Stanford-Oregon St. Preview
This weekend could represent his last chance to do so.
Luck and the fourth-ranked Cardinal put the nation's longest winning streak on the line Saturday when they visit lowly Oregon State.
The Heisman Trophy runner-up a year ago, Luck bolstered his credentials to win the award last Saturday with a memorable performance in a 56-48 triple-overtime win at then-No. 20 USC. He completed 29 of 40 passes for 330 yards and three scores.
More notably, Luck led the Cardinal down the field for the tying touchdown with 38 seconds left in regulation one drive after his lone interception was returned 33 yards for the Trojans' go-ahead score.
"There were a couple of seconds there where I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself," Luck said. "But the guys believed in me."
Stanford (8-0, 6-0 Pac-12) extended the nation's longest winning streak to 16 games, and stayed on track for a Nov. 12 home showdown with No. 6 Oregon, which will likely determine the North Division champion. The Cardinal and Ducks are the only remaining unbeaten teams in Pac-12 play.
Before that matchup, Luck will return to the field where he posted his worst-ever completion percentage as a visitor. He was 12 of 30 for 226 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-28 loss at Oregon State (2-6, 2-3) on Oct. 10, 2009.
The superstar quarterback threw for 341 yards with two TDs and two interceptions at Oregon on Oct. 2, 2010, as Stanford lost 52-31. Saturday's contest will be his last in the state if he decides to enter the NFL draft after this season.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley is under no illusions when it comes to what it will take to upset Stanford in 2011. Luck was 21 of 30 for 305 yards and four touchdowns in last year's 38-0 home rout of the Beavers.
"It's pretty easy to look at his gifts," said Riley about Luck. "He's not only a great passer, an accurate passer with a good arm, he's a very gifted athlete. He can run with the best of them. He can run any style of offense - if you wanted to run the spread with him, he'd probably be really good at it."
First-year Stanford coach David Shaw has made it clear his team must move on after the thrilling win over the Trojans if it hopes to preserve the possibility of reaching the BCS title game.
"It was a big game, it was an exciting game, it was one of the best games a lot of people have said they have seen in a while, but then the season is not over," Shaw said. "We've talked all year about building. You're in a big game, you win a big game, it gets even bigger. So you can't win a big game and stop playing."
The Cardinal are hoping for a better effort from a defense that leads the Pac-12 in rushing defense (84.6 yards per game), scoring defense (17.0 points per game) and sacks (25).
Stanford gave up a season-worst 432 yards against USC.
"I don't know if you can credit the defense too much," linebacker A.J. Tarpley said.
The unit should fare better against Oregon State, which has scored the fewest offensive touchdowns in the conference with 18. The Beavers own the Pac-12's fourth-worst offense (391.3 yards per game), and freshman Sean Mannion's 13 interceptions are the most in the FBS.
Mannion was picked off three times in last Saturday's 27-8 loss at Utah.
The Beavers would be guaranteed a losing season with a defeat Saturday. It would mark the earliest point in their schedule that has happened since 1997, when they finished 3-8.
"We have to keep a good attitude," Riley said. "We have to keep growing, and we have to keep opportunity always at the foremost of everything we're doing right now."
The Cardinal are looking to overcome injuries on both sides of the ball.
Ertz had a touchdown reception in each of the first three games, but has been kept out of the end zone since.