Oregon Ducks

Ducks can't allow meltdown against Stanford to destroy season

Oregon Ducks

EUGENE - The door to Oregon's locker room slammed shut while a player let lose an F-bomb loud enough to be heard throughout the third floor of the Hattfield-Dowlin Complex. 

Oregon had just lost a game that it won in every way but on the scoreboard.  

It read: 38-31, Stanford, in overtime. But it didn't tell the entire tale.

The Ducks (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) let this one slip away in mind-numbing fashion. A potential game-cementing touchdown erased by a pylon rule few understood. There was a bad snap that became an 89-yard touchdown for Stanford. A late fumble led to a tying field goal. A tipped pass for a touchdown in overtime won the game for Stanford.

It's the type of loss that could demoralize a team and send it spiraling into the abyss. Avoiding that is the first major challenge of new coach Mario Cristobal's tenure. 

"You've got to get right back on it and shake it off," Cristobal said. "Shake it off fast. You can't let this thing beat you twice."

Next up is a 3-0 California team that had this weekend off and certainly watched what transpired on national television. If you're Cal, you should be worried. The Ducks looked formidable against a top 10 team. Oregon met head on with a seemingly immovable object in No. 7 Stanford's defense and bullied the Cardinal all over the field Saturday night while the defense rocked one of the most consistently devastating rushing attacks of the past 10 years. Quarterback Justin Herbert looked like a future first-round NFL Draft pick. The front seven appeared to be the best in the Pac-12 Conference. Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell put on one of the best pass catching shows in Autzen Stadium with 14 receptions for 239 yards. 

 

Oregon led 24-7 in the third quarter with the ball deep in Stanford's territory. From that point on, Oregon seemingly won the game several times but ultimately lost it and a chance to make a national statement. 

So where do the Ducks go from here? That's up to them. This is a relatively young team with just six senior starters. They must lead the team back to a better place mentally, or this loss to lead to another at Cal with No. 10 Washington visiting Autzen on Oct. 13. Just like that, Oregon could be 3-3 and 0-3 in conference if the Ducks don't find a way to put this loss behind them. 

Oregon didn't simply lose a game. It most likely lost its best shot at winning the North Division and thus the Pac-12

"That to me is the biggest part that you have to address and you have to make sure you do your best work at as a coach," Cristobal said. "It could be very difficult and devastating for a lot. I know certainly that we all feel it. But, like we talked about in there, there is nobody feeling sorry for us on the other side of the conference and the other side over there in California. We are going to have to immediately get back to work at this."

The faces of each player that exited the locker room on their way down stairs to see family expressed sadness, frustration anger.

"We were up 24-7," one player mumbled to another, who just shook, his head. 

In the interview room, solemn faces put forth a positive spin. A sense that this team is equipped to recover within 24 hours. 

"Tomorrow's practice will show the true leaders of the team and the core of the team will come together," sophomore defensive lineman Jordon Scott said. "And once we go through meetings and watch the film we're going to flush it as a team and that's when we'll start preparing for Cal. The rebound is not going to be easy but by the end of the day tomorrow, everybody is going to be focused on Cal and this will be behind us."

 

That's the correct mentality. It's up to Cristobal to make sure the team follows through. 

"I feel like we have an outstanding team that knows how to rebound," Mitchell said. "We've got guys that can do the job. So that's not even a question. I already know everybody is going to come to work tomorrow and start preparing for Cal."