If Oregon wants to get back to the top of the Pac-12 this season, the No. 16 Ducks will have to get past a few programs that have proven to be more than a roadblock the past few years. On Saturday in Palo Alto, Mario Cristobal’s squad knocked down the first of those thanks to a 21-6 victory over a reeling Stanford side that had won three straight in the series.
The game was mostly a slow cooker of a victory for the visitors from Eugene on an off night all around. Quarterback Justin Herbert was efficient with the limited number of chances he had with the ball in his hands, throwing for 259 yards and a trio of touchdowns. He had just five incompletions during the entire contest and often dropped back looking for a reliable target in tight end Jacob Breeland (78 yards, two scores).
While the Heisman Trophy candidate could walk away having played well, the Ducks still needed improvement in other areas against a Pac-12 North rival that had been blown off the field the past two weeks. C.J. Verdell mustered 82 yards rushing but luckily the team’s defense more than made up for things (no touchdowns allowed for three straight games) despite being on the field an extended amount after losing the battle for the clock by nearly 10 minutes.
David Shaw, who is off to a rough 1-3 start in 2019, had to at least be happy that his offense showed signs of being able to run the ball better than they have in weeks — rushing for 126 on the ground all told. Cameron Scarlett nearly topped the century mark (97 yards) and the offensive line only gave up three sacks to a good pass rush.
But it was still more of the same for Stanford all told, which could not capitalize on the handful of sustained drives they had on the evening and saw quarterback K.J. Costello regress to the point where he threw for only 115 yards and a second half interception that all but sealed the outcome. The defense did play well for the most part against a program that has piled up points since the opener but that does them no favors given how uneven the team has performed through the first quarter of the season.
At least Oregon can take solace in the fact that they return to the Pacific Northwest for an off week with a victory to open their conference campaign. Herbert kept another clean sheet in terms of turnovers and tossed a score for the 32nd straight game of his career. Perhaps most importantly for the Ducks, they got past a thorn in their side from the past few years as they aim to return to the top of the mountain out West with dreams still alive of sneaking into the College Football Playoff too.