The Oregon-Stanford football rivalry might not be the oldest or most polarizing, but for the last few years it has been the one with the most on the line for both teams. The rivalry is not new, only recently becoming intense enough to warrant the level of dislike and hatred between the teams and fan bases for it to be called a rivalry.
Oregon and Stanford have been playing each other on and off for 113 years. The first game between the teams was played on November 10, 1900, and was won by Stanford, 34-0. They currently hold the advantage in the series at 46-30-1 but has won only four games against the Ducks since 1997.
A few notable games – all after 1997 – have made the rivalry so intense and so much fun to watch. One of those games was the October 20, 2001, match-up led by Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington. The Ducks were 6-0 heading into the game and were expected by most to roll over the Cardinal and get a easy win. At the beginning of the fourth quarter the Ducks led 42-28. What happened next was a crazy combination of mistakes and errors, but Stanford led 49-42, and, with four straight incompletions by Harrington, the Cardinal won the game. Oregon went on to win the rest of its games but, as every Duck fan knows, was left out of the national championship game.
Eight years later, the Ducks went into Palo Alto 7-1, on a hot streak after a rocky start to Chip Kelly’s first season as head coach. The Cardinal were unranked, and in what was Stanford QB Andrew Luck’s first showcase performance, Stanford fought its way to a 51-42 victory. The Ducks still won the Pac-10 and went on to play in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State, losing 26-17.
The very next year, the undefeated, 4th-ranked Ducks welcomed No. 9 Stanford to Autzen Stadium, ready for a fight as payback for the previous year’s loss. Spirits fell quickly when Stanford raced to a 21-3 lead early in the first quarter after the Cardinal recovered a fumbled kickoff return by Cliff Harris. Oregon, however, responded with a touchdown early in the second quarter and an on-side kick no one saw coming turned the momentum tide the Ducks’ way.
Oregon capitalized on the Cardinal turnovers, including two Andrew Luck interceptions by Cliff Harris, which were converted into touchdowns by LaMichael James. Oregon did not allow Stanford to score in the second half. The game ended with a 52-31 win for the Ducks and became the 13th-straight win for Oregon at Autzen Stadium. Oregon went on to complete a 12-0 regular season for the first time and played Auburn in the national championship game, losing 22-19, on a fluke play and subsequent FG near the final horn.
2011 brought the 7th-ranked Ducks to Palo Alto to face the undefeated 4h-ranked Cardinal, led by Heisman-hopeful Luck. Thanks in part to LaMichael James’s three touchdowns, the Ducks danced their way to a 53-30 win. Oregon lost its next game (against USC), and the Ducks went to the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin,while Stanford landed in the Fiesta Bowl.
A year later brought one of the most heartbreaking losses in recent Oregon football memory, when the 2nd-ranked Ducks faced the 14th-ranked Cardinal at Autzen. In a standout performance for the Cardinal defense, Stanford held the Oregon offense and Marcus Mariota to only 14 points, winning 17-14, in overtime with a field goal. The Ducks ended the season with a trip to, and win in, the Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State.
This brings us to last year’s game where emotions ran high for the team and Duck fans everywhere. The heartbreaking loss to the Cardinal the previous year was still fresh in everyones mind and Duck fans wanted to crush the Cardinal more than ever on our way to the national championship. As we all know, that isn’t what happened. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the score was 23-0, Stanford and Duck fans everywhere were yelling at their TVs, while having heart attacks — I know, I was one of them. Oregon stepped up to score 20 points in the fourth quarter, but lost 26-20. The Ducks ended the season with a 30-7 win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl.
With both teams projected in the Top 10 for the 2014 season, the November 1 game is already circled on calenders all over the country as college football fans eagerly await the game. There is a good chance that both teams will be undefeated heading into the game and it is likely the game will have playoff implications, as well as Heisman Trophy implications. Let’s hope the Ducks come out on top.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck