The Stanford Cardinal dropped their opening game, amid different circumstances than we thought as late as two hours ahead of kickoff, in a hard fought battle against the Oregon Ducks, 35-14.
With news breaking just over an hour ahead of kickoff that quarterback Davis Mills and wide receiver Connor Wedington were set to miss the game due to COVID-19 contact-tracing protocols, the Cardinal marched out Jack West at quarterback to lead the team against Oregon.
West looked a bit nervous to start the game but the reliability of an experienced offensive line as well as Austin Jones in the backfield seemed to be the way head coach David Shaw and Co. were attempting to calm the jitters and set the tone.
Led by the run game, the Cardinal took their opening drive into Oregon territory and set up a 48-yard field goal attempt from Jet Toner, but was wide, wide right on a bad miss, relinquishing possession to Oregon.
The game was largely in favor of Oregon early, however two turnovers would ultimately undo their progress to a much bigger lead in the first half. Linebacker Levani Dumani was the recipient of each of those turnovers, making a beautiful interception in zone coverage over the middle on a crossing route and securing a fumbled football on a second-quarter run by Oregon’s Cyrus Habibi-Likio.
First half highlights also saw Brycen Tremayne do this:
Oh wow Brycen Tremayne pic.twitter.com/8DFCFmT9rI— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) November 8, 2020
Jones continued to be the workhorse for the Cardinal in the first half. In total, he ran the ball 13 times for 66 yards and also caught this crucial early fourth-down conversion.
What a route by Austin Jones (@rockwitaust). Shakes the DB and there's plenty of turf ahead pic.twitter.com/fasfd6VxEo— Joe Broback (@joebroback) November 8, 2020
Jones scored the Cardinal’s first touchdown and West put Stanford in scoring position multiple times but did not reap the benefits as Toner missed two first-half field goal attempts.
And as such, with no trust in Toner’s leg, a punt attempt deep in Oregon territory from Stanford saw no points and the Ducks take a long drive down for a go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing possession, grabbing a 14-7 lead just before half.
The second half came and more of the same appeared. Toner missed yet another field goal and miscues kept piling up. There were missed tackles at nearly every level of the field but the offense and special teams’ inability to score points was too much to overcome.
And then Toner missed another one.
Jones was able to score on the ground again but it was too far and few between to make much of a dent.
Oregon dominated this game in the long run and too many penalties and miscues from Stanford ultimately undid any good. The Cardinal finished with 10 penalties for 100 yards. They were also sluggish on third down, converting just 4-13 third-down attempts compared to Oregon’s 9-11.
West completed 13-19 for 153 yards while Tanner McKee did finally see action, completing 3-7 passes for 62 yards. Jones toted the rock 20 times for 100 yards and his two scores while Nathaniel Peat needed just six carries to reach 93 yards.
The loss of Mills certainly plagued Stanford’s aerial attack but the ground game gives hope for the future, this season and next.
Stanford falls to 0-1 and takes on Colorado next Saturday. The Buffs knocked off UCLA, 48-42, in Week 1.