Three and Out: Stanford downs Oregon 26-20 to quash Ducks’ BCS title hopes
For the second consecutive year, Oregon’s dreams of an unbeaten season were dashed with a loss to Stanford. Here are three takeaways from the Cardinal’s 26-20 victory over the Ducks in Palo Alto:
• Dumbfounded Ducks: Even those who predicted a Stanford victory on Thursday likely didn’t envision it happening like this. The offensively minded Ducks, who came in averaging more than 55 points per game, looked lost for most of the night against linebacker Shayne Skov and the Cardinal defense.
Oregon had zero rushing yards after the first quarter. Its totaled just 61 rushing yards for the game. The Marcus Mariota-led passing game was hardly explosive, and Oregon finished with 311 yards of total offense, a drastic drop-off from its season average of 632.
Turnovers proved costly. Oregon lost two fumbles, including one that Skov stripped from De’Anthony Thomas at the Stanford two-yard line early in the second quarter. The Ducks were penalized eight times for 66 yards, and most strikingly, were dominated in the time-of-possession battle: Stanford held the ball for 42:34. Oregon had it for 17:26.
Just like last November, Stanford’s vaunted defense got the best of Oregon’s normally explosive attack. Despite rallying to mount a late charge, the Ducks’ BCS title hopes likely evaporated into the Palo Alto air.
• Heisman hopes dashed? Mariota was the presumed favorite for the Heisman Trophy heading into Week 11. But after struggling in Thursday’s loss to Stanford, such aspirations may well have vanished.
Mariota shouldn’t be the scapegoat for the Ducks’ loss, but he simply wasn’t his usual self. He went 20-of-34 for 250 yards with one touchdown, but he was a virtual nonfactor on the ground, carrying six times for -16 yards. (Reports surfaced that Mariota was dealing with a knee injury.) He helped Oregon close the fourth quarter on a 20-0 run, but it ultimately proved to be too little, too late.
To Mariota’s credit, he remained without an interception on the season. But the quarterback’s primary Heisman contender, Florida State’s Jameis Winston, greatly benefits from the Ducks’ defeat — both in the awards race and the national title hunt.
• Late run for the Cardinal? It seems so long ago that Stanford lost 27-21 at Utah on Oct. 12. Yet that’s largely because the Cardinal have knocked off three ranked opponents (UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon) since then. Stanford was largely written off in the BCS championship race after falling to the Utes, but the path to Pasadena doesn’t appear as far-fetched any more. David Shaw’s team has the inside track to the Pac-12 North title. The rest of the Cardinal’s schedule is seemingly favorable. Stanford would need several other current unbeatens to fall, but it has a chance. Over the final few weeks of the regular season, plenty of chaos could still ensue.