Defensive Showdown Goes Oregon’s Way, 21-6

This one was circled on the calendar for a very long time. Ever since the Ducks blew a 31-21 fourth quarter lead against Stanford last season and lose in overtime, Oregon made sure it kept this lead.

The Duck defense suffocated the Cardinal offense all night long and held them to just two field goals as Oregon finally defeated Stanford 21-6 down on The Farm. This is the first time this senior class, led by Justin Herbert, managed to beat Stanford, and it’s the first time a David Shaw Cardinal team has lost three straight games.

At 3-1 and 1-0 in conference, the Ducks can now use next week’s bye in order to get healthy, especially at receiver, and prepare for a surprising upstart Cal team. The Bears are 4-0 after going into SEC country to hand Ole Miss a 28-20 loss.

But on this night in Palo Alto, it was about the Duck defense, which held its third consecutive opponent out of the end zone. Nevada, Montana, and now Stanford have been held to field goals. Now only did Andy Avalos’ unit hold Stanford to just six points, they made quarterback KJ Costello’s life a hard one by sacking him five times. Fittingly, the finally play of the game was Costello getting knocked to the ground.

The Cardinal did threaten to score a touchdown on their very first drive as the Duck defense was finding its footing, quite literally. Uncharacteristically, Oregon was missing tackles left and right in the early going, but managed to hold Stanford to a 32-yard field goal for the early 3-0 lead.

It was almost the perfect drive for Stanford. It held the ball, and more importantly kept the ball out of Herbert’s hands for almost seven minutes of play and the Cardinal dented the scoreboard. But after that first drive, tackling wasn’t much of a problem for Oregon.

Stanford was held to just 234 yards of total offense for the entire game.

The two teams then traded possessions before Oregon struck with a quick two-play, 55-yard drive that saw Herbert find Jaylon Redd over the middle for a 36-yard touchdown and the 7-3 lead with 4:13 left in the first quarter. That touchdown pass was the 32nd consecutive game Herbert has thrown for a score.

Oregon would then score in the second quarter and take a 14-3 lead when Herbert found Jacob Breeland on a wheel route for a 16-yard touchdown.

It wouldn’t be the last time Herbert would find his favorite receiver for a score.

Both teams would be held off the scoreboard in the quarter, but Oregon put the game out of reach early in the fourth as Herbert completed his third and last touchdown pass of the night, again to Breeland, for a 24-yard score that saw the senior almost by himself in the end zone.

Up 21-3 with 10:40 left in the game and with the way Oregon’s defense was playing, the three-score lead seemed almost insurmountable. Stanford did kick a Jet Toner 38-yard field goal with 7:32 left, but that accounted for the final tally.

Stanford’s defense, while not quite as good as their counterparts, certainly played well enough for a win. Oregon was held to 320 yards of offense. Herbert was 19-of-24 for 259 yards and those three touchdowns. CJ Verdell carried the load in the rushing game with 24 carries for 82 yards. Breeland led Oregon with five catches for 78 yards and two scores.

Defensively, it was all Thomas Graham, Jr. and Jevon Holland. Graham led the way with nine tackles and Holland managed eight with an interception.

After the bye week, Oregon will welcome former Duck Justin Wilcox and his Bear team for an Oct. 5 date. Time and TV have not been announced yet.

~ Don Smalley