The energy level was high among a sizable crowd in Autzen Stadium at kickoff. It was Senior Day, and the Ducks still had a path — albeit a hard one — to the postseason, which started with beating rival Stanford.
The Cardinal quickly silenced them.
Stanford (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12) got off to a fast start and didn’t look back en route to a 52-27 dominating effort over Oregon (3-7, 1-6) Saturday afternoon. The win snapped a two-game losing streak against Oregon for the Cardinal and marked their third win in a row.
The Stanford offense took full advantage of a weak Oregon defense, racking up 540 total yards — its most since trouncing Arizona last season. Perhaps most surprising for Stanford is the fact that a substantial chunk of that production came through the air, with junior quarterback Keller Chryst throwing 26 passes for 19 completions, 258 yards and three touchdowns.
“This game we wanted to be more balanced, and we just needed to get comfortable and get in rhythm … then you just saw Keller finally get comfortable,” head coach David Shaw said. “The ball was coming out of his hands on time and he made some big-time throws.”
Junior running back Christian McCaffrey added, “[Keller] is such a great player and such a great leader, especially when he gets comfortable … seeing him continue to go out there and show what he has is something special.”
The Cardinal put up impressive numbers on the ground as well, recording a total of 282 yards and scoring four touchdowns.
McCaffrey crossed the pylon three times before the end of the first half, finishing the game with a total of 135 yards. Sophomore Bryce Love also added to his impressive season, ending the night with 82 yards on just five carries. Oregon-native sophomore running back Cameron Scarlett also got in on the onslaught late in the game, rushing for 68 yards and his first career touchdown.
“It’s just two weeks in a row for us having both [McCaffrey and Love] healthy and doing what they’re really capable of … two explosive, fast guys that you have on the field at the same time — or one at a time — [and] when they get the opportunity to get the ball with a crease, they can make things happen,” Shaw said.
The Stanford defense allowed freshman quarterback Justin Herbert and the Oregon offense to pick up 500 total yards in the game, but forced four turnovers and 11 failed third-down conversions to keep Oregon from striking distance for nearly the entire game.
Two of those turnovers came from junior outside linebacker Joey Alfieri of Portland, who grabbed a tipped ball from Dallas Lloyd in the end zone. His second interception came from a play on a deep pass intended for senior tight end Johnny Mundt.
“Defensively, we don’t care about yards, we’ve got to keep guys out of the end zone, and two interceptions by Joey Alfieri is phenomenal,” Shaw said. “It was great to see him come back to the northwest and make some big plays in front of his home crowd.”
The game started with three-and-outs from both teams, but after a crucial fourth-down stop for the Stanford defense, McCaffrey set the pace for the Stanford offense with a 61-yard sprint to the end zone, going through a gaping hole created by two huge blocks from offensive linemen Nate Herbig and Daniel Marx, who was on the field for the first time since Sept. 24 against UCLA.
“It’s great to have [Marx] back out there. When he blocks guys, they don’t get off. He does a great job of keeping his balance and being physical … it was great to have him out there today, and he’ll get some more snaps next week,” Shaw said.
Junior defensive end Solomon Thomas would then recover a fumble in Oregon territory that would eventually lead to another Christian McCaffrey touchdown run. Stanford scored a total of 21 points off of turnovers in Saturday’s matchup.
On Stanford’s next drive, Keller Chryst connected with sophomore J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on a 61-yard bomb, which put the Cardinal up by three touchdowns in the first quarter.
Oregon struck twice in the first half — once on a Johnny Mundt touchdown reception from Herbert and again on the ground by junior running back Royce Freeman — but after another Chryst touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Michael Rector and yet another McCaffrey touchdown, the game seemed all but over at half with Stanford leading the Ducks 38-13.
Saturday’s 38 points was Stanford’s highest scoring output in a first half since blowing out FCS foe UC Davis in 2014.
Stanford continued its momentum into the second half, starting with a high-scoring third quarter that included two touchdowns, in the air and on the ground. Keller Chryst dropped another touchdown pass over two Oregon defenders perfectly into Michael Rector’s hands for the first Stanford score, followed by a 13-yard rush from Cameron Scarlett that ended in the end zone, giving Stanford a 52-13 advantage as the third quarter wound down.
Oregon scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to bring its total to 27 points, with junior running back Kani Benoit scoring on the ground and junior wide receiver Charles Nelson catching an accurate 41-yard bomb from Herbert with a minute left for the final score of the game.
Oregon will now only look to play spoiler to 15th-ranked Utah, as its postseason chances have been erased with Saturday’s loss. Stanford now shifts its focus to keeping the Axe from the California Golden Bears, whom the Cardinal play next week in Berkeley for the 119th annual Big Game.
Contact Samuel Curry at currys ‘at’ stanford.edu.