No. 12 Ducks roll over Stanford in opener, 35-14
EUGENE — While it was admittedly strange without fans in the stands, Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough and the No. 12 Ducks still found motivation in their season opener.
Shough picked up where Justin Herbert left off, throwing for 227 yards and a touchdown and running for another score to lead Oregon to a 35-14 victory over short-handed Stanford on Saturday night.
Stanford was hurt before game even kicked off when it was announced that starting quarterback Davis Mills was unavailable.
Receiver Connor Wedington and defensive end Trey LaBounty were also listed as unavailable because of COVID-19 testing results and contact tracing protocols. Stanford did not specify whether the players had tested positive, but Wedington said on Twitter that he tested negative.
Shough completed 17 of 26 passes with one interception, and ran for 85 yards, as he assumed the starter’s role now that Herbert has moved on to the NFL. With Herbert at quarterback, Oregon went 12-2 last season and won the Rose Bowl over Wisconsin.
In a coronavirus-shortened season, every win will be valuable for the Ducks.
“It was really weird running out of the tunnel, without the Duck on the motorcycle,” Shough said about the lack of usual game-day festivities at Autzen Stadium. “We had to create our own juice.”
CJ Verdell ran for 105 yards and a score for Oregon, which won its 11th straight game at Autzen Stadium, the seventh longest active streak in the nation.
Mills started in six games for the Cardinal last season, throwing for 1,960 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was replaced by backup Jack West, who made his second career start. Stanford also used freshman Tanner McKee.
West completed 13 of 19 passes for 154 yards for Stanford, which went 4-8 last season to snap a 10-year bowl streak. Austin Jones ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns but Jet Toner missed four field goal attempts.
“We were missing obviously a couple of our starters. Tough to find that out couple hours before the game,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “Once again, coaches made adjustments. Thankfully we didn’t have to adjust too many things. Jack West stepped in as starting quarterback and run our operation.”
After Toner’s first attempt was off, Stanford took the early lead on Jones’ 4-yard touchdown run.
Oregon answered on the ensuing drive with Verdell’s 10-yard scoring run. Verdell is the Pac-12s top returning running back with 1,220 rushing yards last season. Shough found Mycah Pittman with a 44-yard pass on the scoring drive.
Toner’s 40-yard attempt in the second quarter went wide left before Oregon pulled in front on Shough’s 5-yard touchdown pass to DJ Johnson.
Oregon appeared to expand the lead on Shough’s 35-yard pass to Johnny Johnson III in the endzone, but it was ruled incomplete on video review. A pass interference call on the play got the Ducks closer, and Travis Dye ran 14 yards to make it 21-7.
Toner missed a 35-yard field goal before Shough ran for a 9-yard touchdown to push the Ducks’ lead to 28-7.
“Some of it’s by decision, some of it’s just seeing the play break down and doing what I can,” Shough said about running the ball.
Toner’s fourth missed field goal, a 27-yard attempt, came early in the fourth quarter. Camden Lewis missed one for the Ducks on the next drive.
Jones ran two yards for a Stanford touchdown to narrow the deficit to 28-14. Cyrus Habibi-Likio’s 4-yard scoring run provided the final margin for Oregon.
“Shame of it was, honestly, we had multiple opportunities,” Shaw said. “In the passing game, in particular, we had, gosh, four or five chances for guys to make plays. We have to connect. It’s part of the problem with not having your starting quarterback, absolutely. Still, we practice and we practice together and we have to connect.”
Stanford: The Cardinal won the previous two meetings at Autzen, including an overtime victory in 2018 when Stanford rallied from a 24-7 halftime deficit to win 38-31. Oregon won last season’s meeting 21-6 in Palo Alto.
Oregon: The Ducks have won 16 straight home openers. ... The Ducks debuted their new video scoreboard, said to be the largest in college football, but there were no fans in attendance. ... “In general for having not played a football game in 311 days, really pleased with the result,” coach Mario Cristobal said.
Stanford: Hosts Colorado next Saturday.
Oregon: At Washington State next Saturday.