Too Little, Too Late: Stanford 26, Oregon 20

Craig Strobeck

Despite a gallant 4th-quarter comeback, for the third straight year the wheels came off on the drive for a national championship, in a November game that the Ducks were favored to win.  Much like the USC game of 2011, Oregon was dominated for the first three quarters, finally pulled it together in the fourth but just plain came up short.  

For the second consecutive year, Stanford played nearly flawless ball in stifling the Ducks’ ordinarily potent offense, handing the Ducks their first loss of the season.  On the game, Stanford had zero turnovers and a total of 10 yards in penalties (2 inconsequential 5-yarders in the fourth quarter).  But perhaps the most telling statistic was that after a three-and-out on their first possession, Stanford had no punts for the rest of the game.  Meanwhile, Oregon squandered scoring opportunities one after the other as Stanford cruised to a 26-0 lead by early in the fourth quarter.

Oregon took the opening kickoff and drove deep into Stanford territory, but missed a scoring opportunity when a pass to wide open Josh Huff near the goal line fell short.   After Stanford’s first and only three-and-out, the Ducks were back in business when Braylon Addison returned the ensuing punt to Stanford’s 28.   Marcus Mariota hit Keanon Lowe on a crucial 3rd-down pass to Stanford’s 7, but the Ducks were unable to punch it in, turning it over on downs.  Stanford marched 96 yards on 12 plays and drew first blood with Tyler Gaffney’s 2-yard run.  It was a sign of things to come.  By the end of the night, Gaffney had a school record 45 carries for 157 and Stanford converted 14-of-21 3rd-down attempts.  Of the seven failures to convert, the Cardinal converted once on fourth down and kicked four field goals.  In short, the Ducks simply could not stop the Cardinal from grinding it out.

After Oregon missed another scoring opportunity on a fumble deep inside the Cardinal red zone, Stanford added a second touchdown to make it 14-0 early in the second quarter, with quarterback Kevin Hogan capping an 8-play, 58-yard drive with an 11-yard run.  After a 20-play, 96-yard drive, Stanford wrapped up the first-half scoring with a 19-yard Jordan Williamson field goal, when Stanford was awarded an extra play with no time on the clock, due to an Oregon pass interference penalty in the end zone.  For the game, the hanky came out 9 times for 81 yards against the Ducks, to just twice for 10 yards for the Cardinal.

Byron Marshall

Craig Strobeck

Byron Marshall

Williamson added two more field goals in the third quarter and hit his fourth early in the final quarter, to give the Cardinal a 26-0 lead before Oregon began a furious comeback. 

The Ducks started at their own 40, with a strong DeAnthony Thomas kickoff return.  After receiving a key Mariota pass to Stanford’s 17, Josh Huff was wrapped up at the sideline by a Stanford defender, when Cardinal cornerback Wayne Lyons flew in at full speed and clearly decked him with a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit.  

Despite it being exactly the kind of play that the new targeting rules are supposed to discourage and despite Huff’s showing every sign of a concussion as he was helped off the field, the officials turned a blind eye to the play.  It appeared to be the kind of night that no break was going to go the Ducks’ way.  But the Ducks responded for their fallen warrior when Mariota hit Daryle Hawkins with a strike that carried him into the end zone moments later, making it a 26-7 game.

After a failed onside kick, the Cardinal burned five minutes off the clock before attempting a 40-yard field goal, but 6’7” De Forest Buckner got a hand on the ball for the Ducks and Rodney Hardrick ran it in 65 yards for Oregon’s second score.  The two-point conversion attempt failed, so Oregon, down 26-13 went for the onside kick again — recovering.

Overcoming a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Oregon moved quickly down the field and brought the score to 26-20, when Mariota hit Pharaoh Brown with a 12-yard strike in the end zone, with 2:12 remaining in the game.

For the third time, Oregon tried the onside kick but Stanford recovered.  With the Ducks out of timeouts, the Cardinal killed the clock – game over.

Going into the contest, Oregon had a number of streaks going.  The streak of victories on opponents’ home turf ended at 18.  Byron Marshall’s streak of 100+yards rushing games ended at five. 

Mariota’s passing streaks continued:  He’s passed for at least one touchdown in every game he’s played as a Duck and, with completing 20-of-34 passes for 250 yards and no interceptions, his consecutive passes without an interception now stands at 327.

Oregon, now 8-1 on the season and 5-1 in Pac-12 play, returns home to host Utah a week from Saturday.      

 

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