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Alamo bowl highlights: Ducks soar with opportunistic defense, rickety offense against woeful Texas

From Mike Wines of Oregon Duck Soup and Youtube channel Madmike1951, the Alamo Bowl highlights. The Ducks faltered on offense but rode a tenacious defense and a great individual performance by Marcus Mariota to a 30-7 victory, capping off an 11-2 season with a bowl victory over one of the NCAA's richest and most storied programs.

Winning the last two games sets the Ducks up for a productive off season, a good close in recruiting (they're pursuing several prospects from the state of Texas) and a run at the PAC-12 and national titles in 2014.

Flyin' Hawaiian: Marcus Mariota sparked the Ducks with 386 total yards against Texas, but the Ducks have to get more consistent and productive in the red zone to achieve their goals next year (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports images).

Notes:

Opening kickoff, Matt Wogan to the back of the Texas end zone.

Having a kicker with the ability to blast one deep and prevent a big return is a huge weapon for the defense. Wogan had 22 touchbacks this season, 3 in this game and starting the game with one prevents a big return, something that can give an underdog hope and momentum. Instead, Wogan and the kickoff team started them three times at the 25, once at the 21, once at the 20. Only two returns gained plus-field position for the Longhorns, one to the 36 and another to the 27. It was a night that the Ducks got solid efforts from both their coverage teams, something great teams strive to do.

First play from scrimmage, 1st and 10 Texas on Texas 25, Brown rush for no gain

All the gaps are filled. Wade Keliikipi negates two blocks at the line of scrimmage, and Rodney Hardrick steps up into the A gap to make the tackle at the line of scrimmage. Texas gets no push, and the Ducks have 9 jerseys around the ball, cutting off all cutback lanes and swarming the big Texas running back. Brown got yards during the game, but the Ducks forced enough 2nd and long, 3rd and long situations to keep Case McCoy pressured and uncomfortable, and when they did, he obliged with costly mistakes.

14:03 1st quarter Texas 3rd and 18 Texas 25 McCoy pass intercepted by Avery Patterson, returned 38 yards for touchdown.

After a costly holding penalty, Tyrell Robinson and Boseko Lokombo blitz, and they get enough pressure on McCoy that he slings a high, hurried throw to a covered receiver. Tony Washington gets a push on the blind side also. The ball skips off Shipley's hands and Avery Patterson alertly plucks the carom with an open field and blockers, and he weaves beautifully through the offense for a td. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu arrives just as the ball gets there to cause the carom. Immediately he sees that AP has it and turns into a blocker. Patterson picks up key blocks from Ifo, Lokombo, Washington and Buckner. 

For the second year in a row, the Ducks seize early momentum and stun a capacity crowd with a sudden touchdown. This play took all the "win one for the Gipper" momentum out of the game for Texas, and gave the defense the confidence to play aggressive and loose. They flew to the football. Coaching was evident in how quickly they responded as a unit, going on the attack with a chance to score, peeling back to convoy Patterson into the end zone. It clearly shows in the end zone view in the replay, swift and disciplined, careful not to take a bad angle and negate the return. This was a perfect start, deflating both the crowd and the Texas sideline.

For the season, the Ducks intercepted 17 passes, returning them for 309 yards and 3 scores, an average of 18.2 yards a return. Opponents had 6 ints, returned for 54 yards, no Tds. That represents a big net gain in momentum, and reflects both the athleticism of the defense and the fact that they are well-coached in turning those situations into big-play opportunities.

13:10 1st quarter, Texas second and 9 Texas 27

Malcolm Brown rush for no gain.

The Ducks run a stunt in the middle of the line and get penetration along the front, creating a new line of scrimmage two yards deep. They're too quick for the Texas offensive front on this play., four Ducks shifting right and again filling every gap, waiting for Brown while standing up his blockers. Wade K squirts inside to upset the timing, and Buckner and Washington clean up, good team defense, forcing another 3rd and long.

11:38, first and 10 Oregon on Oregon 24

Spread formation, trips right

In the first play of the Ducks first possession, it's an inside zone read and Mariota gives to Byron Marshall, who gets six quick yards inside behind good blocking. The quarterback has a second option on the play, Bralon Addison set up wide along the sideline for a quick screen with two blockers in front of him, a combination play. Marshall gets good driving blocks from Jake Fisher, Hroniss Grasu, and Hamani Stevens, runs hard and straight ahead, a good start for the offense that sets up other plays later.

11:22, 2nd and 4 Oregon from the Oregon 30

Next play, 16 seconds later, yellow light tempo. The pocket breaks down, and Mariota, with full mobility, outruns the Texas defense for four yards and a first down on a play most quarterbacks would be trapped for a sack. His speed creates something out of nothing and salvages some mediocre pass blocking, frustrates a Texas defense that defended the play very well. Mariota just escapes, an advantage his exceptional speed gives him that is very difficult to match, something glaringly missing back in November when he was hurt. This offense, with consistency issues on the offensive line, was woefully easy to contain this year without Super Mario's quickness. He just beats the defensive end and tackle around the edge when they had him surrounded.

Speed also allows him to accelerate to the chains down the sideline and avoid any contact, equally important.

ESPN runs a graphic after the play. In the Ducks first 7 games, Mariota run for 493 yards and 9 scores. In the last five 89 yards and no scores. Against Texas, he led all rushers with 133 yards on 15 carries, 8.9 a pop, finishing with 711 for the year.

11:12 Oregon on Oregon 34 Mariota 12 run

Green light tempo now after two successful plays, snap in just 10 seconds. From the right hash again, an inside zone read with a quick screen option on the right sideline with one blocker in front of Addison. Mariota keeps as the linebacker takes a step inside, and the qb is much too quick for him to recover, sprinting to the second level and sliding away from contact after a twelve yard gain. Grasu and Stevens get a good double team block inside, with Stevens peeling off to shield off the inside linebacker, the key to the play. Mariota easily beats the unblocked defender with speed. From film study the Longhorns had committed to a strategy of giving MM the keep and he burned them repeatedly.

11:02 Oregon on Oregon 46 Mariota scrambles for 11 yards

Quckest tempo again, snap in just 10 seconds. Texas gets pressure inside on a pass play, but again the quarterback just beats it with athletic ability. He's dead in the pocket but just eludes a poorly-blocked defender and outruns containment for an easy first down, too fast for a second Longhorn who has a good angle on him.

10:47 Oregon on Texas 43 Marshall 10 run

15 seconds to snap the ball. After three runs by Mariota he gives inside to Marshall, who gets great blocking on this play, a hole five yards wide as Fisher walls off his man on the outside, and Grasu, Stevens and Cameron Hunt drive the interior of the Texas line off the ball to the left. Another good double team by Grasu and Stevens drives the play.

Marshall's first two runs were decisive and well-blocked on this opening drive, but the inside running game bogged down awfully after that. It's clear from the initial success that the problem is a matter of consistency in execution. After getting 16 yards on his first two carries, #9 would have one more run for 14 yards the rest of the night, the remaining 10 for a scant 28 yards. The Ducks simply have to get more consistency out of their bread-and-butter running game next season. It's a commitment that has been misplaced since Kelly left as the team has become more reliant on Mariota's arm and legs.

Marshall gets up chipping with the Texas defense, a habit he has to stop. He needs to focus on his work and avoid a potential personal foul infraction from hankie-loving PAC-12 officials next year (an ACC crew worked this game).

10:36 Oregon on Texas 34, 1st and 10 Mariota 21 pass to Huff

11 seconds to snap. Texas rushes four and they are all picked up ably, and Marshall alertly squares off against a delayed blitzer from the strong side, giving his quarterback time to read the coverage and set up in the pocket. Grasu, Stevens, Fisher, Hunt and Johnstone give him a perfect throwing lane, and he delivers a 21-yard strike to Huff, who grabs the ball in stride 12 yards down the field over the middle and runs for another 9, dragging defenders forward down the 12.

Texas has seven defenders in close, and the Ducks have spread the field so that there is a big wide opening in the middle. The linebackers have crept up to contain Mariota and Marshall, leaving a big opening for Huff's crisp in route. Good execution, and a very nice mix of plays by Scott Frost on the opening drive. In 6 plays they have attacked UT from one sideline to the other and downfield.

In the red zone, however, the drive bogs down, symptomatic of issues the Ducks have had during their late-season slump.

A running play to Marshall goes for a two-yard loss, putting the Ducks in a negative situation. The play clock runs down and Mariota doesn't like the formation, forcing a timeout.

Mariota runs for 9 yards down to the 3, but Evan Baylis is flagged for holding, driving the Ducks back to the 15. Mariota has his helmet ripped off and by rule, has to come out of the game for a play.

A false start penalty backs them up to the 20 as Jeff Lockie takes over. On 2nd and 18, the reserve quarterback has trouble with the zone read mesh, the foundation play of the Oregon offense. The ball goes to the ground and he has to fall on it.

Finally able to return on 3rd and 24, Mariota sees a lane against a soft "prevent" defense and scrambles left for 18 yards, going out at the Texas 8, a play that at least gets Matt Wogan in manageable field goal range.

Helfrich smartly takes the points, and the Ducks have a 10-0 lead. But lapses in execution and discipline cost them a red zone opportunity, something that plagued them all through November and again in the Alamo Bowl. Despite Mariota's big night, the Ducks managed just one offensive touchdown for the game, unheard during their era of explosive offensive success.

 

 

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