The exact phrase to describe the Cardinal loss to Oregon on Saturday: "Ugh!"
Stanford was within a 2-pt conversion of tying the game, however a missed assignment, and an errant pass just seemed to slip through the fingers of the Cardinal, much like most of the game.
Stanford had multiple chances in this game to take complete control, and they just seemed to shoot themselves in the foot at every turn.
Give credit to Oregon; they had a game plan, stuck to it, and made the plays when it was necessary to escape the Farm with the upset victory.
The Ducks offense utilized their speed and athleticism to wreak havoc on the Cardinal defense, and clearly exposed the weakness of the Cardinal Secondary with several big plays.
Oregon ended with 436 yards of total offense. Ducks RB Royce Freeman bulldozed the Cardinal defensive front with 105 yards rushing and a TD, and QB Vernon Adams had a solid performance completing 10 out 12 passes for 205 yards and 2 TDs.
Stanford did post impressive numbers along the offensive front, as the Cardinal dominated the time of possession and accrued 506 yards of total offense.
However the gaudy offensive numbers cannot mask the countless mistakes that cost the Cardinal on Saturday night. Three costly turnovers, and seven penalties led to the inevitable doom of the Cardinal and will now need some to put their pent up aggression at this game towards the rival Cal Bears on Saturday.
Here is the report card for the week:
The Cardinal were able to accrue 506 yards of offense and posted another solid 36 point total; but mental mistakes cost the Cardinal on Saturday evening. Stanford made mistakes in blocking schemes, and committed several penalties that cost field position and inevitably the game. After the game, Head Coach David Shaw noted that there were too many mental breakdowns along the line, and plays were not executed to the best of Stanford's ability.
Kevin Hogan did make several fantastic plays on Saturday, however he was responsible for all three turnovers that dearly cost the Cardinal. Hogan was pressured all night, and if it was not for the fantastic play of his WRs and TEs; Hogan and the Cardinal may have lost by a larger margin. Hogan did post solid numbers with 304 yards on 28 of 37 passing with 2 TDs; but the key statistic that everyone will talk about is the two botched snap fumbles, and the errant interception. Hogan will need to dust himself off the deck, and get back in there for the Cardinal as he has accomplished several times in his tenure on The Farm.
Running Backs: A
Sophomore RB Christian McCaffrey posted another fantastic game with 147 yards on the ground with 1 TD. McCaffrey is a force to be reckoned with on the ground, and the ultimate weapon for the Cardinal attack. The Super Sophomore has to be accounted for on every play by the opposing defenses, and the Ducks still could not fully stop him from controlling the ground. Senior Remound Wright has developed into the short yardage specialist, much like a Marcus Allen late in his career; if you need that 1-yard, Wright will make it happen. Freshman Bryce Love also is contributing, and will be a force in the future.
Wide Receivers: A
The Cardinal WRs had their best game of the season, bar none. Michael Rector had his best game of the 2015 season with 103 yards receiving, and Devon Cajuste made several big catches along the way. Rollins Stallworth had not been used in the passing game for most of the year, but contributed 3 big catches for 39 yards. The Cardinal WRs showed that they can be contributors to the offensive attack, and that can open the field to bigger plays for other skill players.
Tight Ends: B
Junior TE Greg Taboada was the bright spot for the Cardinal TEs on Saturday as he was able to make two big grabs in the end zone for Stanford. Junior Austin Hooper seemed to be out of sorts all game as he missed several blocks, dropped a few passes and committed a costly holding penalty on the opening drive that ended a drive without a TD. Hooper has been steady all year, but the Ducks secondary made sure that Hooper would not beat them in the game.
Offensive Line: C-
The Offensive Line for Stanford had been the constant bright spot for the Cardinal throughout the season; however Oregon utilized their speed and athleticism to throw the line off of their game on Saturday. Tackle Kyle Murphy and Guard Joshua Garnett had good games, and were relied heavily upon in the run game, however the two biggest issues were at Tackle with the ineptitude of Casey Tucker, and the botched snaps under center in the "Ogre Package". One scout noted that Tucker looked to be on "skates" all night as he could not control the Ducks pass rush at all. Tucker has struggled in pass protection, and his missed block at the end cost the Cardinal a chance to tie the game. The botched snaps were not from Senior Center Graham Shuler, but from back-up Johnny Caspers. Shuler is normally pulled from the game in the ogre package due to the larger size of Caspers, but there was a complete disconnect between Hogan and Caspers on Saturday night. These issues need to be fixed if the Cardinal are to have any chance at the PAC 12 title.
The Cardinal seemed to be outmatched by the "Quack Attack" of Oregon for the bulk of the game. Stanford could not catch up to the speed of the Ducks, and it was too late in the game when the Cardinal finally made a change in approach. The Cardinal missed too many tackles, and the secondary was exposed for its lack of concentration throughout the game. The bright spot of the Cardinal defense was the play of the defensive line that made several big plays throughout the game. Stanford will need to shore up these issues going forward if they are to have any chance at the PAC 12 title.
Defensive Line: B+
Graduate Transfer Brennan Scarlett and Senior Kevin Anderson were impressive along the defensive front line. Scarlett posted his best game of the season with 5 tackles and 2.5 sacks, and was a constant presence in the backfield all night. Senior Kevin Anderson made a huge play with a fumble recovery, and almost rumbled in for a score in the 2nd quarter. The defensive line has improved every week, and was the main reason that the Cardinal were able to stay close so late in the game. The grade for the Defensive Line would have been better, if not for the 231 yards allowed on the ground.
The "Tackling Machine" Blake Martinez was not operating on all cylinders Saturday night as the Ducks made sure that the Senior Linebacker was not able to make any big plays. This blocking scheme led to several missed tackles, and runners bursting through holes that the LBs were not able to fill. The Ducks utilized their quick jumps to the outside to make big plays, and the LBs of the Cardinal did not have enough speed to catch up to the Oregon runners.
Kodi Whitfield and Dallas Lloyd are both converted offensive athletes that have been made into safeties; and their lack of experience was exposed on Saturday night. Whitfield and Lloyd had their worst game all season in the defensive backfield for Cardinal as they were not able to keep up with the Ducks flying attack. Whitfield and Lloyd were torched for several big plays, and both players missed tackles that gave the Ducks bigger yardage gains. CB Alijah Holder had been playing better, but a costly un-necessary roughness penalty gave the Ducks life on a stalled drive, and was just another egregious issue for the Cardinal Secondary. The Cardinal Secondary is not the speediest bunch, but will need to use their technique better for any future success.
Special Teams: B
PK Conrad Ukropina did make some quality field goals, including an impressive 49-yard boot at the end of the first half; but when the Cardinal needed Ukropina to put points on the board early in the 3rd quarter, he pushed the 43-yard attempt wide right. There were not many great chances at returns for Christian McCaffrey, and the one chance at a punt return netted a negative 5 yards. The Cardinal Special Teams have been steady throughout the year, and will be relied upon heavily going forward.
The Coaching for Stanford has been consistent all year. The Cardinal emulate the calm and steady nature of their Head Coach David Shaw; but sometimes the fans want to see a quicker hand at making changes in the game plan. Stanford had too many opportunities wasted on both sides of the ball with play calling that some may say to be questionable. The two botched snaps were squarely on the triumvirate of the play call of Shaw, and the hand off between center and QB. Everyone in the stadium knew that Field Goals were not going to beat the Ducks, and it seemed that the Cardinal were ok with settling with only 3 points when they should have been trying to reach the end zone. Stanford has done this in other games this season, and this time the conservative approach hurt the squad.
Lets get this clear: Stanford lost this game. The Cardinal had countless chances to be up multiple scores, and they failed miserably. The Cardinal were too conservative in play calling, and were constantly burned by big plays. Stanford should have won this game; they had opportunity, and they blew it. The chances for a College Playoff scenario are all but a thought in the wind, and it will take an enormous amount of mental fortitude to get over this missed opportunity.