The 2012 Oregon Ducks were nearly an unstoppable offensive force. Chip Kelly’s last Oregon team may have been his best as they averaged nearly 50 points per game. Oregon looked like they were a lock for the BCS title game until Stanford came into Autzen stadium and pulled off the upset 17-14. Stanford produced one of the best defensive performances that I have seen in college football.
A key factor to shutting down the Oregon perimeter running game was an adjustment to Stanford’s quarters coverage. It worked multiple times for tackles for loss and helped keep Oregon’s offense out of rhythm. When Oregon went to an unbalanced trips bunch formation or 3×1 bunch, Stanford adjusted their coverage to 3-4 Cover 3 cloud.
By pushing the coverage towards the passing strength, Stanford was able to get their corner involved in stopping the outside running game by playing a cloud force technique. With the corner only responsible for playing the curl-flat rather than a deep 1/4 like quarters, it allowed the corner to aggressively attack the edge with force responsibility and be disruptive.
It started early and continued throughout the game with Stanford forcing negative plays with this scheme. Here is the first offensive play of the game for Oregon. It’s a speed option to the field (wide side.)
With the corner squatting and playing the curl-flat, it puts him in a great position to attack downhill as soon as he gets a run read.
The corner is able to defeat the block of the receiver and make the tackle for a 4 yard loss.
To start the second quarter Oregon comes back to the same speed option play out of the same formation. Stanford dials up the 3-4 Cover 3 cloud again.
Again you see similar results. The squat corner reads run and gets downhill to play his force responsibility.
This time the linebacker forces the pitch but the corner is right there as the tailback gets the ball. The corner doesn’t make the tackle but knocks the back off his path, allowing the pursuit to get to the back. Results in another tackle for a loss.
On a 3rd down early in the second half Oregon tries to run an outside zone out of another trips bunch formation, this formation is 3×1 rather than unbalanced.
Once again Oregon is looking to attack the wide side of the field on the perimeter with their run game. Stanford is in the same 3-4 Cover 3 cloud. As soon as the corner reads run, he attacks the block downhill from the outside in.
As the back continues to head horizontally the corner comes off the block and puts a punishing tackle on the running back for a loss.
Stanford played great run defense overall to pull off the upset, but you can see how some adjustments to their quarters scheme paid huge dividends versus specific formations.