Stanford 17, Oregon 14: Goin’ Overtime
Another break that goes the Cardinal’s way: the coin toss.
Stanford will start on D. First and second downs look like replays
of many of the previous 60 minutes, as the Stanford front seven
chases Marcus Mariota out of bounds. On third down, Josh Huff goes
one way and Mariota the other, so, as Lady Gaga would say… it’s
Ale-Alejandro Maldonado. He’s kicking from the 25… no good!
On Stanford’s turn, a first-down run to nowhere. And on second
down, who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Burned in
his last game of this stature by playing for the field goal, David Shaw and the brain trust go for the glory with a play action call
that, naturally, Kevin Hogan fumbles. Khalil Wilkes beats several
Ducks to the ball to recover, and you know what? That was still a
great call by Shaw. If we’re going to blame them for being too
conservative, give praise when praise is due for consistency’s
sake. Third down picks up a sneaky, critical five yards, and then
Jordan Williamson tees it up and knocks it through from 37 to
bring this one to a most unexpected close.
Final: Stanford 17, Oregon 14
And now, for your traditional weekly moment of zen…
What They’re Saying: Stanford 17, Oregon 14
Football is a complex game that sometimes doesn’t fit neatly into
a single narrative, so in no particular order, a dozen unrelated
thoughts after the Second Greatest Upset Ever.
- Here’s what David Shaw’s saying: “You know what’s funny? We
cut down on turnovers, this might not be a close game.” Just
like players often break out in their sophomore years, this is
Shaw’s break out moment. For the first time I’ve seen, TV
cameras caught him lighting into refs and now, for the first
time I’ve seen, he’s something other than soft-spoken. The play
action calls on the first half fourth-and-short and the overtime
second down are ballsy, probabilistically correct and, not least
of all, helpful in the weeks ahead. Stanford has broken tendency
and UCLA now has to respect the play action threat in
short-yardage situations. Think that won’t help loosen things up
if we go back to Stepfan Taylor? It takes confidence to take the
risks you must to win football games, and today Stanford matched
fire with fire. They wouldn’t have won otherwise.
- A shout out to ME97, who had several seconds of camera time on
national television in the postgame fracas.
- Often in college football, a sport of decided haves and have
nots, the cliche that football is a game of inches is malarkey.
Texas A&M by 40 over Louisiana Tech, SMU, South Carolina
State or Sam Houston State (their actual and complete 2012
non-conference schedule) is a game of nautical miles. But did
those words ever ring true in Eugene. Multiple field goal
attempts, makes and misses alike, came within a foot or two of
the other side of the goalpost. Khalil Wilkes and/or Kevin Hogan
somehow recovered a fumble Oregon appeared to have dead to
rights. Zach Ertz scored his touchdown by perhaps six blades of
grass, no exaggeration. As Brian Cook of the Michigan blog
MGoBlog put it recently, cheering for your favorite football
team can be like rooting for a random number generator at times.
Two, four, six, eight – you’re who we appreciate!
- Speaking of inches, where might Stanford find itself had
Taylor been awarded a touchdown on the final snap in South Bend?
Now, work with me and say the Cardinal find a way to win there,
and Notre Dame, Oregon and Stanford each win out. Then you have
a one-loss Stanford team that has given both Oregon and Notre
Dame its only losses of the season. Even if the voters have
Alabama, Florida, Georgia and the ghost of Robert E. Lee
1-2-3-4, every computer in the country would have Stanford at
No. 1. Mathematically, we’d have to be in the national
championship game, right?
- As it is though, your Cardinal find themselves in some weird
circumstances. They need a win in the Rose Bowl to keep alive
their dream of winning the Rose Bowl. Unless, of course, Oregon State knocks off the deflated Ducks in a noon PT kick (an
underrated possibility, in my opinion, especially with the game
in Corvallis), in which case Stanford has clinched the division.
Then, a loss in the Rose Bowl would earn the Cardinal another
game in the Rose Bowl -- for the right to ultimately go to the
Rose Bowl. Hey, football gods: Abbott and Costello want their
shtick back. Meanwhile, with its signature victory, Stanford
helped out no one more than archrival Notre Dame, No. 1 for the
first time since the Scopes Monkey Trial, and the SEC, another
fan favorite around these parts. Oh, and to top matters off,
most Stanford fans will now be rooting hard for, gulp, USC.
- If Oregon State beating Oregon is an underrated possibility,
here’s another one: Stanford loses this week or the next and
gets bupkis for its defeat of Oregon. In fact, despite the
understandable euphoria, it’s more likely than not that Stanford
falls short of the Rose Bowl. (If Vegas lines imply we’re about
55 percent favorites in UCLA and then 70 percent favorites in
Palo Alto given a win at ‘LA, multiply that together, account
for the 15 percent chance of an Oregon State upset which makes
win No. 1 redundant, and you’re left with a 43 percent chance of
roses. And possibly a migraine). Anyway, your boys in red are
facing a situation kind of like the “Miracle on Ice” team. That
U.S. hockey squad won gold only after they won a much
less-publicized game the following week. Moral? Like my mom
always said, it’s all about what you do when no one’s looking.
- Having said that, I think we match up well the rest of the
way. At UCLA, vs. UCLA and Nebraska seems the most likely path
if we keep winning, and good luck to either of those run-first
teams against Stanford’s front seven.
- Thought experiment for Stanford fans: Say you could play God
and have Williamson make his kick to win the 2012 Fiesta Bowl,
but Maldonado makes his two Saturday and the Ducks hang on.
Would you make that trade? I would not, as only this win kept
alive chances of winning the conference. Now that we won a
cliffhanger off a missed field goal, I feel a lot better about
that loss in Glendale.
- There is the 1-in-10,000 possibility of a national title berth
still on the table, but how about another awesome outcome that’s
not quite as farfetched? We lose next week and still make the
BCS. The most direct path involves Oregon winning out to reach
the national title game, not unfathomable with a USC upset, and
the Rose Bowl taking three-loss Stanford – practically
guaranteed a top-14 finish given the computer numbers and thus
BCS eligibility. If Oregon were to make the Rose Bowl instead,
maybe Stanford snaps up a BCS at-large spot: that’s how CBS
projects us to land in the Fiesta. (If an all-SEC title game
comes to pass, the Sugar Bowl is going to have two spots for
non-Southern teams. Just sayin’…) But, if you’re ready to get
your mind blown, how about this one for kicks: Oregon State and
Stanford both win big next week. UCLA then wins narrowly in the
Pac-12 Championship and goes to the Rose Bowl. Admittedly,
Stanford would have three losses to Oregon and Oregon State’s
two. But Oregon would have lost its last two, ask anyone east of
the Rockies to name one player on Oregon State, one of
Stanford’s losses would have come to No. 1 Notre Dame and, of
course, Stanford beat both Oregon teams.
- If it does turn up 2011 Orange, 2012 Fiesta and 2013 Rose, can
we all root for Stanford football to hit for a cycle? Earning a
2014 Sugar Bowl bid is going to be a lot harder, because that
bowl is a guaranteed Big 12-SEC matchup starting that year. Then
again, Larry Scott might manage to envelop the Big 12 by that
time. Plus, of course, if it’s 2011 Orange, 2012 Fiesta and 2013
Sugar via the at-large bid discussed above, that cycle becomes
much more feasible.
- One final reason these last few weeks of the season are so
important? Our preseason rank for next year. Win out and
Stanford finishes in the top five. After Gerhart, Harbaugh and
Luck’s departures, this is the first year they don’t lose the
face of the program. That’s a likely preseason top-five ranking,
which given the self-referential nature of the system, makes
another BCS trip that much more probable.
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