Stanford seems to have found the right combination to handle the Oregon Ducks.
1. Hit them in the mouth. 2. Don’t let them have the ball.
It worked for Stanford last year, when the Cardinal upset the Ducks, 17-14, in Eugene. And it looks to be working to perfection again on Thursday night in Palo Alto as No. 6 Stanford leads No. 2 Oregon, 17-0, at the half.
The Cardinal used its turn-back-the-clock offense to dominate the clock, running 42 plays to the Ducks’ 28 and holding the ball nearly 21 minutes to Oregon’s nine.
Meanwhile, Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan looks like he’s on his way to having his best game of the season. He completed six of 10 passes for 97 yards and also rushed for 34 yards and one score as Stanford converted an astounding 8 of 10 third down conversions. A lot of those conversions came on the back of Tyler Gaffney, who already has 24 carries for 84 yards and a score.
And the Stanford defense reminded everyone why it’s considered one of the best units in the country, holding Heisman front runner Marcus Mariota to 115 yards on 9 of 17 passing and negative 9 yards rushing. It was hard for the Oregon offense to get untracked — it never had the ball!
Not that the Ducks showed no signs of life. Twice they advanced inside the Stanford 10-yard line, coming away empty both times, the first time on a failed 4th down conversion and the second when running back De’Anthony Thomas was stripped by Cardinal linebacker Shayne Skov near the goal line.
The one upside to the first half for Oregon is that it can score quick and Stanford is still within reach. The second half could get interesting if the Ducks find their rhythm. But first they need the ball back.