Turnovers haunt No. 20 Oregon in 38-31 collapse to No. 7 Stanford

Oregon had many options with the clock winding down.

Ahead 31-28, the Ducks could kneel three times and punt the ball with roughly 15 seconds left in the game. They could also run the ball and try get another first down and subsequently run out the clock. Oregon chose the latter. It all went wrong.

“First down, the game’s over,” head coach Mario Cristobal said. “You could kneel it, but you’re going to have to punt the ball.”

Quarterback Justin Herbert handed the ball to redshirt freshman running back CJ Verdell for an eight yard gain. They did it again. But, with 51 seconds left, the ball came loose and Stanford pounced.

“I love CJ and my players like my very own son and I told him that in the locker room,” Cristobal said. “He made a mistake. The ball got away from his body when it didn’t have to but no one’s going to point a finger at him.”

The Cardinal marched down the field and hit a field goal with time expiring to send the game to overtime.

The No. 7 Stanford Cardinal (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) scored on their second play of overtime and No. 20 Oregon (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12) failed to respond as the Ducks collapsed in a 38-31 loss in front of a national TV audience. After a dominant first half culminating in a 24-7 halftime lead, Oregon lost control in the second half and lost the game.

Oregon Ducks runningback CJ Verdell (34) carries the ball. Oregon Ducks Football takes on Stanford at Autzen Stadium on Sept. 22, 2018. (Devin Roux/Emerald)

With two minutes, 43 seconds left in the third quarter, things started to go Stanford’s way.

Oregon wide receiver Jaylon Redd had just crossed the goal-line for a touchdown but was called back to the 1-yard line after review. Two plays later, Oregon fumbled the ball and Stanford took it back from the Ducks’ 20-yard line for a touchdown to make it a 24-14 game.

The Ducks gave the ball back to Stanford just four plays later, and it took the Cardinal just over a minute to bring the game within three points via 2017 Heisman runner-up Bryce Love on a 22-yard touchdown.

Oregon had frustrated Love, limiting him to 89 total yards, and had a big stop to start the fourth quarter. On 4th and 1 on Oregon’s 30-yard line, the Ducks stuffed the Cardinal and scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive.

“All week that’s what the defense has been working on,” defensive lineman Jordon Scott said. “Not just stopping Bryce Love, but situations like 4th and 1 and 4th and inches when we really need big time plays and we got that but it wasn’t enough to win.”

While the defense felt disappointment in its performance, a bright spot for the Ducks remained their Heisman Trophy hopeful.  Herbert had an award-worthy outing, finishing with 26-for-33 passing for 346 yards as he connected well with wide receiver Dillon Mitchell for 239 yards.

But their performances didn’t stop Stanford’s momentum.

The majority of the 58,453 fans in attendance began to voice their displeasure after Redd’s touchdown was overturned. As Oregon lost in overtime, fans began to throw objects ranging from t-shirts and water bottles to prop penalty flags onto the field.

For the players, mood — and their focus — shifted quickly after the game too.

“We’ve got to wipe this game fast,” offensive lineman Shane Lemieux said. “I’m already thinking about Cal right now.”

Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow

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Shawn Medow

Shawn Medow

Shawn is an associate sports editor and reporter for the Emerald covering football, men's basketball, women's basketball, acrobatics and tumbling, track and field/cross-country and softball. He also hosts several podcasts, including a soccer podcast, on the Emerald Podcast Network. You can contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @ShawnMedow.