The Ducks have 10 days to get ready for Stanford, time to heal the bruises and prepare for another physical game, another “first real test of the season” against The Cardinal, currently locked in the fourth quarter of a close game, likely to be 7-1 and ranked 5th in the country.
These were the lessons of a tough victory against #12 UCLA:
1. Byron Marshall is the #1 running back, and Thomas Tyner is best off the bench.
Marshall dashed 40 yards for a touchdown on a stretch play in this game, a brilliant run in which he cut and followed the blocking perfectly, making a quick move to the sideline and exploding past the defense behind blocks by Pharaoh Brown and Jake Fisher. He had another great run in the fourth quarter, bouncing outside and scampering for 26. Tyner ran hard in the fourth quarter, moving the pile as the Ducks attacked the worn-out Bruins with inside runs on their last two scoring drives.
De’Anthony Thomas was tossed around like a crash test dummy, thrown down repeatedly and bashed in the head on a catch over the middle, a helmet-to-helmet shot where the flag was picked up. He’s clearly best in the slash role where he gets open field. He didn’t find any running room as a lead back tonight, and Marshall has 5 100-yard games in a row, running with confidence, authority, and decisiveness.
The Black Momba is still a great football player. Use him in the slot, motion him, pitch to him, run the fly sweep, get him in a pass route (he has great hands, hanging on to one ball when he was absolutely clocked) but the absolute worst way to use him is as a lead running back running between the tackles against a physical front seven eager to toss him around.
2. Now would be a good time to play four complete quarters
Ducks got off to lackluster starts against Colorado, Tennessee and Washington. They slept through the second quarter and the fourth against WSU. UCLA played a more physical and intense game for the first two and a half quarters, and the Ducks aided them with fumbles, a pass interference penalty on third and five, a bad snap and a blocked punt.
Stanford is the most physical team this side of Alabama with lots to play for at 7-1 and 5th in the country. They’re still alive for the conference championship and a BCS bowl. They held the Ducks out of the national championship game last year.
3. Oregon’s defense is pretty good
They allowed just two short-field touchdowns on the day, and held UCLA to 64 yards passing and 283 yards, less than 4 yards per play.
They still have to contain a mobile quarterback better. Hundley scrambled or kept 15 times for 72 yards. Kevin Hogan and Utah’s Travis Wilson run well, and they may face Hundley again in December.
4. Marcus Mariota is a cool customer, and his offense takes their cue from him
There’s no panic in this team. They react to adversity with incredible calm. Stymied and knocked around for two and a half quarters, they stayed focused and kept playing one play at time. Mariota was 10-10 in the second half, on target at 21-28 for the game despite 4 drops, for 230 yards and a touchdown to Bralon Addison.
The 2013 team will handle a close game or having to come from behind with a lot of poise. Despite the claims of the pundits, they have been tested. They just handle the tests extremely well.