USC vs Oregon Defensive Recap

Oregon gained 599 yards against USC and scored 53 points, yet those numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Even with a lack of depth and a depleted roster, USC’s defense generally hung with Oregon and didn’t gas out in the 2nd half like so many teams did before us.  Sure, there was the occasional Oregon play that blew open, but not as many as most other team’s faced.  Oregon had their way against UCLA, but against USC’s defense, often I felt like Oregon was forced to fight for every single yard on that football field.

This post will start by looking at the play calling by Oregon.  It will then look at the average distance to go and average gain per down.  Then we will look at the drive statistics and the yards allowed histogram for both the Oregon team and for LaMichael James.

Play Calling

Overall, Oregon ran the ball 48 times (59%) and passed the ball 33 times (41%).  Let us first look at the breakdown by down.

If you remember the Oregon Offensive Preview post last week, this is a fairly different showing than what Oregon has done thus far this season.  In previous games, Oregon has tended to run more than pass on every single down.  3rd down was the only balanced down.  However, against USC, Oregon much preferred to run the ball against USC on 1st down.  They were much more balanced on 2nd down, and 3rd down leaned slightly towards the pass.

Lets take a look at the play calling by quarter.

When broken down by quarter, it is fairly similar to their other games this season.  Somewhat balanced early on in the 1st half, with a heavy rushing attack coming in the 2nd quarter.  The 4th quarter featured only two passes.

Down Situation

Let us first look at the average distance to go and the average yards allowed per down by USC’s defense against the Oregon Ducks.

Oregon had a lower average distance to go on 3rd down compared to their previous average on the season.  Against USC, the average distance to go on 3rd down was 5.7 yards while this season, Oregon’s average distance to go was 7.2 yards.  But, this is actually a good thing surprisingly enough.  Oregon had a high average distance to go on 3rd downs in previous games because they were converting 29% of their 1st downs and 45% of their 2nd downs.  This high turnover for new downs created an oddity where only the failed plays ever reached 3rd down.  However, against USC’s defense, Oregon converted 26% of their 1st downs and only 19% of their 2nd downs.  The nine yard average gain on 1st down is slightly worrisome.

Drive Stats

USC did do a fairly good job at the field position game.  Oregon started on average at their own 28 yard line.  Prior to our game, Oregon started on average at their own 40 yard line, so in a sense, we held them to 12 yards below their average starting position.  However, Oregon took long and sustained drives and had 55% of their offensive snaps on USC’s side of the field.

On the bright side, USC was able to force 5 drives (31% of Oregon’s total drives) to stall without converting a single first down.  This included three 3 and outs.

Yards Allowed Histograms

Let us look at the yardage allowed histograms for USC’s defense against Oregon’s high powered offense.

Overall, Oregon had 11 explosive plays that gained 15+ yards, which is right about in line with the rest of their season.  Nine of Oregon’s runs (18%) gained 10 or more yards against USC.  Conversely, 22 of Oregon’s runs (45%) were stopped for a gain of 3 or less.

On the passing side of the ball, 11 passes (32%) gained 10 or more yards while 17 passes (50%) including incompletions gained 3 or less.

Let us look at the rushing histogram for Heisman candidate LaMichael James.

LaMichael James accounted for 72% of Oregon’s rushing attack with 36 carries, so the histogram should look very similar to the overall Oregon histogram.  Six runs by James (17%) gained at least 10 or more yards.  Four of these long gain runs came in the second half.  Conversely, 15 of James’ runs (43%) were stopped for 3 or less yards.  LaMichael James also had long runs of 45 yards and 42 yards against USC and scored three touchdowns.


Overall, I was actually quite proud of this defensive unit and effort against the #1 Oregon Ducks.  With such depth issues and a depleted roster, it wouldn’t have surprised me if our defense was just totally gassed by the 2nd half and we just got run over.  However, the final score didn’t seem indicative of what actually happened in the game.  USC’s defense slowed Oregon down, but was unable to fully stop them.  While there were blown plays, it never seemed like USC was unable to get the defensive play call onto the field like what happened to UCLA.  The coaching staff seemed to have the defense as prepared as possible against the fast paced offense of Oregon.  In the end, I felt the defense did about as much as could be expected of them, and the offense unfortunately had a few missteps along the way which possibly cost us the game.


2 responses to “USC vs Oregon Defensive Recap

  1. USC defenders were indeed gassed in the 2nd half. Many of the players admitted it. Heck, Jurrel Casey was out a number of key plays simply because he was too tired to play – he sat on one knee on the sideline. Erin Adrews reported that a ton of the defenders were gassed on the sideline when USC’s offense was in – during the 3rd quarter. Its only Kiffin and a few players, who many not have actually got gassed, that claimed the team did not succumb to fatigue.

    Also, while I can respect your opinion as well as the work you put into your numbers, you’ll never convince anyone that 599 yards and 53 points given up is something to be proud of. I believe the entire D for USC was as heatlhy as it had been all year. They had 2 weeks off to prepare. They are still made up of many highly recruited players. Yet they were totalled.

    599yds + 53 points = porous D by any and all measurements.

    • @QuAK AddICT: Perhaps I wasn’t quite clear in my choice of words. The players would be tired, but they never were gassed to the point of other teams. I’ve seen Oregon absolutely obliterate teams in the 2nd half due to tiredness of the Defense, which I didn’t feel happened against USC. Also remember that USC is not a very deep team and has a depleted roster, which would only magnify the effect.

      I respect your opinion, but I will have to disagree that you can’t be proud of a performance because it is not good. I never expected this defense to somehow stop the Oregon offense or to be somehow reminiscent of 2008. I actually think this is a very average defense talent-wise, which when put onto the USC curve is a very bad defense. Because of this, I do grade them on a curve. I don’t expect them to be great, but I do expect them to play hard. If playing hard results in another average performance by the numbers (599 yards and 53 points, right in line with Oregon’s averages), so be it. But I can still be proud of this defense that isn’t built to stop an attack like Oregon’s and doesn’t have the roster numbers to keep up.

      But anyways, that’s my two cents, and thanks for the feedback.

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