Last November against Stanford, Mark Helfrich looked out onto the field at Autzen Stadium with an unfamiliar feeling. The Ducks lost their only game all season, which was also the only loss Helfrich has seen since Nov. 19, 2011 against USC.
Now as Oregon’s head coach, Helfrich is preparing for his team’s second straight November game against the Cardinal, this time at Stanford Stadium. Like last year, Stanford is highly ranked, and the Ducks aren’t having an easy time preparing for them.
“Any time you’re trying to simulate someone else from a scout team perspective, that’s difficult,” Helfrich said following Sunday’s practice. “We don’t have anybody on our scout team defense that looks like anyone on their (Stanford’s) defense. We don’t have nine offensive linemen that can run down there and simulate their offensive line. You just don’t have those types of bodies lying around.”
Helfrich said that Stanford’s offensive is unique in its normality. The Cardinal offense is practically the opposite of Oregon’s up-tempo spread offense, eating up time on the play clock and often running the ball up the middle. That might make them seem ordinary, but with the booming popularity of spread offenses around the country, Helfrich said Stanford’s offense is hard to prepare for because the Ducks rarely see one like it.
“They’re absolutely different in our conference as far as an opponent to prep, in terms of your scout team and positions that you’re trying to match up from a personnel standpoint,” Helfrich said. “They are unique in this conference.”
Despite the challenges, Helfrich is confident the Ducks can handle this physical Stanford team. Oregon might not have the scout team to replicate Stanford’s actual team, but Helfrich said their preparation and schemes can make up for any other deficiencies.
“You kind of have to trust your approach, trust your scheme, the soundness of your scheme,” Helfrich said. “In every phase, it has to be tested in that regard.”
Looking back at last season’s Stanford game on Nov. 17, Helfrich said his team missed some opportunities off turnovers that easily could have changed the final result. But he said the biggest issues weren’t just a few plays. The Ducks simply didn’t play up to their then-No. 1 national ranking.
“They just didn’t have our best shot last year,” Helfrich said. “That’s something that when you look back on the film, especially from an offensive standpoint, we didn’t play very well.”
No one will know if the Ducks will give Stanford their best shot this coming Thursday, but with the rest during the bye week and all of their hard work, Helfrich is confident he’ll look on the field after this November game with a happier feeling.
“We’re preparing well and looking forward to playing our best next Thursday.”