The Stanford Cardinal put on a physically dominating performance on Thursday night against the Oregon Ducks as they just kept pounding on the Oregon defense and keeping the high-flying offense on the sidelines. The win marks back-to-back wins for Stanford over Oregon and the second straight season that Stanford has made Oregon look downright pedestrian. If we learned anything from the Cardinal’s physical man-handling of the Ducks on Thursday, it’s that David Shaw understands how to beat the Oregon Ducks.
Shaw’s gameplan for this matchup was brilliant and executed to perfection. He minimized the number of offensive possessions for Oregon by dominating the time of possession as Stanford held the ball for 42:34 compared to just 17:26 for the Ducks. He ground the pace of the game to a standstill by committing to the running game early and often, feeding Tyler Gaffney a school-record 45 times throughout the night. Gaffney only averaged 3.5 yards per carry but the cumulative effect of body blow after body blow allowed the Cardinal to methodically drive down the field and bleed the clock to zero.
He resisted the temptation to try and pick up the pace and deliver a “finishing shot” early in the game to avoid giving up the air-tight control that his team had on the game (up until the final 10 minutes), calling 66 running plays on the night to just 13 passing plays. Stanford set up the pass with the run and allowed Kevin Hogan to make impact throws off of play-action without forcing him to carry the offense himself. In fact, his biggest contributions were when he pulled the ball down and ran with it as he helped move the chains and keep drives moving all night long with 57 rushing yards on eight carries.
On the other side of the ball, Shaw got his defense playing at their absolute best when it mattered the most. The Cardinal defensive front harassed Marcus Mariota all night long, made tackles in the open field to minimize yards after contact and yards after catch and physically relocated the line of scrimmage back into the Oregon backfield. They bullied the Ducks’ offense all night long and Oregon could not find a response until their mad-dash rally in the fourth quarter that fell short.
If Shaw wins his third straight Pac 12 coach of the year award in 2013, he will have earned it on this game alone. He understands this Oregon team and what makes them so dangerous, telling reporters after the game that the Ducks can create a waterfall when they get going. His solution: “We wanted to turn the faucet off. We did.” David Shaw has built Stanford into a consistent winner with a bullet-proof formula of success and he’s now run it to perfection in back-to-back seasons against Oregon.