Card Shut Out In Autzen

Well, that wasn't fun. Stanford dropped 35-0 at the hands of an Oregon team that was supposedly the "chance" for this anemic Stanford passing offense to get in gear. Instead Chris Lewis threw three picks and the running game looked cartoonish in its goalline scoring bids. Don't worry - there is plenty of blame to go around after a historic meltdown like this. The defense failed to stop the pass as well as the run. The OL was wretched. Special teams even whiffed...

35-zip.  There isn't a whole lot of story behind a game like that.  Stanford floundered on offense, defense and special teams in a fashion reminiscent of the USC game.  The disheartening difference, however, is that these Oregon Ducks cannot possibly approach the talent the Trojans put forth in South Central.  This was a paraplegic performance against a football team who had lost three straight games and ranked near the bottom of the nation in pass defense.

A few of the stats help tell the tale:

  • Stanford starting QB Chris Lewis, who many Cardinalmaniacs™ had hoped would be the savior to unlock this offense, completed 15 passes.  That might sound decent until you learn that only 12 were to Stanford targets; three were interceptions into the waiting Day-Glow arms of Oregon defenders.  Perhaps it's a biological trigger - some far-infrared radiation that emanates from those uni's that hypnotizes quarterbacks into mechanical movements they cannot control.  But to the non-PhD-carrying observer, it looked like he made some horrific decisions when under pressure...
  • Speaking of pressure, the stout Duck defensive line had their way with the Cardinal offensive line.  Lewis could have been in better situations had he not felt so much pressure, which included four sacks for 34 yards and another five quarterback hurries.  The O-line failed at much more than just pass protection, though.  They were completely incapable of moving the pile forward on short yardage situations, which brought back nightmarish recollections of similar goalline failures against Washington and Washington State.
  • On the other side of the ball, Oregon completed a phenomenal 23 of their 27 passes for 265 yards.  That's Swiss precision, folks.
  • The Ducks were led for the second straight year by a season-high running effort from Terrence Whitehead.  He didn't crack 200 yards like the 2002 blitzkrieg, but he did dominate with 172 yards on just 23 carries.  That's a 7.5 per-carry average.  And he was never stopped behind the line of scrimmage for a loss.
  • Stanford's J.R. Lemon instead was stopped for zero or minus yards on seven of his 10 carries.  He also fumbled the ball once.
  • Stanford was 0-for-3 scoring when inside the Oregon 25-yardline.

It is that last stat that probably will sting Stanford fans the hardest and longest, if they witnessed this game or followed it via radio/Internet...

  1. Stanford's 3rd possession, early 2nd quarter.  The offense finds its first groove and trails just 14-0 at the time.  The big play of the drive is 21-yard catch and run by Lemon to move into scoring range for the first time in the game at the Oregon 26.  A four-yard Kenneth Tolon run would bring the ball to the 22, but nothing more was mustered.  At a time when Stanford needed some offensive reward on the road, kicker Michael Sgroi fluttered a 39-yard field goal attempt wide right.  He is just 4-of-9 on the year for field goals.  While the points have not been the difference on the scoreboard at the end of these losses, it is hard to underestimate the psychological damage of empty offensive drives.
  2. Stanford's 4th possession, middle 2nd quarter.  Mark Bradford busts a huge 71-yard play that gives a ray of hope to a team skidding down a 21-0 slope.  He was caught from behind by Oregon standout free safety Keith Lewis and forced out of bounds at the five-yardline.  That gave Stanford its best field position of the day and a first and goal set of downs.  Lemon ran for no gain on the first play.  Lewis went to Evan Moore for a fade pattern in the endzone unsuccessfully on the second.  Then on third down Lewis threw an interception to kill the drive and Stanford's last chance to score in the half.
  3. Stanford 5th possession of the 2nd half, early 4th quarters.  Bradford sets up another fantastic scoring opportunity, this time on a 24-yard catch that put the ball on the one-yardline.  No passing shenanigans this time - the Cardinal coaches called for all running plays to try and punch it in.  Lemon actually loses ground on the first two downs, and then Lewis is sacked on third down to take them well out of 4th down territory.  But an Oregon facemask penalty breathes new life into the rigor mortis running game, with a new set of downs and the ball again on the one-yardline.  Lemon and Lewis alternate attempts up the middle for three failed downs, and then Lewis sprints outside and is stopped on 4th down.  That was seven attempted plays from the two-yardline or closer, with no scores.

Though not in scoring position, there was one other nut-busting guffaw on offense in this game.  It came on Stanford's very first possession, which aimed immediately to put the Ducks' D back on their webbed feet (not sure if fowl have heels).  The first play put Luke Powell in the shotgun and Chris Lewis out at receiver, with Powell running an option for a pickup of eight yards.  The 5'8" Smyrna (TN) product was an option quarterback in high school and would run the ball three times in the game for 16 positive yards.

Second down was even more crafty, with Lewis taking the nominal signal-caller's position and looking for Powell as a receiving target.  But the pass was a lateral that allowed the senior Tennessean to throw a forward pass of his own.  This is a play that Powell had run every day in practice the last two weeks, with his discretion whether to throw the ball or not depending on how open Bradford could get down the sideline.  The frosh phenom was as open as one could imagine, but Powell overthrew him on what would have been a touchdown score.  Stanford would get a first down on the next play, but punt soon thereafter.  On the road against a team that was firing on all cylinders, those missed opportunities ultimately kept the Card scoreless in this game.

It was the first time Stanford had been scoreless since the 1996 Sun Bowl season, when the Card were blanked in Madison by the Wisconsin Badgers.  It was the first conference shutout since 1990 in Eugene.

"Oregon is a very good team," says Stanford safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, who caused one of the only two Oregon turnovers on the day when he stripped and recovered a ball.  " It's not like the offense wasn't moving the ball.  We were in the redzone three or four times and couldn't punch it in.  It comes down to who is scoring.  At the end of the game, it's about who scores more."

If there was one bright light in this bleak cloak of ink black darkness, it was true freshman Mark Bradford.  The starting wideout executed the longest offensive play of the year, a 71-yard catch and run that took the ball down to the Oregon five-yardline.  On the day he caught seven balls for 153 yards, which by itself is an amazing feat.  The last time a true freshman caught more than a hundred yards in a single game was Brian Manning in 1993.  But when you further consider that Bradford's output came on a day when Stanford's total passing offense totaled just 225 yards, his number loom even larger.

"[Oregon] played very well today," head coach Buddy Teevens said afterward.  "We didn't do some of the things we wanted to, coming out...  The team we saw who beat Michigan showed up today."

"You can't do that against a good team," Teevens commented on the four Cardinal turnovers.  "They obviously created good field positions opportunities for them."

Stanford returns home next week to play UCLA in what will be the first of four home games in a five-week span.  The Bruin defense has shown to be one of the best in the conference, which bodes poorly for this offense.  After all, Stanford could not put any points on the board today against the worst pass defense in the conference and 109th in Division I-A football at 289.7 yards per game.

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