Tuck: Unlucky Ducky
The Oregon Ducks are 44-5 over the last 4 seasons. After last night it seemed like the feeling by many was the program has been a complete failure. I guess that comes from the fact they've only been an underdog twice during that run. They lost as an underdog in the National Championship game to Auburn, and beat Stanford 53-30 on the road in 2011. Each of the last two years they've been in position to play for the National Title in November, only to lose. Unlike others during the BCS-era, they haven't gotten a crack at redemption via the pollsters.
The biggest complaint about the Ducks has been, and continues to be, they aren't physical enough. I just don't buy it. Of course, there are more physical teams out there. How many are more athletic though? How many are better? They've lost to some physical teams like Stanford, Auburn, and LSU. They've also beaten physical teams like Wisconsin, Kansas State, and Stanford.
The truth is, the Ducks style works just fine. Read that first line again. The Oregon Ducks are 44-5 over the last 4 seasons.
For a cross-reference: Alabama is 43-5. Stanford is 43-6. LSU is 41-8. Ohio State is 39-8. Oklahoma State is 38-9. You get the idea.
Stanford punished Oregon last night. Their offensive and defensive lines did a great job and won their battles most of the night. They held the Ducks to 62 yards on the ground and ran for 274 themselves. The dominance there was obvious to anyone.
But the game in reality was much closer than that. As have been most of Oregon's tough losses throughout the last four years.
Let's concentrate on the three biggest losses. Auburn, and Stanford this year and last. The losses that cost them a title, or a shot at it.
All of them ran the football effectively for over 200 yards and controlled time of possession (aka kept the chains moving). That is a common theme. Others have done this and lost to Oregon, let's make that clear. The difference has been mistakes and critical turnovers that have stopped the offense from scoring.
Marcus Mariota misses Josh Huff wide-open for a long touchdown in the beginning of the game.
The Ducks, always aggressive, go for it on 4th and goal from the 4 and come up empty.
De'Anthony Thomas fumbles at the 2-yard line costing the Ducks more points.
Marcus Mariota fumbles in the 3rd quarter in the redzone.
Oregon loses 26-20 after a big forth quarter rally falls short.
Last year vs. Stanford
The Ducks fail on 4th and 1 at the Stanford 7-yard line and come away with no points. (This came after a long Mariota run that if Thomas turns around to see the defender chasing him and throws even a half-way decent block it's a touchdown)
The Ducks fail on a 4th and 4 inside the Stanford 40.
Mariota throws an interception in the redzone.
The Ducks miss a field goal while up 7 in the 3rd quarter.
The Ducks miss a field goal in overtime costing them the game, 17-14 and a shot at a BCS title.
BCS Title Game vs. Auburn
QB Darren Thomas throws an interception in the redzone in a scoreless game.
The offensive line misses an assignment on 3rd and goal from the 3-yard line resulting in a sack and the Ducks settle for 3.
The Ducks give up a safety on another blown assignment.
The Ducks fail to punch it in on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line down 19-11 in the 3rd quarter in an eventual 22-19 loss on a last second field goal.
The results were all losses and it was easy to point out Oregon was smaller and not as tough, but I think that is revisionist history to say that is why they didn't win some games. I think most believe physical defenses simply shut them down, but that isn't really accurate. They have moved the ball, but it seems other things got them beat. They still generated yardage and missed on scoring chances either by poor execution or by questionable/poor decision-making.
Sometimes little things get you beat, and sometimes those little things become big things in big games when the margin for error is smaller. Nothing is wrong with the Ducks style. They've just lost some games to good teams. No different than Alabama. The Tide have just earned more favor from those voting and have gotten a little lucky along the way getting opportunities at redemption. Who knows, maybe Oregon will still get another crack at it this year.