STANFORD, Calif. — As soon as the final whistle blew, the Oregon players rushed to the corner of the end zone to celebrate with the large contingent of Ducks fans that made the trip to Stanford.
Celebrating victories over the Cardinal, big road wins in conference play and dominating defensive performances hasn’t happened often of late for Oregon. That’s what made this one so sweet.
“Physicality has been a big point of emphasis,” coach Mario Cristobal said. “When you go on the road, sometimes it’s a little bit ugly. But you never want to apologize for winning on the road because it’s tough, especially in conference. Identity wise we want to be physical, we want to be tough and we want to finish games.”
The Ducks (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) did all of that to end a three-game losing streak to the Cardinal (1-3, 0-2) and win the conference opener for the first time since 2014.
Oregon had lost 15 of its past 20 games away from Autzen Stadium, part of a stretch when the program fell from a level of dominance to becoming an also-ran.
“That’s something we really talked about,” Herbert said. “We kind of struggled on the road the past couple of years. This was a great opportunity for us to make our mark.”
Herbert finished 19 for 24 for 259 yards. He connected with Jaylon Redd and Breeland on scoring strikes in the first half and put the game away with a 24-yard pass to Breeland that made it 21-3 five plays after K.J. Costello was intercepted by Jevon Holland.
Oregon has gone three straight games without allowing a touchdown, but doing it against Stanford was far more impressive than against Nevada and Montana.
“We weren’t going to allow them to come in and bully us,” cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. said. “Each game we want to come in and dominate a team in every way possible.”
Costello completed 16 of 30 passes for 120 yards with an interception, while playing with a banged-up thumb. Stanford has lost three games in a row for the first time since 2008.
“I’m not going to hit the panic button,” coach David Shaw said. “I don’t have a panic button. There’s no panic button. There is focusing on what we need to focus on, make sure we have guys in position to do their jobs, make sure we have the right guys in there to do those jobs.”
Stanford started the game well, holding the ball for more than six minutes before settling for a field goal on the opening drive. But two straight three-and-outs and two more drives that failed to get inside the Oregon 40 followed and Oregon’s big-play offense led by Herbert took control.
A two-play, 55-yard drive gave the Ducks the lead when Herbert found Redd alone in the middle of the field for a 36-yard catch and run. The Ducks added a 10-play drive in the second quarter that featured two conversions on third and long and a perfectly executed back-shoulder throw to Breeland for a 16-yard TD that made it 14-3.
Oregon: The Ducks ended a four-game losing streak in Pac-12 openers with the last win coming in 2014 when Marcus Mariota led the team to the playoff. Doing it on the road was even more meaningful considering the struggles in recent years. The Ducks will need to be a strong road team if they want to contend in the Pac-12 North, especially with upcoming trips to No. 22 Washington, No. 24 Arizona State and Southern California.
Stanford: The Cardinal are off to their worst start since coach Jim Harbaugh’s first season on The Farm in 2007. Since then Stanford has been one of the most consistent programs on the West Coast. But the ingredients that led to that success — a dominant offensive line and strong defense — have been lacking of late and the offense lacks the playmakers to make up for those deficiencies. The Cardinal have scored two offensive TDs in their past 10 quarters.
Oregon punter Blake Maimone played a big part in the win, averaging 45.7 yards per kick and pinning the Cardinal inside the 15-yard line on five possessions.
Oregon: Host No. 23 California on Oct. 5.
Stanford: Visit Oregon State next Saturday