Oregon’s longest running play against San Jose State went for nine yards.
After averaging 5.7 yards per carry in the first two games, the Ducks were held to 2.7 on average in a 35-22 win over the Spartans on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
“They bring the linebacker and safety at the same time from the backside and that makes the whole defensive line slant,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal explained. “A lot of our runs early were to the boundary and those guys are slanting and getting penetration, so that caused the negative plays. On some plays we adjusted well and on some we didn’t. That made the reads a little bit more difficult for the back. ... We settled down a bit in the second half and made more positive plays, but we did not play up to the standard up front as it relates to the run game.”
Junior center Jake Hanson had a similar assessment after Oregon ran 49 times for 134 yards.
“They run a lot of movement on the defensive front, some unique pressures and slanting with their front seven,” Hanson said. “It’s not something that we were not expecting, we were inconsistent at times. We ran the ball well at times and others we didn’t. Just very inconsistent.”
Up next for the Ducks is Stanford, which has allowed a total of 314 rushing yards during a 3-0 start while giving up an average of 3.3 yards per carry.
“We are very confident in our ability, but obviously we got away from what our standard is today and what we hope to achieve week in and week out,” Hanson said. “We will learn from the game film and move forward.”
Cristobal cited the lack of big gains on the ground with limiting the passing game as well.
“When you have a negative play or no gain on first down, it puts you in second and 10 or 12 and that is not the best of choices,” he said. “Especially when it escalates to third and long. Blame that on us. We need to do a better job making sure we execute better.”
CJ Verdell and Tony Brooks-James each had the longest run of the day at nine yards while leading the Ducks with 42 and 39 rushing yards, respectively.
“We did not have any real explosive runs, which we have had a good amount of,” Cristobal said. “Part of that is they played their safeties tight, but that doesn’t matter. We have to do a better job knocking back at the line of scrimmage. … We had some decent moments, but we have to do a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage.”
Oregon once again spread the ball throughout its backfield with Verdell getting the most work with 15 carries, followed by Brooks-James at 10. Travis Dye had eight carries for 27 yards while Darrian Felix had six runs for nine yards after not getting a carry last week against Portland State.
Freshman Cyrus Habibi-Likio scored on each of his two carries, giving him five carries for 12 yards with four touchdowns on the season.
“His rush-to-touchdown ratio is pretty good,” Cristobal said. “He’s a big guy. Our backfield is made up of different body types. We have some guys who are really quick and can make guys miss in space. Cyrus brings a different aspect to the table. He’s a bigger guy, a physical guy. He has great vision and he’s fast, he can put a foot in the ground and get vertical. His role is going to continue to increase as the season goes on, not only as a runner, but on special teams. He brings a lot to the table.”