As college football games go, this one certainly lived up to the hype – and some!
At stake, not just the Pac-12 North crown, but also the opportunity to play in the BCS National Championship game.
Both of those opportunities were likely lost Saturday night as No. 13 Stanford crushed the crystal ball dreams of No. 2 Oregon by a score of 17-14 in overtime.
Like a heavyweight prize fight, both the Cardinal and Ducks began the game by trading blows in the first two quarters. For the first time since the USC game in 2011, the Ducks were held scoreless in the first quarter. A sight certainly foreign to Oregon head coach Chip Kelly and the 58,784 fans that packed into Autzen Stadium.
After a scoreless first quarter, Stanford found the end zone first at the 12:39 mark of the 2nd quarter to take an early 7 – 0 lead. As expected, the Cardinal played ball control taking 7:01 off the clock on a 93 yard drive that ended with a 2 yard touchdown run by quarterback Kevin Hogan.
Oregon certainly had their scoring opportunities early. With 6:14 to play in the first, Duck quarterback Marcus Mariota ran 77 yards up the sideline to the Stanford 15 putting the Ducks in scoring position.
Oregon failed to convert on a 4th and 2 from the 7 yard line giving the ball back to the Cardinal. In hindsight, Mariota’s clear path to the end zone and failure to get there was a squandered opportunity that could have given Oregon the win.
In the 2nd quarter though, the Ducks offense began to click. With 3:26 to play in the first half, Mariota threw a bullet to Keanon Lowe across the middle that found the end zone tying the game at 7. It was Mariota’s 29th TD pass of the year and Lowe’s 3rd scoring reception on the season.
As both teams went to the half tied, Stanford found itself in great position holding Oregon to a season low 7 points, while the Ducks struggled to find an answer to Stanford’s talented defensive line.
Oregon opened the second half with the ball and once again struggled to find any offensive rhythm. On their second possession though, the Ducks began to find that rhythm and drove the length of the field to find the end zone. A 95 yard drive in 16 plays that ended with a De’Anthony Thomas 6 yard score up the middle giving the Ducks a 14-7 lead with 6:35 to play in the third.
Oregon would hold that lead until late in the fourth quarter.
With 6:28 to play, the Cardinal once again played ball control and gashed the Oregon defense with their potent run game and accurate passing from quarterback Kevin Hogan.
Stanford would find its way into the red zone and with 1:35 to play, Hogan lofted a 10 yard scoring pass to their 6’7 TE Zach Ertz who made a fantastic catch deep in the end zone for a score tying the game at 14.
Oregon would have another opportunity to drive the field to break the tie in regulation, but the offense once again fell flat and the game ended at 14 each.
In overtime, Mariota and the Duck offense had the ball first but couldn’t find an answer to the Stanford defense. The Cardinal forced Oregon into a 41 yard field goal attempt which Maldonado bounced off the left upright.
Stanford would then go on to score on their 37 yard field goal by Jordan Williamson giving the Cardinal the 17-14 win.
“It’s hurts so much because we’ve invested so much,” said Oregon head coach Chip Kelly in his post game briefing.
“As a group, it’s a test for us. We’ll find out more about this football team when we get to practice Monday, and we see how we handle this situation. They’ve handled success, and now it’s the first time they’ve faced adversity.
We’ll see what they are.”
As expected, many of the Oregon players were extremely heartbroken with the loss.
“Just disappointment — that’s all there is to it,” said Kenjon Barner after the game. “We didn’t play conservative, we didn’t play for overtime or anything like that — we played to win the game. … We didn’t execute when we needed to execute.
“They did an awesome job of getting in our backfield and disrupting a lot of things,” said Duck Quarterback Marcus Mariota. “They were loading up the box, and then dropping out of it. So they were coming out with eight, seven guys in coverage. That didn’t leave a lot of open holes.”
And certainly not all is lost.
Oregon can still make the Pac-12 Championship game on November 30th if they win the Civil War next week against Oregon State and if Stanford loses to UCLA.
“You have to be mentally tougher than the situation,” Barner said. “You’re going to lose games. Obviously, we don’t lose a lot around here. You just gotta bounce back. We’ve been here before; we know what it feels like, and we know what we still have to play for.
“We have to come back next week and go to work.”
“You’d love to have some words that could kind of take the pain out of it,” said Kelly. “But there aren’t any.”
The Stanford defense was certainly the star performer of the game. Even though Oregon rushed for a total of 198 yards ( 140 more than Stanford allows its opponents ), the defense came up big when it had to especially on two critical 4th down attempts which Oregon didn’t convert.
At the 6:00 minute mark of the first quarter when Marcus Mariota ran 77 yards to the Stanford 15 yard line. Mariota appeared to be headed to the end zone but was caught from behind. From there, the drive stalled at the 7 yard line when the Ducks failed to convert on a 4th and 2. A field goal here, or touchdown changes the game.
Stanford’s senior running back Stepfan Taylor tore through the Oregon defense keeping drives alive. Taylor rushed for 161 yards on 33 carries. Tight end Zach Ertz also had a stellar performance. Ertz caught 11 balls for 106 yards and scored the tying touchdown late in the game.
BY THE NUMBERS
Marcus Mariota – 21 of 37 for 207 yards ( 1 touchdown / 1 Int. )
Kenjon Barner – 21 carries for 76 yards
Oregon total yards – 405
Stanford total yards – 411
3rd Down Conversions – Oregon 4 of 17 / Stanford 6 of 17