Stanford football (1-3, 0-2 Pac-12) sputtered to a 21-6 loss against No. 16 Oregon (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) behind an anemic offense that could only muster two field goals on Saturday. A valiant defensive effort produced four sacks to keep the score within reach, but the Cardinal were never able to find any rhythm on offense and Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert was efficient with his opportunities, throwing for three touchdowns. The loss extends Stanford’s losing streak to three games, a first under head coach David Shaw ’94.
Stanford opened with what would be its best drive of the night, dispelling the demons of last week’s disastrous start against then-No. 17 UCF by marching downfield off productive runs by running backs Cameron Scarlett and Austin Jones. Perhaps conscious of the need to start fast against Oregon’s prolific offense, Shaw spent a time out at third down on the Oregon 14, but after an endzone fade to tight end Colby Parkinson fell incomplete, the Cardinal settled for a 32-yard field goal from kicker Jet Toner. Outside linebackers Casey Toohill and Jordan Fox sacked Herbert on the ensuing Oregon possession to force a punt.
From then, Stanford’s offensive woes resurfaced. Dropped passes and holding penalties stalled several subsequent drives while Oregon’s offense got into rhythm. Herbert threw for a touchdown each in the first and second quarters, while Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello struggled. At the end of the first half, Costello was sacked and appeared to fumble the ball. Oregon scooped and scored, but a review ruled Costello down and left the score 14-3 at halftime.
The second half started with a stop for the Cardinal, but they failed to convert their defensive success into any points in the third quarter. Penalties continued to limit progress from the offense, often putting the Cardinal into situations with over 10 yards to gain. In total, the team committed six penalties for a total of 45 yards, which effectively ended three separate drives.
After an Oregon punt opened the fourth quarter, Costello was hit on a throw and intercepted by Oregon safety Jevon Holland in Stanford territory. Herbert duly converted the pick into another touchdown. With 10:40 to go and a three possession lead to chase, Stanford’s offense finally made it back into the red zone but again had to kick a field goal. A gutsy call for an onside kick failed when Jet Toner’s attempt sailed just out of bounds but Oregon was unable to capitalize on the field position this time and missed a 27-yard field goal. The faintest hopes of repeating last year’s miraculous comeback in Autzen were put to bed as Stanford turned the ball over on downs. Concerningly, right tackle Foster Sarell appeared to go down with an injury in garbage time as the clock ran out.
Costello had a night to forget in his second game after returning from injury, finishing 16-30 for 120 yards with an interception. The team produced only 234 total yards of offense and failed to score a touchdown — the first time the Cardinal offense has been kept out of the endzone for an entire game since facing Colorado in 2016. Oregon’s defense, meanwhile, has now gone three games straight without giving up a touchdown.
“[Oregon is] playing a lot of pass-stopping defense,” Costello said. “They’re playing 3-cloud, two high safeties; they’re clouding both sides, that scenario asking us to run the football.”
On the other side of the ball, Stanford’s defensive line and linebackers were the only bright spots for the struggling team, despite allowing three touchdowns. After failing to pressure either USC or UCF’s quarterbacks in previous weeks, they had an impressive outing against an Oregon offensive line that was missing starting center Jake Hanson. Outside linebacker Casey Toohill led the team with two sacks and two tackles for loss. Outside linebacker Jordan Fox contributed four tackles and a sack.
“I feel like [Herbert] was antsy in the pocket,” Fox said. “We were pretty effective on the outside.”
Despite the loss, Shaw maintained an optimistic view of the team.
“There’s so much more on this football team,” he said. “Not gonna blame it on anything other than our execution.”
Stanford will look to snap its losing streak next Saturday afternoon when the Cardinal travel to Corvallis to face Oregon State at 4 p.m. PT.
Contact Michael Espinosa at mesp2021 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Daniel Wu at dwu21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.