In what was a strange, bizarre setting, and cold and oft-rainy evening, the 12th-ranked Oregon Ducks defeated the Stanford Cardinal 35-14 Saturday in a fan-less Autzen Stadium.
The visitors were dealt a blow before kickoff, as senior quarterback Davis Mills was ruled out for reasons related to COVID-testing and contact tracing, and senior receiver Connor Wedington was also ruled out. The Cardinal turned to backup junior Jack West at quarterback before going to freshman Tanner McKee in the second half.
Oregon held a 14-7 halftime lead, thanks in large part to a 10-play, 96-yard drive toward the end of the half that ended with a Tyler Shough 4-yard scoring pass to DJ Johnson. Shough finished the half 9-for-12 passing for 142 yards with a touchdown and a pick that Stanford was unable to turn into points. His half was highlighted by two beautiful deep ball connections to Mycah Pittman (one-handed, 40 yards) and Johnny Johnson III (38 yards), both of which set up Oregon’s two touchdowns. Two missed field goals by Stanford kicker Jet Toner of 47 and 41 yards kept the Cardinal from taking a more firm grasp in the first half.
Oregon took the opening drive of the second half 75 yards on 9 plays to extend their lead, finishing with a 14-yard touchdown run by junior Travis Dye, making it 21-7 Ducks. The Cardinal drove into Ducks territory on their next drive, only to have Toner miss his third field goal of the night, this time from 35 yards.
Shough took over the game with his legs on Oregon’s following possession. He converted a 3rd-and-1 near midfield, then escaped major pressure for a 15 yard scramble, and capped it off with a cutback touchdown run of 9 yards that left the Stanford defense grasping for air. The score made it 28-7 Oregon heading into the fourth quarter.
Stanford responded with a lengthy drive that reached the Oregon one-yard line. A costly offensive pass-interference pushed the Cardinal back ten yards, which ultimately mattered, as Toner missed his fourth field goal from 27 yards out, keeping it 28-7 Oregon.
A missed field goal from Oregon’s Camden Lewis from 37 yards away kept the Cardinal in it, and they capitalized thanks to a 73-yard sprint from running back Nathaniel Peat, setting up fellow backfield mate Austin Jones with a 4-yard score, trimming the Oregon lead to 28-14.
But the Ducks sealed up the win the next drive. After Shough narrowly avoided throwing an interception on the first play, Oregon moved the ball into Stanford territory, and converted a 3rd-and-4 with Shough finding DJ Johnson in the flat off play-action, much in the same way Johnson scored his touchdown in the first half. That conversion set up Cyrus Habibi-Likio on a 4-yard touchdown run as the junior atoned for an earlier fumble in the first half. The drive was 9 plays and 73 yards, taking 4:02 off the clock, and putting the nail in the coffin for the final score of 35-14.
Shough’s first start as Ducks quarterback finished with decent passing numbers (17-for-26, 227 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), but his mobility and athleticism was the primary takeaway. The sophomore finished with 85 yards on the ground on 11 carries (7.7 yards per carry) including a highlight TD rush. CJ Verdell added 105 yards on 20 carries and a score (5.3 y/c) and Travis Dye totaled 78 yards on six attempts, led by an impressive 40-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.
The Ducks are 1-0 in this modified Pac-12 season, and visit the Washington State Cougars next week in Pullman.