Pac-12 Football Review: Oregon leads 2020 recruiting, BYU Games, KJ Costello

Oregon vs. Stanford 2019 was another in the series of two relatively new Pac-12 heavyweights. And yet, this iteration felt different.

The Stanford Cardinal have had a nightmarish start to the season, after winning the opener to Northwestern the Cardinal have lost three straight games including a 21-6 loss at home to the University of Oregon.

First Half

Facing a Ducks team ranked #16 in the nation and led by Heisman candidate Justin Herbert, the Cardinal would attempt to right the ship. Receiving the opening kickoff, the Cardinal drove 61 yards in 12 plays in 6:21 seconds, primarily off the legs of running back Cameron Scarlett. Unable to punch the ball into the endzone Stanford would settle for a field goal, taking a 3-0 lead.

The Cardinal defense was the one of a few bright spots on the day, keeping Herbert under 300 yards passing (19/24 259yards 3TDs). The Stanford defense also held Oregon’s rushing attack to 61 total yards. They harassed Herbert all game long, totaling four sacks and piled up seven tackles for loss.

On the Ducks third possession, however, Oregon found something exploitable in the Cardinal defense. Herbert hit wide receiver Jaylon Redd on a crossing route and he outraces the coverage for 36 yards and a lead changing score. Oregon went 55 yards on 2 plays, using only :35 off the clock to take a 7-3 lead. With his second completion, Herbert broke 8,000 yards passing. He also extended his streak of games with a passing TD to 32.

Still, the Cardinal were not out. Unfortunately their offense couldn’t get going, or even out of its own way. Osiris St. Brown was called for a chop block, costing Stanford 15 yards and seriously impairing the momentum. Two runs and an incompletion later and the Cardinal had to punt on 4th and 12 from their 33.

Stanford’s defense, meanwhile, continued to smother the gun and pistol stretch runs which the Ducks are known for. However, getting off the field on third downs remained a major problem. On two consecutive third-and-longs the Cardinal allowed the Ducks to convert. This led to an eventual score.

On the next possession the Cardinal found momentum as halftime approached. But on the eighth play of the drive at the Oregon 39 yard line, quarterback K.J. Costello was sacked. And after the original play was ruled a fumble returned for a TD, upon official review it was ruled Costello’s knee and elbow were down. The sack counted but the scoop and score did not.

With the offense stifled by Oregon’s defense, the Ducks had another shot. Herbert threw for gains of 24 yards, 16 yards, and 16 yards. The final was a TD pass to tight end Jacob Breeland on a back shoulder throw and catch to open up the lead. 14-3 Ducks.

2nd Half

Heading into the second half the Cardinal had hope. Their first drive showed they could play against Oregon’s stout defense and a 14-3 score was not insurmountable.

But after stopping the Ducks’ offense on their first drive of the second half, Stanford started the third quarter moving backwards.One false start, one delay of game penalty, a completion for 0 yards, a sack of 8 yards, and a 6 yard run. All preceded an opening drive punt for the Cardinal.

The Ducks, believing in either their defense or Stanford’s offensive futility — or a combination of the two — were content to continue running the clock. Stanford had 181 yards of total offense with no touchdowns heading into the 4th quarter. Scarlett, the lone offensive bright spot, had 91 yards on 17 carries. Only Austin Jones and St. Brown had more than 20 yards of receptions for the Cardinal.

This offensive futility was highlighted by a Costello interception that led to Oregon’s third TD of the game. After Oregon safety Jevon Holland intercepted Costello, Herbert marched the Ducks down the field. He connected with Breeland once again for a 24-yard TD, the second of Breeland’s day and 172nd of Herbert’s career.

Now down 21-3, Stanford needed something to get any momentum back.

Moving the offense down the field, Costello had his biggest play of the game on a 25 yard pass to M. Wilson. After Scarlett added 6 yards on a run, Costello once again hit Wilson for 14 yards on another slant, bringing the Cardinals into the redone for just the second time of the afternoon. An incompletion into the end zone was followed by a loss of three on a screen. Costello was then sacked on 3rd and 13 by Lamar Winston Jr., forcing a field goal attempt. Fortunately for Stanford, kicker Jeff Toner connected. With time bleeding away, Stanford was down 21-6.

Needing to score quickly and get the ball back, Stanford attempted an onside kick. They did not convert, and saw Oregon drive 41 yards on 7 plays. This put the Ducks in field goal range. Fortunately for the Cardinal, Oregon missed. With 5:35 seconds left in the game the Cardinal took possession at their 20 yard line down 21-6.

But after starting out with a nice pass on first down for a first down, the Cardinal offense failed to convert a fourth down, giving the Ducks the ball and the opportunity to run more off the clock. And while they did punt to Stanford, Costello and Stanford had no time. He was sacked for the last play of the game, an appropriate ending for the way the game played throughout.

Oregon vs. Stanford 2019 Final Thoughts

Costello finished the game 16/30 for 120 yards 0TDS and 1 INT. Scarlett carried the ball 19 times for 97 yards and 0 TDs. Stanford’s leading receiver was Michael Wilson with 61 yards on 5 catches. The Cardinal are in desperate need of offense and help doesn’t appear to be on the way.

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