Oregon and Stanford played 11 football games against each other from 1900 to 1929, all of them victories for Stanford. After a hiatus, the regular season series resumed in Palo Alto on October 10 1936. The Webfoots at last avoided defeat in a 7-7 tie. The next season in Eugene was Oregon’s first victory in the series, 7-6. From 1938 to 1948 the schools would split the six games played before and after WWII. The greatest success for the Ducks against Stanford in the 20th century came under Len Casanova, whose record in the series as head coach from 1951 to 1966 was 9-7, including 7 consecutive victories from 1957 to 1963. The next decade saw only a single victory for Oregon, 15-13 in 1972. Rich Brooks would slowly and laboriously bring Duck football back to respectability from 1977 to 1994, posting a more respectable 6-9 record against the Cardinal.*
* Though the primary school color of Stanford has been cardinal since 1891, the first official mascot for the athletic teams was “Indian,” as voted on by a student committee in 1930. In 1972, following objections from Stanford’s own indigenous American students and a vote by the student senate, this mascot was discarded.
Mike Bellotti’s tenure as head coach would see Oregon rise to national prominence in football, but he lost his first three games against the Cardinal. The 28-21 Stanford victory at Autzen cost the Ducks a share of the Pac-10 championship in 1995. Then a 27-24 overtime loss on the Farm in 1996 likely cost Oregon an invitation to a bowl game. The Ducks finally got the better of the Cardinal at Autzen in 1998 before the series went on hiatus for two years. On October 20 2001, an undefeated Oregon team with its sights set on a berth in the BCS National Championship game opened as favorites against Stanford in front of a national TV audience. An epic 4th quarter collapse, including two blocked punts, resulted in a 49-42 loss that ended Oregon’s 23 game home winning streak and ultimately cost the Ducks a chance at the title.
Bellotti’s teams beat the Cardinal every year after this until he made way for Chip Kelly’s ascension to head coach in the 2009 season. By then Stanford had begun its own rise under head coach Jim Harbaugh and a loss on the Farm was the Ducks only defeat to a conference opponent during the season. But Harbaugh and star quarterback Andrew Luck would quickly develop an “Oregon problem” as Kelly’s next two teams would defeat Stanford in 52-31 and 53-30 on their way to the final Pac-10 and inaugural Pac-12 championships.
Head coach David Shaw took over at Stanford after Jim Harbaugh was hired by the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. True freshman QB Kevin Hogan would start for Stanford at Autzen Stadium on November 17, 2012. Quarterback Marcus Mariota had burst on to the national scene and Kelly’s “blur” offense was at its peak. Yet what resulted was one of the worst offensive performances of Mariota’s career and Kelly’s tenure. Despite the efforts of DC Nick Alliotti’s defense, the Ducks lost 17-14 in overtime. Just as in 2001, the loss wound up costing Oregon a spot in the BCS National Championship game. Stanford defeated Mark Helfrich’s first Oregon team in Palo Alto the next season in another low scoring 26-20 affair. Oregon now seemingly had a Stanford problem.
Mariota and Helfrich avenged themselves against a struggling Cardinal squad on their way to the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2014. In 2015, Stanford had recovered from their disappointing season the year prior and were eyeing a Pac-12 championship and potential playoff berth. But Oregon’s offense had been rejuvenated after early season struggles thanks to the return of graduate transfer QB Vernon Adams Jr. and WR Darren Carrington from injury and suspension, respectively. Thanks in part to recovering two bobbled Hogan snaps on attempted QB sneaks in short yardage situations, the Ducks led 38-30 in the final minute of the 4th quarter. But Hogan led a potential game tying touchdown drive on Stanford’s final possession. On the two point conversion attempt, at the most opportune time, embattled DC Don Pellum’s defense finally stepped up. A blitz pressured Hogan into an errant throw that was deflected by linebacker Joe Walker and fell incomplete. The Cardinal would win the Pac-12, but were kept out of the college football playoff by the 38-36 defeat.
Helfrich’s last season and the Willie Taggart interregnum would see Stanford win in blowouts. Mario Cristobal led an undefeated Oregon squad against the Cardinal in Autzen on September 22, 2018 and the Ducks seemed to be on their way to a signature win with a 24-7 lead in the 3rd quarter. Everything changed when an Oregon touchdown was overturned and the ball placed at Stanford’s one yard line. On the next play the snap from center sailed over the head of quarterback Justin Herbert and was returned for a Cardinal touchdown, cutting the Ducks lead to 24-14. The Cardinal finally began to lean on their passing game and outscored the Ducks 17-7 in the remainder of regulation to force overtime. Herbert was unable to maintain his early game success, and a 38-31 final marked yet another excruciating loss for the Ducks.
Despite the dramatic victory in Eugene, the 2018 season saw cracks begin to show in Shaw’s program and the Ducks beat the Cardinal in the two following seasons. After a historic victory over Ohio State in Columbus in September, Cristobal led the Ducks onto the Farm on October 2, 2021 as heavy favorites. Things began to go wrong as soon as the Ducks arrived in Palo Alto when Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead experienced a life threatening medical complication and underwent emergency surgery the night before the game. Despite the unusual circumstances, the Ducks had a 24-17 lead and a first down at the Stanford 39 yard line with 2:21 left in the 4th quarter. Two consecutive false start penalties pushed the Ducks back to 1st and 20. In an effort to make up for the lost yardage, Oregon attempted a screen pass on 2nd down that fell incomplete, allowing Stanford to save a single timeout for their following possession. This proved vital. Three critical Oregon penalties allowed the Cardinal tied the game with a touchdown pass on an untimed down with 00:00 showing on the game clock. A shocked Oregon team didn’t stop Stanford or score when on offense in overtime and lost 31-24. It was the Cardinal’s third, and final, win of the 2021 season.
Coach Dan Lanning’s first game against Stanford would be Shaw’s last against Oregon, a noncompetitive victory at home for the Ducks. The Cardinal have a new head coach in Troy Taylor, and a heavily favored and undefeated Oregon team is playing on the Farm early in the fall. Has coach Lanning finally formulated an inoculation against Oregon’s repeated bouts of “Stanford disease?” Or will the “Cardinal curse” strike one last time in the ultimate edition of this long conference rivalry?