Ducks Drop Heartbreaker In OT
STANFORD, Calif. — No. 3 Oregon's unbeaten start to the season came to an end Saturday afternoon when the Ducks lost in overtime at Stanford, 31-24.
The Ducks (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) scored 17 straight points to open the second half and take a 24-17 lead, and they were driving in Stanford territory behind a dominant running game with less than three minutes left in regulation. But two false start penalties moved the Ducks back and led to a punt, three penalties on Oregon's defense led to Stanford scoring the game-tying touchdown to end regulation, and the Cardinal scored to open overtime while the Ducks were unable to answer.
"Obviously a tough one," UO coach Mario Cristobal said. "We had some bright moments, but certainly not enough to overcome some of our own mistakes. … We didn't play with enough discipline today and didn't coach with enough discipline, and it cost us the game."
Oregon now has a bye before hosting California for a Friday night game Oct. 15.
The Ducks played Saturday without reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the week Bennett Williams, who didn't make the trip due to an injury suffered in practice Friday, and without starting center Alex Forsyth due to back spasms. Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead missed the game due to a non-COVID illness, and running back CJ Verdell went to the locker room with an injury in the third quarter.
Still the Ducks were in position to win, before the litany of penalty flags resulted in Stanford's comeback.
"We can't shoot ourselves in the foot," said linebacker Nate Heaukulani, who tied for the team lead with eight tackles. "I don't know how many penalties we had on that drive, but we kind of gave them the game. It's a tough one, especially that last drive."
An interception provided Stanford possession before one of the Cardinal's two first-half touchdowns, and the Ducks failed to score inside Stanford's 5-yard line just before halftime. Oregon regrouped for the third quarter on both sides of the ball and was driving with a late lead before giving up the final 14 points of the game.
The result called to mind an overtime loss to the Cardinal after a 10-0 start to the season by Oregon in 2010, and a 6-0 start in 2001 that was spoiled by a loss to Stanford.
"A team as good as ours can't make mistakes like this, can't shoot ourselves in the foot," said quarterback Anthony Brown, who was 14-of-26 passing for 186 yards and an interception, and ran for two scores. "And we did it. A lot. It's gonna sting; it's gonna sting bad. We'll learn from it and move on."
Trailing 17-7 at halftime Saturday, the Ducks took over after the teams had traded punts and drove to a 1-yard touchdown run by Verdell midway through the third quarter. That made it 17-14, and the UO defense forced another three-and-out before Camden Lewis tied the game with a 22-yard field goal.
After another Stanford punt, a 66-yard catch-and-run by Mycah Pittman got the Ducks into the red zone; two plays later Brown's second rushing touchdown of the day gave Oregon its first lead.
Yet another three-and-out for the UO defense got the Ducks the ball back, looking to add on with 7:26 to play. They seemed poised to do so by grinding away in the run game, using nine straight runs to get across midfield with less than 3 minutes left. But back-to-back false starts robbed the Ducks of momentum, and they punted.
"We were one first down away from taking the air out of the ball," Cristobal said. "… There's no excuse. We've gotta get it done."
The ensuing Stanford possession began at the 13-yard line with 1:59 to play. Two false starts on the Cardinal moved them back to the 4-yard line, but they moved the chains with a pass play and then got close to midfield after a targeting foul on Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux. A roughing the passer flag moments later got Stanford into the red zone, and an incomplete pass as time expired was instead ruled holding on the Ducks in the end zone, setting up an untimed down.
The resulting play was a touchdown pass by Stanford, and the extra point sent the game to overtime. The Cardinal scored with a 14-yard touchdown pass on third-and-11 in the extra period, and Oregon went four plays and out on its possession to end the game.
Saturday's game began with a targeting penalty on Oregon's Trikweze Bridges, who was ejected following a hit on the opening kickoff. The Cardinal drove to a field goal on the possession, and after Brown threw the Ducks' first interception of the season later in the first quarter, Stanford scored for a 10-0 lead.
The Ducks got on the board with a short rushing touchdown by Brown late in the first quarter, but Stanford answered with a touchdown drive of its own for a 17-7 lead.
After the teams traded punts, Oregon drove deep into Stanford territory just before halftime. The Ducks went for it on fourth down at the 1-yard line; instead of pitching to Verdell, who had a clear path to the end zone, Brown kept the ball and was stuffed.
"Games like this, playing against a team like Stanford where they don't make mistakes, you can't have self-inflicted wounds," Brown said. "I had too many in the first half."