This game as another one of those that I have been waiting months to see. The buildup was huge. and the media was going wild over this one.
What a beautiful setting for college football. Eugene, Oregon is a fascinating area and an amazing college football field. Autzen Stadium sits on the campus of the University of Oregon in a valley surrounded by mountains. Not far beside it, lies a river with a walking bridge leading up to the stadium. The stadium itself is one of the more uniquely designed stadiums you are going to lay eyes on. Autzen stadium holds only 59,000 but is supposedly very loud and it sounded loud on Saturday for the visiting Michigan State Spartans of the Big 10 Conference.
I am adding seeing a game live in Eugene, Oregon at Autzen Stadium to my bucket list.
Michigan State had an amazing defense in 2013, but they did lose some of their better players. I personally picked Michigan State to win the Big 10 and to win this game as well based on defense and Oregon’s lack of success against Stanford. Stanford is a very similar type of team as Michigan State. The Spartans returned some of their defense and their QB Connor Cook and their excellent RB Jeremy Langford.
I was wrong.
What I was wrong about mostly was Oregon’s own defense. After having a really rough 2nd quarter and giving up 24 points against the Spartans, the Oregon defense stepped up and they stepped up big.
We all know about Marcus Mariota and all of his talent and his Heisman candidacy. We all know about the Oregon offense and it’s firepower but we learned on Saturday that Oregon has something of a defense and if they are going to make it to the new playoffs and beat the Stanford Cardinal and win the Pac 12 conference it’s going to be from the defense stepping up as they did on Saturday.
Michigan State had Oregon on the ropes with a 27-18 lead in the middle of the 3rd quarter. Turning point of the game seemed to be when the Spartans were driving again and Michigan State QB Connor Cook was under pressure from the Oregon defensive front four. Scrambling to avoid the rush, Cook missed a wide open Fullback Trevon Pendleton on a last second pass before being tackled. There was nobody within probably more than 10 yards of Pendleton and the 1st down would have easily been reached by 250 pound Pendleton.
Michigan State punted to Oregon. On the very first series, Oregon found itself in the exact same circumstances with 3rd and fairly long. The Spartan defense got good pressure on Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, and like Connor Cook, Mariota escaped the mad pass rush but unlike Cook, Mariota flipped a pass to an open receiver who caught the pass and got a 1st down.
That was the difference in the game and Oregon took over from that point on. Mariota had that ‘it’ factor to make things happen and change outcomes of games, while Connor Cook seemingly didn’t.
The Oregon Offensive and Defensive Lines took over the game at that point.
Arik Armstead (6-8, 290) the giant Defensive End had his best game as a Duck and may have put a stop of talk of moving him to Offensive Tackle.
DeForest Buckner (6-7, 290) had an outstanding game at the other end as well.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu the Oregon CB is said to be the top cover corner in the country and he picked off a Connor Cook pass.
The Oregon defense stopped Michigan State cold in the last quarter and a half while the Duck offense turned it up a notch.
Devon Allen is a budding star at Wide Receiver for the Ducks. Allen was the NCAA 110 hurdles champion as a true freshman while breaking the national record. He can obviously fly and had a great game with 3 catches for 110 yards and 2 TDs.
I am excited for the Oregon Ducks but disappointed for the Michigan State Spartans who had hopes of playoffs.
I picked Michigan State as one of my top 4 playoff teams and I am always disgruntled when I am wrong but then the fat lady isn’t singing just yet. After watching and re-watching this game, I believe if these 2 teams were to meet again at the end of the season then the outcome could be completely different. But, right now, I am very impressed with what the Ducks were able to accomplish. If they can get by Stanford this year, and can win the Pac 12 then they might have a shot at winning it all.
The Big 10 took it on the chin last weekend and may not have a representation in the playoffs this season. Michigan State was probably their best shot at it.