Ducks’ D unconcerned with Stanford’s new look
Even though Stanford is sporting a new look on offense, that won’t change Oregon’s overall defensive strategy on Saturday afternoon when the two teams meet.
The Ducks’ defense is aiming to be on the field as little as possible, shutting down whatever style of offense Stanford presents and allowing their own high-flying offense to put up points.
“We’ve got to get stops. We can’t be on the field the whole game (like last year),” said Oregon senior safety Erick Dargen. “If we’re on the field all game then our offense is not getting the ball.”
While much of the focus leading up to the game at Autzen Stadium has been on how fifth-ranked Oregon’s prolific offense will fare against the stout Cardinal defense, Stanford added a wrinkle in the matchup when the team switched up its more traditional offense last week against Oregon State.
The Cardinal (5-3, 3-2 Pac-12) routed the Beavers 38-14 with fly sweeps, read-options and multiple wide receiver sets, at times even going to a no-huddle.
That’s a departure from the style that the Ducks (7-1, 4-1) have seen in two straight losses to the Cardinal.
Last season, Tyler Gaffney ran for 157 yards and Stanford beat then-No. 2 Oregon 26-20, thwarting the Ducks’ shot at the national championship. The Cardinal allowed their opponents just 62 yards rushing.
In 2012, Stanford toppled then-No. 1 Oregon 17-14 in overtime, winning it on Jordan Williamson’s 37-yard field goal. Stepfan Taylor ran for 166 yards and the Cardinal snapped a 13-game winning streak for the Ducks and derailed their national title hopes.
For both those victories, the Cardinal depended on a straight-forward physical ground attack and savvy clock management.
Stanford coach David Shaw said this time the Cardinal may go to the new-look offense. Or they may not. He’ll keep the Ducks guessing.
“If we can get like we did last year and get to our big personnel to be able to run the ball efficiently, hey, that’s great, we can do that,” Shaw said. “If we have to spread it out and run and throw and move the football, hey, we have to do that. Nothing is off-limits to us.”
One of the reasons Stanford has looked to different offensive options is the absence of a dependable rush. The Cardinal are ranked ninth in the Pac-12 — and 90th in the nation — with an average of just 141 yards rushing a game.
The Ducks say their defense is focused on itself, not on what Stanford may or may not do.
“We’re familiar with them and they’re familiar with us. It’s just a matter of who can execute better,” Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu said.
But the Ducks have some admitted issues. Oregon’s defense is ranked 11th in the Pac-12, allowing an average of just over 462 yards a game. They’ve given up 26 total touchdowns so far. The Ducks’ rushing defense is ranked No. 10, allowing 12 touchdowns on the ground and an average of 171.9 yards rushing.
Oregon should get a boost this week from the return of starting defensive end Arik Armstead, who injured an ankle on Oct. 2 in Oregon’s loss to Arizona. Nose tackle Alex Balducci’s status is unclear after he was helped off the field last week during a 59-41 victory over California.
“You know, the way we view Stanford is: Stanford’s still Stanford,” Oregon defensive coordinator Don Pellum said. “They’re a tremendous running team and they’ve always had some tremendous skill players. So we have to prepare for everything. They’ve opened their arsenal, and we’ve got to be prepared for however they attack.”