Mistakes doom Oregon's bid to stay in national championship contention
STANFORD, Calif. Oregon's national championship hopes came crumbling down Thursday night in the house of the Cardinal.
But the Ducks made a rout interesting in the fourth quarter with a flurry that made the final score 26-20 before 51,545 at Stanford Stadium.
It came down to an onside kick by Oregon with 2:12 remaining. Stanford managed to recover it and run out the clock after the Ducks had almost erased all of a 26-0 deficit, nearly pulling off a miraculous comeback on a night when they otherwise played poorly.
For three-plus quarters, Stanford pounded the Ducks with its offensive and defensive lines, as Oregon made numerous mistakes and failing to finish drives.
Stanford gunning back Tyler Gaffney and QB Kevin Hogan made the offensive plays. The Cardinal had a devastating time of possession advantage and astronomical third-down conversion rate. And the physical Stanford defense nearly shut out the country's second-ranked offense until the late stages.
The Ducks entered the game averaging 56 points and 632 yards offense. They entered the fourth quarter shockingly scoreless.
There won't be an appearance in the BCS national championship game, unless mayhem occurs in the BCS standings. So, there won't be a date with Alabama in the national title, which fans once chanted for and which fans once wore T-shirts asking for.
The Ducks can still play in a BCS game, if Stanford loses again, for example, and Oregon wins out and play in and wins the Pac-12 title game and goes to the Rose Bowl.
But that doesn't look likely now. Stanford, which inexplicably lost to Utah early in the year, moved to 8-1 overall and 6-1 in Pac-12 play. Oregon (8-1, 5-1) now has to regroup to play Utah on Saturday, Nov. 16 at Autzen Stadium.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota likely saw his Heisman Trophy candidacy derailed with Thursday's loss. The Ducks had some early chances to score, but some missed plays. De'Anthony Thomas' lost fumble in scoring position hurt the cause as well.
Stanford used ground-pounding by Gaffney and playmaking by Hogan and others to lead 17-0 at halftime. And the domination didn't stop through the third quarter and into the fourth.
Stanford's Ty Montgomery returned the second-half kickoff 57 yards, but Gaffney took a hard hit and left the drive and the Ducks' defense stiffened. Jordan Williamson booted a 34-yard field goal as the Cardinal led 20-0.
Down by three scores, Oregon moved the ball, until two bad things happened on one play: Mariota fumbled under a swarm of defenders on a coverage sack, with Stanford recovering at the Cardinal 28, and the star sophomore, already wearing a brace on his left knee, hobbled off the field. It didn't look good for the Ducks with about nine minutes left in the third quarter.
Stanford went on another trademark drive, but it started precariously, as Gaffney recovered his own fumble on Ifo Ekpre-Olomu's strip. A hands-to-face penalty on UO's Tyson Coleman helped the drive later, and Stanford continued to churn out the third-down conversions. Kelsey Young's 11-run on a Wildcat formation, operated by Gaffney, put the Cardinal at first down at the UO 13.
But the UO defense held, and Stanford was offside on fourth-and-1 at the UO 4. Williamson's 26-yard field goal made the score 23-0. The drive: 16 plays, 64 yards, 7:33 clock time.
The Stanford points were followed by an Oregon three-and-out, although Mariota had returned to the lineup after being hurt.
Stanford kept the ball and moved with it, and padded the lead on Williamson's fourth field goal, a 30-yarder, making it 26-0 with 11:40 left.
The Ducks moved the ball, but saw another bad thing happen, with Josh Huff being injured and helped off the field.
The Ducks last were shut out on Nov. 24, 2007 at UCLA 16-0. Mariota broke through on a 21-yard touchdown pass to Daryle Hawkins with 10:11 to go. But, the Cardinal recovered the onside kick and it was basically over.
Oregon got another score but not on offense.
Stanford tried a 40-yard field goal and had it blocked, and linebacker Rodney Hardrick raced untouched 65 yards to the end zone, pulling Oregon to within 26-13 with 5:08 remaining, as the 2-point conversion pass failed because Addison came from beyond the back line to catch Mariota's throw.
This onside kick went to Oregon, with Addison falling on it at the Stanford 42 after a wild scramble. But the Ducks' Jake Fisher was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play.
Mariota's passing got the Ducks inside the Stanford 1, but Oregon failed to score on two runs and then Mariota had to fall on a fumble at the 12 with 2:20 remaining. But Mariota bought some time and found tight end Pharoah Brown in the end zone for a TD with 2:12 left. The PAT cut the lead to 26-20.
But the final onside kick failed to take any kind of unpredictable bounce, and it came down to who had the ball last. Stanford snared it to preserve its victory.
Oregon had its chances to jump ahead in the first half, and even narrow the deficit, but mistakes cost the Ducks. So, it was 17-0 at halftime, with Stanford punishing the Ducks with its offensive and defensive line play and keeping the ball for 20:53 of clock time to UO's 9:58.
Bad field position? Didn't matter to the Cardinal.
On the opening possession, Mariota threw short on a long pass to wide-open Huff. But the Ducks had a field position advantage early, with a punt to the Cardinal 6.
The defense stopped the home team, and then Bralon Addison returned a punt 25 yards to the Stanford 28. Oregon looked poised to score, moving to the Cardinal 4. But Mariota then threw incomplete on third down.
You think the Ducks (meaning coach Mark Helfrich) would opt for three quick early points and give either Alejandro Maldonado or Matt Wogan an easy, chip-shot field-goal attempt? Nope. On fourth down, Mariota and Addison missed on a fade pass into the end zone.
Still, UO had Stanford pinned at its own 4. Didn't matter. With Gaffney and the O-line leading the way, the Cardinal moved for points, helped by a 47-yard Hogan-to-Michael Rector pass on Terrance Mitchell's defense. Gaffney's 2-yard TD run made it 7-0, finishing a 12-play, 96-yard drive that took 5:59 off the clock.
The Ducks punted after Henry Anderson and Trent Murphy swarmed Mariota for a sack.
Stanford marched and continued to get breaks. Hogan threw a bad pass on a fade ball to Rector that Ekpre-Olomu intercepted, but officials called pass interference, with Ekpre-Olomu pushing off the receiver to get the badly thrown ball. Stanford maintained possession and Hogan's 11-yard read option TD run made it 14-0.
The Ducks responded, as Byron Marshall ran for 21 yards and Mariota hit Thomas and Addison on passes. The Stanford D-line blew up Oregon's offensive front to stop Marshall on third-and-6 at the Stanford 26. But Mariota found Addison for 18 yards on fourth-and-9, and the Ducks looked in fine position after Thomas caught an 8-yard pass from Mariota to get to the Stanford 3 except he fumbled and, after turnover was not called by the officials, a review overturned it and senior linebacker Shayne Skov had made a great momentum-changing play.
The Ducks had the Cardinal pinned at the 3, but it didn't matter, again.
Hogan led Stanford downfield, breaking three tackles en route to a key third-down conversion run. Stanford could seemingly push for yards any time; on a fourth-and-1, Gaffney plunged for four yards. But, Stanford came up short of a touchdown when Hogan threw an incomplete fade pass and then another complete ball to Rollins Stallworth – but it got another break came just as time expired, with Troy Hill whistled for pass interference on the Stallworth play.
The half couldn't end on a defensive penalty. The Cardinal opted for a field goal, and Williamson's 19-yarder made it 17-0.
OREGON 0 0 0 20 -- 20
STANFORD 7 10 6 3 -- 26
STANFORD Tyler Gaffney 2 run (Jordan Williamson kick), 2:36
STANFORD Kevin Hogan 11 run (Williamson kick), 11:26
STANFORD Williamson 19 FG, 0:00
STANFORD Williamson 34 FG, 12:34
STANFORD Williamson 26 FG, 1:31
STANFORD Willliamson 30 FG, 11:40
OREGON Daryle Hawkins 21 pass from Marcus Mariota (Alejandro Maldonado kick), 10:11
OREGON Rodney Hardrick 65 blocked field goal return (pass failed), 5:08
OREGON Pharoah Brown 12 pass from Mariota ((Maldonado kick), 2:12