We knew that the Oregon offensive line would be undersized against Auburn's front four, but we did not realize how badly they would lose the battle in the trenches on offense. Oregon played against some teams with big defensive lineman, but none were as skilled and powerful as Nick Fairley and the rest of the Auburn defensive line. Auburn was able to get penetration into Oregon's backfield all night long, and it crushed Darron Thomas' ability to read the field and let his options develop. Thomas did pull over several impressive plays in tough situations, including his 4th down completion to D.J. Davis to keep the game-tying drive alive.
But in the end, Oregon is a team that averages more yards rushing than anyone else in the nation. On Monday night, they were held to just 75 team rushing yards. Auburn forced the Ducks to throw the ball, and it made them uncomfortable to stray from their usual gameplan. It is impressive that Thomas was able to adjust to keep the Ducks in, but those two trips inside the ten yard line will leave a lot of "What if's" for the Oregon offense. GRADE: D+
The Oregon defense played almost as well as they could have in order to win the game. If their primary task was to stop Cam Newton, they did a pretty good job by only holding him to 64 yards rushing on 22 carries. They just didn't have much help from their offense, who continued to give the ball right back to Auburn after very little rest for the Ducks. Six of Oregon's eight second half drives were done in less than 2:30, giving the undersized defense little time to rest before heading back out to face true freshman Michael Dyer. The defense held strong and even was able to create the turnover they needed in order to tie the game, but the Ducks struggled to bring down Dyer as he gobbled up all 143 yards on his way to Offensive MVP. It is hard to ask for more from a defensive unit, but it was still not enough to secure the win for Oregon. GRADE: C
Credit Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Alliotti for preparing this defense for Cam Newton's many weapons. Unfortunately, they were not ready for Auburn's many weapons. Auburn's "bad" defense was grossly underrated, and Oregon was not able to make any in-game adjustments to counter the penetration that Nick Fairley & Co. were getting into the Oregon backfield. Without being able to establish their run on the ground, Oregon was forced to drift away from the script and try new ways to move the ball. Chip Kelly made some gutsy calls to fake punts and convert a couple of fourth downs, but not having a "go-to" play for those "…and Goal" situations has got to be scary for Oregon fans. The Ducks have rarely this season HAD TO HAVE a score like they on Monday. My guess is from now on they'll have that play dialed up. GRADE: D
Oregon is going to remember for a long time the two trips inside the 10 yard line that only produced 3 points. Combined with the two interceptions and six costly penalties, there were a lot of mistakes made on Oregon's end. Having said that, it is awfully impressive that it still took a field goal as time expired for Auburn to beat them. As many mistakes as the Ducks had, they still found ways to come up with big stops and clutch conversions to hang in the game. The one thing that Oregon will have going for them moving forward is a roster full of young talent. Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, and Kenjon Barner will all be back next year, and you can bet they will be hungry to get back to this game next year after losing the way they did. GRADE: B-