The image of senior receiver Elijah Higgins high-pointing the football as the clock expired remains seared in the minds of Ducks’ fans. Higgins’ catch, one year ago to the date, extended the game to overtime, where the Cardinal were able to clinch an upset over then-No. 3 Oregon. Unfortunately, Stanford fans will have to rely on that year-old memory for comfort after a blowout loss on Saturday in Eugene, Ore.
The Ducks (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) certainly weren’t overlooking Stanford (1-3, 0-3 Pac-12) after last season’s heartbreaking defeat in Palo Alto, Calif.
“This team shortened our season last year,” said Oregon head coach Dan Lanning during the midweek press conference. “Some of the guys in our room, they still have a bad taste in their mouth from playing [against] these guys before.”
Lanning’s words were evident in the Ducks’ play, as they defeated the Cardinal in brutal fashion 45-27.
Stanford’s offense sputtered out of the gate, with junior running back Casey Filkins being the lone bright spot. The Cardinal were only able to get into Oregon territory with 11:14 remaining in the second quarter.
“Offensively, [it was] tough to get going,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw after the game. “We got to find a way to start faster in all phases to give ourselves a chance to stay competitive.”
Instead, the story early on was the Oregon offense, which scored in a variety of ways. The Ducks got on board with a field goal before unloading a barrage of touchdowns. Then, wide receiver Chase Cota took a 49-yard screen pass to the house to make it 10-0. Later on, quarterback Bo Nix had a 35-yard run to set up Troy Franklin’s toe-drag touchdown catch, which extended Oregon’s lead to 17-3.
Turnovers also played a role in the first half, as junior tight end Ben Yurosek fumbled the ball after catching it in the flat. Oregon was able to recover, which set their offense up with a short field. Immediately after the recovery, Nix was able to cash in on the opportunity, reaching the end zone from four yards to make it 24-3.
“The turnover bug got us again,” Shaw said. “Too many fumbles, too many turnovers, too many bad plays for us.”
The Ducks also showed they could score on a sustained scoring drive, as they racked up a 10-play, 68-yard touchdown drive with time expiring in the second quarter. This effectively put the game out of reach, as the lead was now up to four possessions.
Stanford’s offense showed some life in the second half, as junior quarterback Tanner McKee hit Filkins on a wheel route, which he was able to finish for a 42-yard touchdown. Later, McKee found Higgins on a 28-yard touchdown pass.
When asked about the better offensive play in the second half, Shaw pointed out that the team simply executed better on the same plays they called earlier. “We called a lot of the same plays,” Shaw said. “We repeated through some of those plays three or four times, and we just executed much better.”
But by that point, it was too late for Stanford to mount a comeback. Oregon was able to run the ball effectively to prevent Stanford from receiving more possessions. Overall, Oregon ran for 343 yards, with Nix leading the way with 141 yards.
Stanford’s defense once again looked porous against the run, while the offensive line struggled in pass protection for the third week in a row. The Cardinal receivers also underperformed this week, as no receiver accumulated over 50 yards receiving.
On the other hand, Filkins played well yet again, amassing over 139 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. Moreover, he was the leading receiver in the game for the Cardinal with 59 receiving yards. It’s possible that Filkins will be featured more in the passing game going forward.
Stanford will now return home for a Pac-12 showdown against Oregon State (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12) on Oct. 8. Both teams will be looking for their first win in conference play. Kickoff will commence at 8 p.m. PT and the game will be televised on ESPN.