There’s little doubt Stanford continues to be a thorn in Oregon’s side.
For now, it just doesn’t matter.
Oregon and Stanford have shattered each other’s dreams for the past several seasons, making the match-up a Pac-12 favorite. Unfortunately for Oregon, the ball didn’t bounce their way for the third straight season. Even though Oregon dominated most of the game, Stanford rallied late and stunned Autzen stadium in a devastating (and controversial) round of overtime, ending in a 38-31 Cardinal victory.
The thorn sank deeper and Green and yellow tears flowed, rightly so. The Ducks came out strong and nearly to upset its conference foe on a huge stage. For a variety of reasons, that didn’t happen.
Again, for now, it just doesn’t matter.
Despite the tough loss, Oregon did something magical. It proved it was back and the Pac-12 should be on notice, not just this season but for many to come.
Admittedly, I wasn’t in Autzen Stadium on Saturday for the first time in several years and instead was in Stanford territory for a family wedding (family first, right?). Had I been there in the midst of the emotion, I may still be crying over my Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ben & Jerry’s. After watching the game multiple times though, I just couldn’t help but feel optimistic.
Yes, the fourth quarter landslide (and beyond) was frustrating at times. Officiating was questionable at best, out-of-character snapping mishaps came at a terrible time, the youth of the secondary showed and ball security problems ultimately cost the Ducks the win. All that said, Oregon and its fans have every reason to be excited about the future.
If ever a loss could be a win, this would be it. For the first three quarters, Oregon played the best football it’s played in years and there were more positive takeaways than could be counted on one hand. Furthermore, most of the mishaps (minus pac-12 officiating) that plagued Oregon’s night can be corrected or improved upon fairly quickly. I’m guessing Verdell won’t lose a ball again for a long time and Hanson’s snaps will be near perfection for the remainder of the season. The secondary may continue to struggle at times but surely, this game will give them plenty to learn from and they’ve had moments of glory earlier this season.
Loss aside, what Oregon accomplished was remarkable. For the first time in a long time, the Ducks showed they can be tough and fast at the same time, all while competing against a smash-mouth football team, like Stanford. Head Coach, Mario Cristobal, deserves the credit for that. He committed to instilling physicality, and in just a few short months has done that and more.
Cristobal also proved he can coach against the biggest names out there. Argue all you want about the call to go for a first down instead of taking a knee at the end of the 4th quarter. No one saw a fumble coming. The safer thing may have been to take a knee but without a crystal ball, no one should fault Cristobal for playing to win and feeling “confident” in the guys and being “aggressive.” After all, he learned from the best at Alabama where they definitely play to win- a mentality Oregon will need in its quest for a National Championship.
Another positive takeaway? How about 5?
1. Justin Herbert
After a rough game against San Jose State, quarterback, Justin Herbert, showed why he is widely considered a 1st round NFL draft pick. Against a top 10 team, in regulation play, Herbert completed 25 of 27 passes (93%). He also showed he was dangerous on his feet and could fight to create plays under pressure. His play was outstanding and surely grabbed the attention of Heisman voters.
2. Rush Defense
Oregon’s defense held Stanford’s Heisman hopeful, Bryce Love, to under 100 yards. If they can handle him, every other running back in the conference should be on notice.
Against one of the toughest teams in the country, Oregon was penalized just four times, three of which came in the final quarter. After being one of the most penalized teams in the country over the past couple of years, this is a huge turnaround and again, Cristobal deserves credit. He committed to instilling discipline and it’s clearly working.
4. Jordon Scott
6’1, 333 lbs. Enough said. Well. . .almost enough.
It’s hard not to notice how much of a contributor Scott is on Oregon’s defense. Talk about physicality. Not only did Scott give Stanford’s physical o-line a run for his money, he was often one of the quickest linemen to get off the blocks. This guy is a wall that Oregon desperately needed at the line of scrimmage.
5. Oregon Receivers Can Catch
After giving Oregon fans a ton of grey hair in the first three games, the Oregon receivers, especially Dillon Mitchell, stepped up and allowed the Ducks to be two dimensional.
After being plagued by dropped passes, the receiving corps, led by Mitchell managed to rack up 346 passing yards and averaged over 13 yards per completion. Adding some icing on the cake, Mitchell broke records with his 239 yards of the night, the second most in school history and the most gained by a Pac-12 player since 2014.
All green and yellow tears should be dry at this point. Oregon football is back and there is every reason to believe they could run the table moving forward. Bold statement? Yes.
Loss aside, Cristobal and Co. deserve it.
Follow Nichole Brown on Twitter @UOgridirongirl