Last season, Stanford Cardinal defensive coordinator Derek Mason devised a gameplan that stymied the high-flying offense of the Oregon Ducks and allowed his team to escape Autzen Stadium with a 17-14 overtime victory. With the Ducks coming to The Farm this Thursday, he’ll be looking for another stellar effort from his defense to get Stanford back in control of the Pac 12 North. His philosophy this year, just as it was last year, is to take this Oregon offense to “deep water.”
Mason explained his analogy this week, saying: “Sharks take their prey into deep water. That’s exactly what we plan on doing.” What that means is that he wants to see how the Ducks do under pressure of a close game in the fourth quarter. So much of Oregon’s success has been pressing their advantage early and turning games into blowouts by the third quarter. Marcus Mariota has played in just one game since becoming the starter at Oregon that was decided by less than 10 points and it was last season’s loss to Stanford.
As good as this Oregon team is, the fact of the matter is that they are unknown quantities when it comes to close games in the fourth quarter. Getting into that “deep water” against Stanford last year led to some panic that disrupted the rhythm of the offense and kept them from having an answer when pushed late in the game and into overtime. Playing in a tight game like they had last season with the Cardinal didn’t allow the Ducks to play as loose and confident as they normally do and it resulted in the loss.
Stanford wants to do the exact same thing this year. That means containing the Oregon running game with their defensive front, playing physical coverage on the receivers on the outside, spying Mariota at all times and controlling the pace of the game on offense with the running game. They want to make the Ducks prove they can swim out in that “deep water” and win a close game late in the fourth quarter. So far, that’s one stat this Oregon team hasn’t been able to collect.