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The forecast calls for pain: Ducks fumble away a win over Stanford

Part four in a series, reviewing Oregon's 8-4 season with an eye toward trends and developments.

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In a brilliant effort that announced his arrival as an elite receiver, Dillon MItchell got free for 14 receptions for 239 yards. Only unrestricted pass interference in overtime slowed his superlative outing.
Tom Corno

What happened: Oregon lost to Stanford in the most soul-crushing way possible, losing 38-31 in overtime, falling to 3-1 and 0-1 in the PAC-12 Two costly fumbles marred a dominating performance.

For two and half quarters the Ducks played nearly perfect football, leading 24-7 at halftime after a 48-yard touchdown run by C.J. Verdell.


Heroes to goats: In regulation Herbert was scintillating, probably the finest performance of his Oregon career. He went 25-27 passing for 331 yards with a touchdown, connecting with Dillon Mitchell on 14 passes for 239 yards. In the overtime, though the magic was lost. He threw hurriedly and off rhythm, completing just 1 of 6 with an interception to end the game.

For 3 7/8 quarters, Verdell outplayed erstwhile Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Love. He powered for 115 yards on 20 carries, including his 48-yard touchdown burst, but his disastrous fumble in the final minute of regulation opened the door to the shocking defeat.

Defensive highs and woes: the Oregon defense limited the once-vaunted Stanford rushing attack to 71 yards on 24 carries, getting a big stop for a turnover on downs on 4th and 1 deep in their own territory in the fourth quarter, but they were virtually helpless against the Cardinal's big receivers and their scud-throwing quarterback K.J. Costello. DSA's Scott Reed summed it up in his weekly Fifth Quarter:

The biggest defensive question mark for the Ducks heading into the season was the defensive backfield and that proved prophetic Saturday night. On more than one occasion, the cornerbacks were left on their island with no help over the top and watched almost helplessly as JJ Arcega-Whiteside caught 4 passes for 84 yards and used his size advantage to ‘box out’ defensive backs in the end zone for 2 touchdowns.

Perhaps the biggest struggle, however, was against Kaden Smith and Colby Parkinson, the erstwhile tight end duo who combined for 9 catches and 145 yards. Oregon simply had no solid answer. Troy Dye made a couple of plays against Parkinson, but the looming deep threat of Arcega-Whiteside kept the safeties occupied while the tight ends simply took advantage of their size and strength to overwhelm the Oregon defense time and time again.

The Alamo Bowl-like collapse, annotated:

Oregon led 24-7 at the half after a C.J. Verdell 48-yard touchdown run.

Late in the third quarter, still leading 24-7, they pinned Stanford deep and forced a three and out, taking over on the Stanford 49 yard line after an Ugochukwu Amadi 10-yard punt return.

Justin Herbert hit Dillon Mitchell for pass completions of 10 and 13 yards, then Jaylon Redd scooted in for a 17-yard touchdown on a fly sweep.

Except replay officials took the touchdown off the board, ruling that Redd's foot had hit the pylon before he lunged into the end zone.

Oregon had first and goal at the Stanford one with 3:40 to play in the 3rd quarter.

A false start penalty pushed them back five yards.

On first down a botched exchange between Herbert and Cyrus Habibi-Likio bounced crazily to the turf, Herbert falling on the ball on the Stanford 10.

Verdell ran tough inside and got 6 of it back. Third and four.

Center Jake Hanson's snap careened over Justin Herbert. The ball was loose again, scooped up by Cardinal linebacker Joey Alfieri, who cruised 80 yards for a Stanford touchdown. Instead of 31-7, it was 24-14, a new ball game with David Shaw's #7-ranked visitors having all the momentum.

\With their first possession of the fourth quarter quarterback K.J. Costello hit Colby Parkinson for 11 yards and Trent Irwin for 32, then Bryce Love bounced up the right side for a 22-yard touchdown run.

65 yards in three plays, a too-easy touchdown drive, and Shaw's poised, veteran squad had cut the lead to three.

It looked worse when the Ducks went three and out on their next possession.

Another dreaded Stanford fourth-quarter rally seemed certain.

A 22-yard pass from Costello to Kaden Smith got them to the Oregon 39, then Love churned for 8 yards on first down, 2nd and 2 at the Ducks 31. There Jim Leavitt's defense made a stand. A pass to Love fell incomplete. On third and two Cameron Scarlett ran inside and got just a yard, then on 4th and 1, Jordon Scott and the interior of the Duck defense pushed Scarlett backward, no gain, and UO took over on downs.

Justin Herbert put together a masterful drive, hitting all four passes he threw on the possession, first to Johnny Johnson for 13 after a holding penalty, finding Schooler for 8 and a first down on 3rd and 6, connecting with Jake Breeland for 9 yards down to the Stanford 20, zipping a ball between defenders over the middle to Dillon Mitchell for 16 yards on 4th and 1 down to the 1-yard line.

Habibi-Likio punched it in one the next play, and Oregon led 31-21 with 4;39 to go in the game.

But Stanford answered quickly, covering 79 yards in three easy plays as Costello lobbed passes to Orisis St. Brown for 49 yards and Smith for 20, then JJ Arcega-Whiteside posted up for 15-yard touchdown.

Leading 31-28, all Oregon had to do was run out the clock.with 3:10 to play.

On the kickoff, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Johnson pushed them back to the 13, but Herbert boldly took to the air and found the reliable and remarkable Mitchell for a 23-yard strike down the right sideline. Oregon was out of the hole. 2:27 left.

A short pass to Mitchell got 3, and Stanford took their second time out.

Seconds were precious, The Ducks could almost run out the clock, it seemed, taking a knee, but Cristobal wanted one more first down.

2nd and 7 at the Oregon 39. Verdell got 4 with an inside run, then Herbert kept for 7 to reach the Stanford 50. First down, Oregon, 1:35 left.

Verdell got 7 more. 2nd and 3, 51 seconds on the clock.

Disastrously, the Ducks sent their redshirt freshman running back through the left side. Three Cardinal defenders met him at the sticks. Reaching for the first down, Verdell fumbled, Stanford recovered at their 40, drove for a tying field goal.

In the overtime Costello tossed a fade to Colby Parkinson for a 23-yard touchdown.

Trying to answer back, Herbert hit Johnny Johnson for 15 yards down to the Stanford 10, but then missed on a pass to Breeland.

Working in the right corner of the end zone Dillon Mitchell was mugged twice, no call either time from the PAC-12 refs.

On 4th and goal from the 10 a pass caromed off a covered Brenden Schooler, intercepted in the end zone by a Cardinal defender. Game over.