Effort-wise, Stanford head coach David Shaw had no complaints about his team following Saturday's 45-16 Pac-12 football loss at fifth-ranked Oregon. The explosive Ducks were exactly as advertised: fast, slippery and more physical than in recent years.
"The bottom line for us is we played one of the best teams in the nation," Shaw said afterward. "We fought them as hard as we could; we tried to stay close and got within a score in the second half. We had to play a near-perfect second half and we weren't able to do that."
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, whom Shaw has called the best player in the country, kept the Stanford defense on its heels most of the game, throwing for two touchdowns and ran for two more. Even when Cardinal defenders were in good position to stop or slow him down, he founds ways to escape, rushing for 85 yards, often extending drives.
"I told him after the game he was phenomenal," said Shaw. "He's tough to contain. You put pressure on him and he doesn't feel it, he escapes the pocket and throws the ball down the field. As a runner and a passer, he's special."
Stanford had beaten Oregon the past two years with solid tackling, but couldn't record the three-peat. It was frustrating for a unit that has played so well together this season.
"He's (Mariota) one the best players in college football and we knew that coming in," said fifth-year linebacker A.J. Tarpley. "We had our hands on him multiple times and we just couldn't bring him down."
Junior linebacker Blake Martinez recorded a game-high 14 tackles including a sack and tackle for loss, but said it was difficult to cope with the Oregon offense.
"We had chances during those drives to get them off the field and we just needed to be able to finish," he said. "Our whole thing was if we could finish it would get our offense back on the field to make plays, but we didn't."
The Ducks finished with 30 first downs compared to 24 by the Cardinal. And although Oregon often strikes fast, it finished with only a 77-72 advantage in total plays.
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Stanford Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan played well, throwing for 237 yards and rushed for 42. But Stanford's inability to score touchdowns instead of field goals in the red zone proved costly.
"When they get touchdowns and you get field goals it becomes a pretty simple game," said Shaw. "It's a game of math and you can't keep up."
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Fifth-year senior place kicker Jordan Williamson had his best game of the season. He made all three field-goal attempts, including boots from 47 and 43 yards, and five of his six kickoffs went for touchbacks.
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Stanford (3-3, 5-4) has a bye this Saturday before playing host to Utah on Nov. 15.
Asked to describe the mood of the locker room after the game, Shaw said, "Same as it's been. We have great human beings in there, guys that know how to work hard, guys that have won a lot of football games and guys that have been through some tough times also. We have to bounce back, the season is not over. We have to close the doors to the locker room and not worry about what people say outside our locker room and realize that, regardless of this score, offensively we're getting better and defensively I think we're really, really good. Now we just have a chance to play all three phases at our best to finish the year."
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Extra Points . . . Senior WR Ty Montgomery produced 171 all-purpose yards and moved into fourth place on the school's career list with more than 5,000 . . . Senior SS Jordan Richards also had a nice game with 13 tackles . . . Fifth-year senior NT David Parry, who missed the previous game with a leg injury, played and assisted on two tackles . . . True freshmen CB Terrence Alexander and DE Harrison Phillips contributed three and one tackle, respectively . . . Stanford has now recorded at last one sack in 42 of its last 42 games . . . Senior FB Patrick Skov's one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter extended Stanford's streak of scoring a rushing touchdown to 31-straight games, tied for second nationally with Navy.