STANFORD Result: Won at Oregon 17-14 (OT) Grade: A+ Comment: The signature victory of David Shaw's young career. He's now 4-2 against USC, Notre Dame and Oregon, if you're scoring at home. A masterful game plan by defensive coordinator Derek Mason (and that might be an understatement).
The Cardinal seemed to know what was coming every play, a feat unto itself against the Quack Attack.
It was disciplined with assignments and sure-handed with its tackling -- two fundamental aspects of the game that are so difficult to execute against the Ducks. The perimeter (DEs, OLBs) contained Mariota and Shayne Skov wasn't half bad up the middle: 10 tackles, seven solo, and a reminder of just how much Stanford missed him last season against the Ducks. Stat of the game: Oregon was 4 of 17 on third down.
(That's partly because Stanford was so good on second down: Timer and time again, it stuffed Kenjon Barner on second-and-six/seven/eight.) Gaffe of the game: De'Anthony Thomas' inexplicable failure to block Stanford safety Devon Carrington on Mariota's long first-quarter run.
It was a terrific hustle play by Carrington, who pushed Mariota out of bounds on the 15. (Stanford DBs of years gone by wouldn't have been able to chase him down.)
But let's be honest: All Thomas had to do as put a body -- heck, put half a body -- on Carrington, and Mariota would have scored.
It ended up costing the Ducks a touchdown that they could have used. Tight end Zach Ertz was fabulous, with 11 receptions (44 percent of Stanford's total) for 106 yards (50.2 percent of Stanford's total) and the game-tying touchdown with 1:35 left.
More than anything, Ertz's presence (and sure hands) provided a comfort zone for freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan. Without Ertz, Hogan -- and Stanford -- would have been lost offensively. Next up: at UCLA The matchup: Difficult.
The Bruins have one of the most potent offenses in the conference.
It's a variant of Oregon's spread option, with more downfield passing and a different style of runner: Johnathan Franklin is more power -- and has a lower center of gravity -- than Oregon's Barner. UCLA's defense is hardly stout (25 ppg allowed). But it's fast and well-stocked with playmakers, including linebacker Anthony Barr, who just might be the Pac-12 defensive player of the year. I'm most intrigued by the psychological challenge both teams are facing following emotional victories.
Stanford is usually even keeled -- it's a savvy, mature group -- but the victory in Eugene was different (i.e., bigger, more emotional) than any it has recorded the past three seasons. The Bruins are in the same position after taking down archrival USC, although I have to think that Senior Day will help them get focused. UCLA opened as a 1.5-point favorite, but the line has swung: Stanford's now a slight favorite.