By Morris Phillips
STANFORD — In a down year for Stanford, Colby Parkinson is probably as close as the Cardinal have to an offensive leader. The 6’7″ tight end is fast and a natural, downfield target for quarterback K.J. Costello, who at least early in this season, could use all the help he can get.
Parkinson was asked earlier this week about his matchup with the Oregon secondary, and he gave an honest assessment, and hardly scathing as billboard material goes:
“Their DB’s are not nearly as sizeable as UCF’s, but they are very athletic and we played against them before and they’re a bunch of good guys. But there’s a bunch of opportunities to make plays and like I said, we just need to go out there and do what we have done 1,000 times before,” Parkinson said.
Well, it turns out that the Ducks’ secondary got wind of Parkinson’s comments, and Saturday night at Stanford Stadium wasn’t anything like what’s transpired 1,000 times before. This time, Oregon was the patient, methodical squad in the matchup of Pac-12 opposites, and they ground up Stanford, winning 21-6.
For Stanford, turning 234 yards of total offense and 13 first downs into a possibility of an upset was a near impossible task. The Ducks seized control by building a comfortable 14-3 halftime lead, and protecting it, not by building an avalanche of points their program has come to be known for. Consequently, Stanford Stadium remained quiet throughout, as Stanford failed to make any headway offensively.
Stanford punter Ryan Sanborn, with six, effective punts, did as much as anyone to keep Stanford close. So did Cameron Scarlett, an efficient runner with 97 yards rushing on 16 carries. But Stanford failed on 11 of 16 third down conversions, and did little when big moments arose.
“The game boils down to five or six plays, and the score will look like we’re not evenly matched, but when we watch the film, we’re going to see that we are,” coach David Shaw said afterwards.
Defensively, Oregon gave Costello fits with its heralded pass rush, then backed it up in the secondary. Last season, Costello may have played his best game, engineering a 38-31 upset of the Ducks in Eugene with Parkinson making the game-winning touchdown catch in overtime. This time, Oregon afforded Costello little time to throw, and without an elite receiver outside of Parkinson, the Ducks clamped down on all of Stanford’s short to immediate routes. Michael Wilson and Conor Weddington were limited to one catch of 15 yards or more each, just as telling as Parkinson being shut out.
“I don’t know how many pressures we had or how many sacks we had. Five sacks?” asked Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. “Thank you. To stop that, not only our straight rush but twists and our stunts, our disguised coverages, just switching the leverages of some of our back end guys really affected the quarterback, and something that, again, great job by our defense.”
Stanford’s opening gauntlet of a schedule ends with the Cardinal 1-3, 0-2 including the surprisingly lopsided losses to Central Florida and USC. The Cardinal were far more competitive this week against Oregon, but they’ll welcome an ease in their schedule regardless. The Cardinal travel to Corvallis next weekend to face Oregon State. The Beavers are 1-2 after losses to Oklahoma State and Hawaii, followed by a feel good win over Cal Poly.
The Cardinal figure to get better, fast, but Shaw was regretful that the improvement couldn’t have come this week.
“Trust the character of this football team, trust our work ethic, trust our resilience. We’ve been down before,” Shaw said.