Before the game started, we were aware of our options for next week:
1. Beat Stanford, play Oregon in the Pac-12 Title Game in Eugene
2. Lose to Stanford, play Stanford in the Pac-12 Title Game in Palo Alto.
Truthfully, neither one is as appetizing as the possibility of playing at the Rose Bowl for the Rose Bowl, but since Oregon State decided not to cooperate today, we had to go out and play our game to get us ready for next Friday. Such a shame we treated most of the game as a practice session instead of a game that counted in the standings. Although we clinched the Pac-12 South last week, you hate to see the team lay an egg like this game.
The first quarter felt even - it ended at 7-7. Stanford scored on their opening drive, aided by a hands to the face penalty, and just marched down the Rose Bowl into the end zone, as Kevin Hogan hits Drew Terrell for the touchdown. We are able to respond right away, aided by a 71 yard Brett Hundley to Shaq Evans pass play, and Hundley eventually lofts the ball to Joe Fauria in the end zone. Just like last week.
The first quarter featured the ball being passed back and forth between each side, and the only other highlight was Brett Hundley with the pooch punt, showing us a kid that can do it all. Unfortunately, he can't do it all if his receivers are dropping balls, the SPTRs are in full force, he can't throw a ball away to avoid a sack, and Stanford is just power running it on us all night long.
Stanford scores again, as Kevin Hogan finally gets his legs under him and some confidence in throwing the ball, finally targeting Zach Ertz for yardage. Stanford goes into the Wildcat and Anthony Wilkerson runs it in for a touchdown. Annnnnnd then Stepfan Taylor takes off for a touchdown on their next drive after we go absolutely nowhere.
Heading into halftime, we had a slight glimmer of hope. After a low snap, the Stanford punter Daniel Zychlinski is taken down by Anthony Barr, and Cassius Marsh picks up the fumble. Unfortunately the offense cannot punch it into the end zone, and with Brett Hundley not getting rid of the ball when he is being chased, we put Kai'mi Fairbairn in a position to kick a 48 yard field goal. He makes it! It's his longest kick of his career, and it has got to be a confidence booster for him. We head into half time down 21-10.
And then the game turns truly ugly. The offense looks completely lost, unable to gain yardage, and when they do, it is negated by penalty. Balls are dropped. They're thrown behind receivers. Brett Hundley is completely off of his game this week. Stanford bulldozes and pushes its way around the field, and puts up another two touchdowns on us, aided by a Brett Hundley interception and a Kenny Walker fumble on a kickoff return. Kevin Hogan is truly settling into the rhythm of the game. We score a touchdown late in the third quarter on a Franklin run, yet Jeff Baca is penalized TWICE, forcing Fairbairn to kick a 35 yard extra point.
This is not how a team fighting for a possible Rose Bowl berth plays. There were too many penalties (even by SPTR standards), what felt like a potentially limited playbook, and a Stanford team that was fighting for their own run for the Roses, playing smart, disciplined and damn good looking football. I don't know who to blame, and we'll sort it out in the coming week. I know the players didn't necessarily quit, as they were working with the game plan they were given, but it was an ugly game plan.
We better be ready on Friday. Or two losses to end the season against Stanford is a horrible way to end this first season for Coach Mora, especially after the advances he had made to this point.