It’s not a normal feeling for the Stanford football team.
Hoping to rebound from a loss. Trying to piece together what went wrong. Working to make it all right in just a week, with another important game coming up.
But after watching its perfect season — and the nation’s longest win streak — fall apart on Saturday against Oregon, the No. 9 Cardinal (9-1, 7-1 Pac-12) has to find a way to deal with the unfamiliar letter “L” on its record.
Redshirt senior tight end Coby Fleener came up empty when grasping for any positives to take away from a tough weekend.
“I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know how to answer that question,” Fleener said. “I don’t know if there’s too much good. We’re not looking for moral victories.”
Defensive coordinator Derek Mason was able to find a few more words, but he acknowledged that the Cardinal wasn’t going to find much to be happy about.
“It’s a feeling of disappointment. [The players] understood what this game was about,” he said. “When you don’t play your best ball, there’s nothing to be excited about, there’s nothing to be happy about, there’s nothing to be overjoyed about.”
But even though it was the Cardinal’s first loss in over a year and its second to the Ducks in as many years, there is a little bit of precedent for Stanford’s ability to rebound in fine fashion.
“It’s hard to tell how we’ll deal with [the Oregon game] right now because we haven’t played anyone yet,” redshirt junior guard David DeCastro said. “Last year obviously we took it pretty well, winning every game afterwards.”
Indeed, after the Cardinal fell to the Ducks up in Autzen Stadium last season in week five, it rolled to eight straight wins and an Orange Bowl victory. Should the Cardinal respond the same way this season with wins against California and Notre Dame, it might find itself in a BCS Bowl for the second time in as many years.
And even though the team won’t find any positives in the Oregon game film, Mason said that the coaching staff and the defense in particular was going to have to draw on this game a lot if it wants to finish strong down the stretch.
“I think coming out of this game, at the end of the day, you can’t play at 65 percent and go beat a team that gives you 100 percent like Oregon did,” Mason said. “It had nothing to do with injuries, it had more to do with execution. We’re about getting guys to the football, tackling the guy with the ball, and making sure we play a certain style of defense. And we didn’t do that.
“We gave up three explosive plays defensively and we gave up three red zone opportunities where we didn’t get stops. That’s 42 points. And you can’t do that. I don’t care where the ball is set down,” he continued.
DeCastro echoed his coach when he said the Cardinal could draw on its experienced leaders in order to get back in the swing of things with the Big Game coming up this weekend.
“I think it’s trying to be mature and realize that you can’t get down on yourself,” he said. “You can’t be freaking out, you’ve got to be like, ‘what did we do wrong? Let’s fix it and move on to Cal.’”
Altogether, Mason said the team had done a good job of keeping the loss — and the fact that the season isn’t over yet — in perspective, but he was fully aware that the Cardinal couldn’t coast into this game still licking its wounds.
“At the end of the day, give all the credit to Oregon. No excuses, no explanations. They’re a good team and so are we,” he said. “We can’t let Oregon beat us twice. We lost to Oregon, and now we’ve got to go beat Cal.”
The Cardinal kicks off against Cal this Saturday in the 114th Big Game at 7:15 p.m. at Stanford Stadium.