Stanford vs. Oregon score: No. 7 Cardinal outwit No. 20 Ducks for comeback win in overtime
Four quarters weren't enough in this critical Pac-12 North battle
Stanford tight end Colby Parkinson tipped a K.J. Costello pass to himself for a 23-yard touchdown in the top of the first overtime to give No. 7 Stanford a stunning comeback win over No. 20 Oregon in Autzen Stadium. Facing fourth-and-goal to send the game to a second overtime, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert's pass was tipped and intercepted to seal the 38-31 win for the Cardinal.
Stanford came back from a 17-point halftime deficit, recovered a fumble from Oregon's CJ Verdell on the Stanford 43-yard line with 51 seconds left and Jet Toner hit a 32-yard field goal at the gun at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime. It was the largest halftime deficit Stanford has come back from under coach David Shaw.
Late in the fourth, it looked like Oregon had it in hand. Ducks running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio plunged in from 1-yard out with 4:39 to play, capping off an 11-play, 70-yard drive. But Cardinal quarterback K.J. Costello worked quickly and hit JJ Arcega-Whiteside from 15 yards out to polish off a three-play, 79-yard drive that took up just 1:29.
The Ducks looked like they had the game on ice prior to Verdell's fumble, which occurred as he was trying to gain a few extra yards with Cardinal defenders swiping at the ball.
What did we learn in this Pac-12 North thriller?
1. Stanford is the primary contender in the Pac-12 North: This game essentially served as a barometer game for both programs. Washington was pegged to win the Pac-12 North and the overall conference championship before the season, with the Ducks and Cardinal vying for "David" status to the Huskies "Goliath."
A head-to-head tiebreaker with Stanford -- especially since it was against a division rival on the road -- defines the landscape of the division. The Cardinal have to go to Seattle to take on the Huskies on Nov. 3, but their only other conference road games are against UCLA, California and Arizona State -- not exactly a gauntlet.
It will take some work for the Cardinal. But the heads-up win over the Ducks coupled with the confidence gained from the 17-point comeback will be enormous for Shaw's crew moving forward.
2. Justin Herbert is legit: The junior hometown kid who's skyrocketing up NFL draft boards showed you why against Stanford despite the loss.
Herbert went 26-for-33 for 346 yards, threw one touchdown, one interception and averaged 10.5 yards per attempt against the Cardinal. Keep in mind, this was against a defense that came in ranked No. 8 in the nation in defensive pass efficiency (93.25) and No. 24 in defensive yards per passing attempt (5.5) entering the contest.
What's more, four of his incompletions and his lone interception came in overtime. One could argue that the sour end to a sensational night is an indictment of Herbert in the clutch. But he and the Ducks were on the tail end of some questionable non-calls in overtime on plays that could have been flagged for pass interference.
Details aside, this was proof to the world that the Herbert hype is warranted. Maybe he leads the Ducks back and makes them relevant later in the year. Even if he doesn't, his draft stock soared on Saturday night.
3. Stanford is balanced, and that's scary: Erase the stereotype. Stanford isn't just an old-school, run-based offense that thrives on time of possession, stellar defense and a quarterback who is more of a game-manager than a difference-maker.
K.J. Costello is a difference maker.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound junior threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns -- including two in the final four minutes and overtime to lead the comeback. Arcega-Whiteside had 84 receiving yards and two scores, Kaden Smith had 95 receiving yards and Costello spread it around to seven different players.
All of this while the Ducks bottled up 2017 Heisman Trophy finalist running back Bryce Love as best they could. Love gained 89 yards and scored on a 22-yard run late in the third quarter. But it was hardly the Heisman-caliber performance we've come to expect.
The fact that it didn't matter, and Costello took the game in his own hands and got the job done, should scare Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly in the matchup between the two schools next week. It should also scare the rest of the Pac-12 teams on Stanford's schedule and potentially teams preparing for the Cardinal in the postseason.
This isn't the Stanford of old. This is a monster.
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