How the game was won: David Shaw and Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren made the offensive changes they promised after the past week's disastrous performance at Arizona State. The Cardinal radically altered their formula of attack and worked from a no-huddle offense at the start of the game. They stretched the perimeter with athletic weapons Ty Montgomery and Christian McCaffrey before gashing the wide-open middle of the field with their young tight ends.
The Cardinal's offensive resurgence in the first half (8.2 yards per play during that stretch) made the job easy for Stanford's suffocating defense in the 38-14 win. Stanford held the Beavers' first string offense to just 133 total yards and an anemic efficiency mark: about 2.5 yards per play. Sean Mannion needed 316 passing yards to break the Pac-12 career passing record, but after a 14-for-30, 122-yard performance, he'll have to wait until next time to challenge Matt Barkley's mark.
Game ball goes to: Stanford wide receiver/returner Ty Montgomery. Once again, No. 7 was the best player on the field. He showed excellent hands on a crossing pattern early and extended another first-half Stanford drive on a pretty catch-and-run. Quarterback Kevin Hogan stood in against a ferocious Oregon State blitz on that play. Montgomery then delivered the absolute dagger, a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the second half. He made Beaver defenders look like they were stuck in quicksand along his route to the end zone.
What it means: Entering next week's showdown at Oregon, Stanford is operating with a drastically different offense. After Arizona State trounced the Cardinal 26-10 this past week, it was clear the Cardinal were not maximizing their abundance of offensive talent. Stanford's chances of winning at Autzen Stadium looked very slim, regardless of how well their nation-leading defense was playing. Suddenly, next week's showdown becomes all the more intriguing, especially ater Oregon's defensive struggles against Cal on Friday. Oregon State entered this game second in the Pac-12 in the total defense category, so Stanford is now playing competent offense to go along with its championship-caliber defense. We'll see if they can consistently maintain that balance.
Oregon State, meanwhile, drops to 4-3 overall and 1-3 in Pac-12 play. They're essentially eliminated from Pac-12 North competition and now face a battle to reach bowl eligibility. The Beavers host Cal and Washington State in the next two weeks, so there are definitely two winnable games left for them, but the rest of the schedule is very challenging: versus Arizona State, at Washington, versus Oregon.
What's next: Stanford's showdown at Oregon next Saturday has officially become massive. The Cardinal and the Ducks will battle it out at Autzen Stadium in a game that might well determine the Pac-12 North title. As mentioned above, Oregon State heads back to Reser Stadium licking their wounds ahead of a three-game homestand.
Best play: Stanford also did a much better job putting Hogan in his scrambling comfort zone. Shaw dialed up a designed run for him, and that turned into 37-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. Hogan's powerful stiff-arm earns our play of the game honors.