(PHOTO) One of the few bright spots for Oregon on Thursday night was when No. 48 Rodney Hardrick picked up a block field goal attempt and raced 60 yards to score a touchdown. However, Hardrick's efforts were not enough as Stanford toppled Oregon 26-20. (Photo by Rich Kolbell)
"Any loss is disappointing," said Oregon Head Coach Mark Helfrich of the game. "Where we've put ourselves it's obviously magnified."
The Cardinal were paced by Tyler Gaffney’s record setting 45 carries for 157 yards and a touchdown. Gaffney and Stanford drained the clock especially in the first half, when the Cardinal were able mount drives of 96, 58 and 96 yards to take a 17-point lead into halftime.
Oregon was stymied when it stalled a potential scoring drive at Stanford’s 4-yard line, then later in the second quarter the Ducks missed another opportunity when DeAnthony Thomas fumbled at the Stanford 11.
"They did a great job of just grinding it and grinding it and grinding it," observed Helfrich of Stanford's attack. "Our guys competed, no question. First seven possessions inside the five. Couple of those touchdowns and it's a completely different game."
What was clear though, was that Oregon was unable to do anything to keep Stanford from moving forward on offense. Time and time again Gaffney would make the most of a determined Stanford offensive line effort with an average 3.5 yard per carry that gave the Cardinal a 42:34 to 17:26 time of possession advantage.
In the second half the Ducks managed to regain some of the lost defensive dignity by holding Stanford to three field goals.
The game became exciting in the fourth quarter as the Ducks mounted a comeback. Trailing 26-0 with 11:40 left in the game, Marcus Mariota hit wide receiver Daryle Hawkins on a 13 yard route for a touchdown and cut the Stanford lead to 26-7 after the successful point after. The Oregon scoring drive took five plays covering 60 yards and took only 1:29 off the clock.
The ensuing drive appeared as if Stanford was still firmly in control of the game as the Cardinal went on a drive covering 86 yards lasting 7:59 and stalling out at the Oregon 23 where Stanford place kicker Jordan Williamson attempted his fifth field goal of the evening. Williams had been successful previously in the evening on kicks of 19, 34, 26 and 30 yards but his last try at 40 yards was blocked by defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi and Hardrick returned the ball 65 yards for a touchdown. The Ducks attempted a 2-point conversion failed when Bralon Addison step out of bounds and stepped back into the endzone to catch Mariota’s pass but was flagged being ineligible down field.
Oregon’s place kicker Alejandro Maldonado booted an on-sides kick that was recovered by Hawkins on the ensuing kickoff. Despite a personal foul on Jake Fisher after the on-side recover that backed the ball up to the Oregon 43, the Ducks launched another furious drive coving 57 yards culminating on a Mariota to Paraoh Brown touchdown pass covering 12 yards. Maldonado kicked the point after and it was 26-20 with 2:12 left in the game.
"I think it shows a lot about the character of this team," said Mariota of the comeback. "We weren't down by any sorts, and we still felt like we could win it. The guys still battled."
The magic though was lost as Maldonado's next on-side attempt was recovered by Stanford’s Jeff Trojan on the Oregon 49 and three snaps later the game clock expired as Oregon had used up all its timeouts and was unable to stop the clock.
For the game Stanford had 377 yard of total offense, 279 coming on the ground and 103 in the air. Oregon finished with 312 yards total offense, with 250 yards passing but only 62 coming on the ground. Gaffney was the leading rusher with 157 net yards rushing on 45 carries while Byron Marshall was the top Oregon ground gainer with 46 net yards rushing.
Mariota threw for 250 yards on 20-for-30 passing and the two TDs to Hawkins and Brown. Kevin Hogan was 7-for-13 and 103 yards for Stanford with Ty Montgomery the leading receiver with two catches for 20 yards. Addison was Oregon top receiver with five grabs for 66 yards. Thomas had four catches for 45 yards and Josh Huff had a three catches for 42 yards the longest being a 26 yard catch in Oregon first scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Huff was knocked out of the game after there was helmet-to-helmet contact but no targeting call was made by the officials on Stanford defenders.
Brian Jackson was the leading tackler for Oregon with 14 (six solos). Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had 12 tackles (five solos). Avery Patterson had 11 tackles as did Derrick Malone though probably the most telling statistic of Oregon futility in stopping Stanford’s running game was only three tackles’ for loss were recorded (one by each by Patterson, Taylor Hart and Arik Armstead.) The Ducks did not have any sacks though Stanford had three (one each by A.J. Tarpley and James Vaughters and a combined sack by Henry Anderson and Trent Murphy on Mariota.
The loss, at least for now knocks Oregon out any further BCS Championship consideration and certainly anymore Heisman Trophy talk about Mariota. Oregon also now must hope it can win its remaining three games against Utah (at home on Nov. 16), Arizona (at Wildcat Stadium on Nov. 23) and the Civil War on Friday Nov. 29 against Oregon State at home, while USC can beat Stanford next week at the LA Coliseum. If Oregon can win out and Stanford lose to either USC or California, then the Ducks would win the Pac-12 Northern Division outright. Oregon is now 8-1 and 5-1 in conference play while Stanford is also 8-1 but 6-1 in conference play.
"We're not focused on that," Mariota said of the BCS Championship game. "It really comes down to coming back tomorrow, getting the film, learning from it and preparing for our next game."