STANFORD 38 - DUCKS 31
The Stanford Cardinal once again handed the Webfoots a painful loss, rallying from a 17-point deficit to force a win in overtime.
The Ducks’ loss to Stanford in 2016 was unsettling, but expected. That team was atrocious on defense and already had six losses by the time the Cardinal visited Eugene. The result was a 52-27 defeat.
In 2017, Oregon traveled to Stanford, but Taggart was doomed to fail without Herbert at the helm. Braxton Burmeister’s 23 yard, two interception performance was unable to prevent another Cardinal blowout. The result was a 49-7 beatdown.
And now Stanford has a three-game win streak over Oregon. The previous two losses hurt but the pain was somewhat dulled by the fact that neither of those Duck teams looked very impressive at that point and Stanford was heavily favored in both games. But this loss feels especially devastating.
Perhaps because the upset win at home was in the bag for the Ducks. Or maybe it’s because Mario Cristobal was seconds away from earning his first meaningful win as a Duck. In the end, maybe it’s a good sign that this loss feels so cutting- a kind of it’s better to have loved and lost kind of deal. Regardless of the result, the Ducks will need to shake it off before next week’s battle against another 3-0 team.
Justin Herbert- 26/33 - 346 YDS - 1 TD - 1 INT
One of the silver linings of this game is that Justin Herbert proved that he can perform at a high level against elite competition. Herbert was the best player on the field, delivering quick and accurate passes to a total of seven different Ducks.
The Junior was unstoppable for most of the game, as Stanford’s pass rush was frequently too late due to the sudden emergence of a mid-range passing attack. In fact, if you take away Johnny Johnson III’s drop and Herbert’s five incompletions in overtime, he would have finished a near perfect 26 of 27.
I’m not sure if we’ll ever see a more accurate Herbert than we did tonight. It’s a shame that such a masterful performance will most likely be ignored by Duck fans as this is destined to become a painful memory for years to come.
Another positive that Duck fans should take away from this game is the fact that Dillon Mitchell appears to be ready to become our go-to guy. The veteran receiver was regularly open for short completions, and his footwork gave him additional yardage on seemingly every catch. His 239-yard game is the most productive of his career thus far, and is almost half of his total yard count from last year. I think it’s safe to say that Mitchell and Herbert connected in a way they haven’t before. Let’s pray that they can continue to strengthen their chemistry against the Golden Bears.
The six other pass catchers of the evening shared the load evenly, though their combined total still fell short of Mitchell’s 14 receptions. Despite all of Herbert’s success distributing the ball, only one player caught a touchdown- junior tight end Jacob Breeland. Other than that, everyone mostly did their part either screen blocking or catching easy possession passes. For a group that was heavily criticized for being inconsistent against lesser competition, they looked surprisingly organized and impressive against Stanford.
Dillon Mitchell: 14 rec - 239 YDS
Jacob Breeland: 3 rec - 34 YDS - 1 TD
Johnny Johnson III: 3 rec - 34 YDS
Jaylon Redd: 3 rec - 18 YDS
CJ Verdell: 1 rec - 9 YDS
Brenden Schooler: 1 rec - 8 YDS
Travis Dye: 1 rec - 4 YDS
CJ Verdell: 20 car - 115 YDS - 1 TD
Justin Herbert: 11 car -35 YDS
Tony Brooks-James: 6 car - 27 YDS - 1 TD
Jaylon Redd: 1 car - 16 YDS
Travis Dye: 7 car - 16 YDS
Cyrus Habibi-Likio: 2 car - (-8) YDS - 1 TD
CJ Verdell had an amazing game, aside from one terrible, game-changing blunder. The redshirt freshman exceeded 100 yards for the second time in his career, highlighted by a 48-yard touchdown that gave the Ducks a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
Unfortunately for the future starter, this game will forever be remembered by his costly fumble with under a minute left in the game. Verdell ran for three yards, inches away from earning the first down, when the ball was forced from his hands. The Cardinal recovered and marched their way to a field goal.
All Oregon needed to do was burn 51 seconds; Stanford only had one timeout remaining and Oregon was on second down with three yards to go. Cristobal has said that he wants to be aggressive in big games, and his attempt at the first down was so incredibly close to winning this game. But it didn’t, and now the narrative is and always will be that he elected to give the ball to a freshman instead of figuring out a way to kneel his way to victory.
(for some more salt in that wound, check out this SB NATION article about how much better washington did at handling basically the exact same situation.)
On a fun side note, Cyrus Habibi-Likio finished with the strange stat line of two carries for negative eight yards and a touchdown, bringing his strange career total to seven carries for four yards, five touchdowns and a fumble.
Now here’s the unfortunate part where I talk about Stanford’s standout players and plays.
Oregon had cruised to a 24 to 7 lead with around three minutes left in the third quarter when all hell broke loose. The Cardinal’s run game had been tamed, and Herbert had just delivered a smooth pitch to Jaylon Redd for what first appeared to be a 16 yard rushing touchdown.
Further review revealed that Redd had kicked the pylon early, technically stepping out of bounds at the one yard line. A Habibi-Likio fumble could’ve gone for an 80-yard scoop and score, but luckily Herbert was able to jump on it. Unfortunately, the next miscue (a terrible snap by Jake Hanson which sailed over the head of Herbert) did in fact result in an 80-yard scoop and score. The blooper ended up completely changing the momentum of the game, shifting from a potential 31-7 lead for the Ducks to a 24-14 game, then the Cardinal offensive attack came alive.
STANFORD CARDINAL STATS
K.J. Costello: 19/26 - 327 YDS - 3 TD
Bryce Love: 19 car - 89 YDS - 1 TD - 1 rec - 9 YDS
Kaden Smith: 6 rec - 95 YDS
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: 4 rec - 84 YDS - 2 TD
Jordan Fox: 9 Tackles - 1.5 Sacks - 2 TFL
Bobby Okereke: 8 Tackles - 1 Sack - 2.5 TFL
Bryce Love once again was held to mere mortal numbers, suggesting that Stanford’s rushing attack may be significantly worse than the preseason hype surrounding it. In fact, if you take out Love’s 22-yard scoring run, the Heisman hopeful would have amassed only 67 yards with zero scores. But the talented running back’s single score was a huge one, as it brought the Cardinal to within three points with 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
The most puzzling thing regarding Stanford was David Shaw’s commitment to the run game. It hardly took a football genius to notice the advantage that the Cardinal’s large receivers and tight ends had over Oregon’s undersized cornerbacks.
In the first half, Love was given 13 carries resulting in 42 yards. And while 13 carries for Love in a half may seem like a winning strategy, look how overmatched the 5’11, 196-pound Deommodore Lenoir is defending this under-thrown ball to the 6’7, 240-pound tight end Colby Parkinson. This could have easily been the entire game if Shaw wouldn’t have been his usual stubborn self.
Jim Leavitt’s defense did a masterful job in the first half, but when Shaw woke up from his slumber and realized that he could throw the ball, Oregon’s ultimate weakness was brutally exposed to the tune of 327 yards through the air. After Stanford recovered the bad snap for a touchdown, Costello went 10/13, 203 yard and two touchdowns to end the game in overtime.
Oregon did a great job of limiting the Cardinal’s rushing attack, but that’s little comfort to the fans that repeatedly witnessed the team’s two best corners -Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir- look helpless against Stanford’s receivers. This isn’t something that is easily fixable, though I’m curious why Leavitt didn’t put more focus on dropping back and defending the pass in the fourth quarter. For now, we can only assume that this will not be the last time that this weak-point is exploited.
The defense allowed 398 yards of offense and failed to create a much needed turnover, though there were still some positives to be gained from their performance.
- Troy Dye led the team with seven tackles followed by Nick Pickett with six, Justin Hollins with five, and Kaulana Apelu also with five.
- Oregon had five tackles for a loss and two sacks.
- The Ducks’ defense held the Cardinal to just 126 yards of offense going into the half.
- Stanford went 5-10 on third down and 0-1 on fourth down, the fourth down stop being a 1-yard stuff in large part due to Jordon Scott pushing basically the entire offensive line backwards.
- Oregon lost the turnover battle 3 to 0, but it should be noted only had four penalties for 32 yards.
So with the fumble and a Jet Toner 32-yard field goal, the Oregon Ducks entered overtime. The momentum had completely shifted and Autzen seemed deathly quiet compared to where it had started. Stanford took just two plays (a 2-yard Love run followed by the 23-yard TD pass to Colby Parkinson) to score.
Oregon, on the other hand, ended the game with four desperate incompletions.
Cristobal now faces his next major challenge, revitalizing his team’s momentum and focus as they travel for the first time this season. California is undefeated and has a defense that could prove troublesome. Balls in your court, Cristobal.