker. Patterson picks up key blocks from Ifo, Lokombo, Washington and Buckner.
For the second year in a row, the Ducks seize early momentum and stun a capacity crowd with a sudden touchdown. This play took all the "win one for the Gipper" momentum out of the game for Texas, and gave the defense the confidence to play aggressive and loose. They flew to the football. Coaching was evident in how quickly they responded as a unit, going on the attack with a chance to score, peeling back to convoy Patterson into the end zone. It clearly shows in the end zone view in the replay, swift and disciplined, careful not to take a bad angle and negate the return. This was a perfect start, deflating both the crowd and the Texas sideline.
For the season, the Ducks intercepted 17 passes, returning them for 309 yards and 3 scores, an average of 18.2 yards a return. Opponents had 6 ints, returned for 54 yards, no Tds. That represents a big net gain in momentum, and reflects both the athleticism of the defense and the fact that they are well-coached in turning those situations into big-play opportunities.
13:10 1st quarter, Texas second and 9 Texas 27
Malcolm Brown rush for no gain.
The Ducks run a stunt in the middle of the line and get penetration along the front, creating a new line of scrimmage two yards deep. They're too quick for the Texas offensive front on this play., four Ducks shifting right and again filling every gap, waiting for Brown while standing up his blockers. Wade K squirts inside to upset the timing, and Buckner and Washington clean up, good team defense, forcing another 3rd and long.
11:38, first and 10 Oregon on Oregon 24
Spread formation, trips right
In the first play of the Ducks first possession, it's an inside zone read and Mariota gives to Byron Marshall, who gets six quick yards inside behind good blocking. The quarterback has a second option on the play, Bralon Addison set up wide along the sideline for a quick screen with two blockers in front of him, a combination play. Marshall gets good driving blocks from Jake Fisher, Hroniss Grasu, and Hamani Stevens, runs hard and straight ahead, a good start for the offense that sets up other plays later.
11:22, 2nd and 4 Oregon from the Oregon 30
Next play, 16 seconds later, yellow light tempo. The pocket breaks down, and Mariota, with full mobility, outruns the Texas defense for four yards and a first down on a play most quarterbacks would be trapped for a sack. His speed creates something out of nothing and salvages some mediocre pass blocking, frustrates a Texas defense that defended the play very well. Mariota just escapes, an advantage his exceptional speed gives him that is very difficult to match, something glaringly missing back in November when he was hurt. This offense, with consistency issues on the offensive line, was woefully easy to contain this year without Super Mario's quickness. He just beats the defensive end and tackle around the edge when they had him surrounded.
Speed also allows him to accelerate to the chains down the sideline and avoid any contact, equally important.
ESPN runs a graphic after the play. In the Ducks first 7 games, Mariota run for 493 yards and 9 scores. In the last five 89 yards and no scores. Against Texas, he led all rushers with 133 yards on 15 carries, 8.9 a pop, finishing with 711 for the year.
11:12 Oregon on Oregon 34 Mariota 12 run
Green light tempo now after two successful plays, snap in just 10 seconds. From the right hash again, an inside zone read with a quick screen option on the right sideline with one blocker in front of Addison. Mariota keeps as the linebacker takes a step inside, and the qb is much too quick for him to recover, sprinting to the second level and sliding away from contact after a twelve yard gain. Grasu and Stevens get a good double team block inside, with Stevens peeling off to shield off the inside linebacker, the key to the play. Mariota easily beats the unblocked defender with speed. From film study the Longhorns had committed to a strategy of giving MM the keep and he burned them repeatedly.
11:02 Oregon on Oregon 46 Mariota scrambles for 11 yards
Quckest tempo again, snap in just 10 seconds. Texas gets pressure inside on a pass play, but again the quarterback just beats it with athletic ability. He's dead in the pocket but just eludes a poorly-blocked defender and outruns containment for an easy first down, too fast for a second Longhorn who has a good angle on him.
10:47 Oregon on Texas 43 Marshall 10 run
15 seconds to snap the ball. After three runs by Mariota he gives inside to Marshall, who gets great blocking on this play, a hole five yards wide as Fisher walls off his man on the outside, and Grasu, Stevens and Cameron Hunt drive the interior of the Texas line off the ball to the left. Another good double team by Grasu and Stevens drives the play.
Marshall's first two runs were decisive and well-blocked on this opening drive, but the inside running game bogged down awfully after that. It's clear from the initial success that the problem is a matter of consistency in execution. After getting 16 yards on his first two carries, #9 would have one more run for 14 yards the rest of the night, the remaining 10 for a scant 28 yards. The Ducks simply have to get more consistency out of their bread-and-butter running game next season. It's a commitment that has been misplaced since Kelly left as the team has become more reliant on Mariota's arm and legs.
Marshall gets up chipping with the Texas defense, a habit he has to stop. He needs to focus on his work and avoid a potential personal foul infraction from hankie-loving PAC-12 officials next year (an ACC crew worked this game).
10:36 Oregon on Texas 34, 1st and 10 Mariota 21 pass to Huff
11 seconds to snap. Texas rushes four and they are all picked up ably, and Marshall alertly squares off against a delayed blitzer from the strong side, giving his quarterback time to read the coverage and set up in the pocket. Grasu, Stevens, Fisher, Hunt and Johnstone give him a perfect throwing lane, and he delivers a 21-yard strike to Huff, who grabs the ball in stride 12 yards down the field over the middle and runs for another 9, dragging defenders forward down the 12.
Texas has seven defenders in close, and the Ducks have spread the field so that there is a big wide opening in the middle. The linebackers have crept up to contain Mariota and Marshall, leaving a big opening for Huff's crisp in route. Good execution, and a very nice mix of plays by Scott Frost on the opening drive. In 6 plays they have attacked UT from one sideline to the other and downfield.
In the red zone, however, the drive bogs down, symptomatic of issues the Ducks have had during their late-season slump.
A running play to Marshall goes for a two-yard loss, putting the Ducks in a negative situation. The play clock runs down and Mariota doesn't like the formation, forcing a timeout.
Mariota runs for 9 yards down to the 3, but Evan Baylis is flagged for holding, driving the Ducks back to the 15. Mariota has his helmet ripped off and by rule, has to come out of the game for a play.
A false start penalty backs them up to the 20 as Jeff Lockie takes over. On 2nd and 18, the reserve quarterback has trouble with the zone read mesh, the foundation play of the Oregon offense. The ball goes to the ground and he has to fall on it.
Finally able to return on 3rd and 24, Mariota sees a lane against a soft "prevent" defense and scrambles left for 18 yards, going out at the Texas 8, a play that at least gets Matt Wogan in manageable field goal range.
Helfrich smartly takes the points, and the Ducks have a 10-0 lead. But lapses in execution and discipline cost them a red zone opportunity, something that plagued them all through November and again in the Alamo Bowl. Despite Mariota's big night, the Ducks managed just one offensive touchdown for the game, unheard during their era of explosive offensive success.
Off topic but I see lots of opportunity with recruiting over the next 40 days or so. I think there are lots of young men leaning Oregon and we shall see. Dale do you know just how big Budda Baker is? I have seen everything from 5'8" to 5"11" and 170 pounds to 188.
The Ducks need to develop a good backup quarterback to take some of the pressure off Mariota. Also the poor and bias officiating against Oregon needs to be addressed. There were way too many no calls on late hits on Oregon players, this just invites other team to take cheap shots on us when they know they won't be called on it, and that does not take into consideration all the ticky tack calls on the Ducks which many times negates a big plays.
So, of the top 3 bowl games with Pac12 teams - Rose, Holiday and Alamo – only the Ducks win, even if the win begs serious coach/player reflection for next season. Surprisingly, the Ducks also have the best overall Pac12 record at 11-2. When all the bowl dust settles, they may end up ranked #10, maybe 9 or with a lot of luck 8. Good for the Ducks and for what should be an excellent recruiting class, esp. if they land Swain and Lealaimatafeo (as they are predicted to do per 247sports) and maybe one more DT (but not even one additional target listed at 247sports).
I'm not alone in feeling the November downturn was primarily due to MM's injury, which prevented early leads, and allowed teams like Arizona and OSU, not having to play catch-up, to run effectively, eating clock, and scoring. This points to weakness in the D-line and LBs.
Where I see 3 OL commits already, with 1-2 more possible, and starters Grasu, Fisher, Johnstone, Stevens, and a load of up-n-comers behind them, the Ducks have only 2 DL commits in Jelks and Talia, who are both on the lightweight side. After losing starters Keliikipi, Heimuli, Hart and Ebert, the two biggest returning veteran D-liners are Balducci at 297 and Armstead at 280, with a steep drop in weight after them. Maybe the new DC, if hired soon, can help patch this gap in the next few weeks. Even with Coach Al now off into the sunset, and a new DC with his own schemes, I still think the D will have to rotate a lot of primary players over their 40+ minutes on the field. So I continue to ask, where's the beef?
Michigan State should be ranked in the top five, along with the Ducks, next year. This will make for a monumental game next September. We definitely need to get more physical up front and clean up the penalties. I hope MM doesn't have to carry the whole load next year.
Some time, and some critical reading later, I've come down from my "WOW!!!" reaction to the Alamo Bowl performance. But even with that, I am still very pleased. Consider for a moment, just how important that win was for the Ducks program? They were already being downgraded substantially by the talking heads before the Alamo. The Ducks would have been kicked to the curb completely. Committs might have changed their minds, and good luck on getting some to come later if the Ducks had lost.
This was a HUGE win, Not only for the recruits, but how about the new DC? Programs plateau, have down times, the Ducks averted a colossal collapse by beating the Longhorns, and did it, by OUT talenting ateam from Texas, and apparently by being the team that wanted it more...even if they didn't want to play in the Rose Bowl....
The team was sloppy, false starts, ineffective in the Red Zone. But, Mariota was back!! And he looked great, and save for the last 2 minutes of the Civil War, the whole team generally looked like it was having fuaying football.
Looking forward to your annual highlight features on individual players, Mike. What a fun season this was, a great group of kids.
40 times, heights and weights for recruits are notoriously inflated. At The Opening Baker was measured at 5-9, 174. He has great muscle tone and his high school has a good weight program.
@SonomaDuck It's all over the place, hopefully Dale has the definitive answer. But my size/weight concern is more with the defensive line. Per go ducks.com, seven guys return on the interior that average 262 lbs. The 5 returning DEs average around 240+. The two commits, even with a likely 3rd commit in Trey Lealaimatafeo at 295, will average 271. Are they fast? Probably. Will MSU and Stanford smash them? Probably. I close my case.
@GeorgeNashKhierAmen on the back-up QB who can actually handle the job. With Dixon going down, Ducks didn't have any true dual threats to fill in. By now, you'd think they would.
The Ducks personnel fits a 4-3 front better, I think, and if they go that way, they can play very effectively with a 280/290 front and a 240/250 speed rusher on the blind side. Still working on Trey L and linebacker Jimmie Swain, so they may close very strong.
@rgyleCould not agree more with the "WTB?" question. It's been noted here that the Shock factor of Oregon's offense has worn off. It is also the case that the D was designed to accompany the offense. A part of the problem I think this season is that the offense did change. It wasn't the laser like striking force it was under Kelly, and when it bogged down things of course got worse.
But even as the O might have changed a bit by design, the D never got the memo. It was still functioning on the premise of always being ahead.
The new DC, really needs to align his side with the offense. And it should include getting big guys, who may not necessarily be as fast as was needed before, but ones that can plug up the middle.
State may be 2nd in the final poll. Masterful job against Stanford in the Rose Bowl, physical and resilient.
@duckified MSU played tough yesterday. Not sure Ducks preseason will be in the top 5, but top 10 certainly. Regardless, as you say, that game will be key for the Ducks. With a healthy MM and O-line, I see Ducks speed in space being a challenge for MSU, hopefully putting them in catch-up passing mode. Hope the new DC, long with Aiken and Pellum, can get the primary D up a few notches, and bring in or develop some beef and physicality. If Stanford couldn't stop the Spartans, look out Ducks!
Mariota had a great game, and I agree strongly with your point about having fun playing football. The Civil War win and the Alamo Bowl win did a lot to restore the confidence and energy of this team, and they will have a very positive and enthusiastic outlook going into winter drills and training, spring practice and summer workouts.