After three-and-half quarters of domination, the Stanford Cardinal barely outlasted a furious Oregon comeback, to win 26-20. Coach David Shaw said “in the back of my mind, all of us, everybody in this room, you all know they were going to make a run. That’s who this team is. We were ready for it, we knew it was going to happen, and then it started. It didn’t feel like it was ever going to end.”
Defensive end Henry Anderson acknowledged that “we were starting to get a little nervous there, after that blocked field goal. It’s definitely not the way we wanted to finish it, but they fought hard the whole game. We knew they weren’t going to go away.”
The key, Shaw said, was that “We didn’t panic.” He said they had watched films of Oregon scoring bursts. “They make a play, and next thing you know it’s a water fall. But we wanted to turn the faucet off. Our guys did that, and thankfully there was Jeff Trojan at the end, filling in for us” with the final onside kick recovery.
Quarterback Kevin Hogan told me, “We knew they were going to make a run and fortunately it was late enough in the game that we held on.” It didn’t matter that Oregon was still scoreless well into the fourth quarter. “They’re just too talented of a team to be held scoreless, despite the game that our defense played.”
Oregon’s long scoring drought had a lot to do with Stanford’s goal-line stand in the first quarter, and what Shaw called “two huge turnovers . . . it wouldn’t have been zero without those turnovers.” Mariota was sacked in the third period and lost the ball at the Stanford 24.
Earlier, linebacker Shayne Skov had stripped De’Anthony Thomas at the two-yard line and recovered. In fact, during Oregon’s comeback, Skov forced two Mariota fumbles in three consecutive plays. Oregon recovered both, but valuable time was eaten up, and the Cardinal were able to run out the clock to hold off the Duck’s miracle finish.
Asked about his play on DAT, Skov said “I just saw him and knew he was at the two. And I was like, hey, screw it. I’m going to go for the ball. You’re already down to the goal line area. So go for the ball, knock it loose, and I picked it up.”
Defensive end Henry (“the Goose”) Anderson gave the team a boost, returning from injury in time to replace DE Ben Gardner. He finished with five tackles, half a sack and half a tackle for loss. Skov said “It was awesome. It’s unfortunate that we lost Ben, but Henry wants to come in here and play just as well as Ben did.”
Stanford’s players were clearly tired of being called soft and intellectual, as part of the controversy over Richie Incognito’s bullying of Jonathan Martin (a Stanford grad). The players made fun of that image, coming out for interviews with taped-together horned rimmed glasses. Asked if they were like the Hansen Brothers in the movie Slap Shot, Shane Skov explained “No, it’s Nerd Nation. We take pride in what we do.” When I asked Kevin Hogan what that meant, he just said “We go to Stanford,” and laughed.
Coach David Shaw was more articulate. Asked about the “perception” that Stanford players are soft, he said “Funny thing is that question usually comes after, boy, your team is so tough and so physical, and plays so great on the offense and defensive line, and then follow that up with a question about well, does Stanford have that problem? Tonight you see who we are, a big, physical team that plays extremely hard and plays very well together.”
Stanford played tough but nothing came easy for them. Running back Tyler Gaffney picked up 158 yards and a touchdown – but it took him 45 carries to do it. ”It was a grinder,” he said.” “Oregon’s really good at filling in with their safeties, with their backside backers. It came down to lowering the should and hope for the best.”
Tonight, their best was just barely enough.
Mark Saltveit’s best-selling book “The Tao of Chip Kelly” has received rave reviews from coaches, players and sportswriters since its release in June. You can find it at the Oregon Ducks Stores in Portland, Eugene and Bend, at Powells Books, at the Multnomah Athletic Club M-Porium in Portland, various bookstores in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, and online at http://www.chipkelly.tv/