Time of possession is overrated

November 14, 2011, 12:29 am
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Steve Berman

The final scores look similar, but the way Oregon went out their 53-30 victory over Stanford was quite different from their 52-31 win over the Cardinal in Eugene last year.

A year ago Stanford jumped out to a 21-3 lead before getting crushed over the last three quarters. This time Oregon showed early on that they were the superior team, jumping out to an early lead they'd never relinquish.

It was almost like Stanford head coach David Shaw saw his team's fate coming, at least based on what he said earlier in the week.

"We got to get drives in the end zone, because (Oregon) might have a 3-play, 78-yard drive," Shaw said. "And if you're kicking field goals and they're scoring touchdowns there's no chance, regardless of what the time of possession is."

Stanford's offense gained more yards than Oregon's (400-387) and led in time of possession (34:25-25:35). After the game was over and the Ducks flew out of California with a vise grip on the Pac-12, those numbers didn't matter in the slightest.

This game was mostly about Oregon destroying Stanford with the same speed the Cardinal and everyone looking forward to this game obsessed over all week, particularly the running ability routinely displayed by LaMichael James. James looked like the Heisman Trophy favorite in this game, rushing 20 times for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns.

However, this game was also about how each team reacted when good fortune (translation: the football) fell into their laps.

Former Heisman favorite Andrew Luck threw a first quarter interception that Dewitt Stuckey took to Stanford's 20, and Darron Thomas threw a TD pass to Lavasier Tuinei five plays later.

Stanford's Delano Howell used the cast on his right hand to knock the ball out of De'Anthony Thomas' arms a little while later, and the Cardinal squandered good field position with a drive that sputtered in the red zone before Eric Whitaker kicked a 37-yard field goal.

The Ducks started the third quarter by once again displaying in full abundance what they possess that Stanford doesn't. Ducks receiver Josh Huff caught pass in the flat from Thomas while Cardinal corner Terrence Brown was picking himself up off the sloppy Stanford Stadium turf. One juke later and Brown was back on the turf again. A split second later, Cardinal safety Michael Thomas was on the ground as well as Huff sped into the end zone past everyone for a 59-yard TD reception.

After Stanford went three and out on their next possession they finally experienced a little good luck, as James dropped David Green's punt and Stanford recovered the ball at Oregon's 34.

With Oregon holding a 29-16 lead after Huff's touchdown, the Cardinal couldn't settle for a field goal. And they didn't, as Whitaker's 48-yard attempt was wide to the right by almost the same distance.

Talk about a gut punch.

From there, it was an exhibition of pass rushing brilliance from Oregon. The Ducks sacked Luck three times on the night and hit him on several other occasions, proving speed can be a useful quality even when you don't have the ball.

Oregon also displayed the kind of rushing dominance that sucks the life out of teams, which heading into this game was supposed to be Stanford's identity. In the second half the Ducks broke off five runs of 10 yards or longer, compared to none for the Cardinal. For the game Oregon averaged 5.0 yards per carry compared to 3. 7 for Stanford.

Stanford won't enjoy looking back on numerous dropped passes and missed tackles, or the three turnovers they committed in less than 4 minutes at the end of the game. But just like last year, the Ducks proved again to be the superior team.

The Ducks took advantage of Cardinal turnovers, Stanford didn't take advantage of turnovers by Oregon, and at the end of the game the Cardinal couldn't stop turning the ball over. Different game than last year, same result: Oregon rules the Pac-12.
Steve Berman is the Bay Area Sports Guy and a contributor to CSNBayArea.com. Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter @BASportsGuy

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