Stanford falls to 9-1 and 7-1 in the conference, and will likely not be headed to either the Pac-12 Championship Game or the Rose Bowl this season. Stanford's winning streak also ends at 17 games, which had been the longest active streak in the nation. Read on for a full recap of the game's biggest storylines, as well as a quick look at the future for both teams.
Play of the game: About midway through the third quarter, Stanford found itself
in a 29-16 hole after the Ducks scored quickly out of the locker room at halftime. With Oregon
poised to score again and widen the gap, the defense held and forced a punt, giving the Stanford
offense the ball on its own 31-yard line.
However, the Oregon defense forced a huge turnover on the first play of Stanford's possession, with Isaac Remington forcing a fumble from Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck that was recovered by Oregon's Brandon Hanna. Hanna took the ball down to the Stanford 12-yard line, and the Ducks scored in short order to go up, 36-16. That fumble recovery and the ensuing touchdown put all the momentum on Oregon's side and meant that any Stanford comeback would require some sort of miracle.
Turnovers kill Card: Stanford committed five—yes, five—turnovers against
Oregon. Admittedly, two of those turnovers came on fumbles in garbage time, but three of
them—two interceptions and one fumble—came at key junctures in the game. All three of those
turnovers led to touchdowns, including a pick-six by Boseko Lokombo toward the end of the
fourth quarter that sealed the victory.
Head coach David Shaw devoted a large chunk of the postgame press conference to discussing the Cardinal's inability to hold on to the ball. "They took advantage of our turnovers; we got turnovers and didn't turn them into points," he said. "That's the bottom line. You play against a team with that kind of speed, that kind of talent, that's as well coached as they are and you turn the ball over, you can't win."
Execution remains an issue: Besides the aforementioned turnovers, the Cardinal
failed to execute in many aspects of the game. Receivers dropped passes in important second and
third down situations, defenders couldn't make tackles in open space and the Oregon front seven
swarmed all over the Cardinal's running backs. The tackling issue was especially important, both
because of the explosive abilities of Oregon's offensive playmakers and the fact that it has been a
problem throughout the season.
"One missed tackle in the open field, that's all it takes," said safety Michael Thomas. "I recall we had two, especially me—I had one. That's all it takes for these guys…they were a better team tonight."
"The bottom line is, against a great team like this, you can't make mistakes," added defensive lineman Ben Gardner. "You can't have a guy out of place, you can't miss a tackle— otherwise it goes for 60 yards and a touchdown. That happened too many times tonight."
Injuries hit where it hurts: The impact on the offense of losing Chris Owusu and
Zach Ertz was on full display tonight, and it really wasn't pretty. Luck just didn't have enough
quality targets to throw to, especially since tight end Coby Fleener, usually one of his better
targets, made a couple of key drops. Wide receiver Griff Whalen had a standout performance,
catching nine balls for 107 yards and two touchdowns, but aside from Whalen, Fleener and tight
end Levine Toilolo, there just wasn't anybody who could consistently beat the Duck secondary.
On defense, the big hit was the loss of Delano Howell, who was playing with a cast on his injured right wrist. Howell used the cast to punch out a fumble early in the game, but had to be taken out after that play. Though the defense had lots of issues, the loss of Howell certainly didn't help when it came to containing players like LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas.
"We're not going to be sitting here saying ‘what if,'" Luck said when asked about the injuries to Owusu and Ertz. "That's part of the game. They had injured guys too I'm sure—it's mid-November in a football season, guys go down, there's attrition. So I'm not going to sit here and talk about those guys."
Ducks run right over Stanford: After the game was over, one statistic from Oregon's offensive performance stuck out to me: the balance between the running and passing attacks. Overall, Oregon ran the ball 46 times, while Darron Thomas only had 17 pass attempts for the entire game. LaMichael James played an incredible game, with 20 carries for 146 yards. In the early going, it actually seemed like Stanford had figured out how to contain him—in the first quarter, James had five carries for a grand total of three yards. Early in the second quarter, though, James broke a huge run for 58 yards and a touchdown, and from there he was seemingly unstoppable, constantly gaining yardage in chunks every time he touched the ball.
Polls and bowls: The implications of this game for the Ducks are fairly straightforward—win out, earn the conference championship and go to the Rose Bowl. Given that the Ducks' only loss came against LSU, they have an outside chance at a return trip to the BCS title game, since they would likely be one of the better candidates among one-loss teams if there is one or no undefeated teams left at the end of the season. The picture for Stanford is more muddled, and depends on how far the Cardinal falls in the rankings on Sunday. If Stanford stays in the BCS top 10, it still has a very good chance at getting an at-large bid to a BCS bowl, potentially the Fiesta or Sugar Bowls. However, if the team's ranking slides too far, Cardinal fans might end up in San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl or San Diego for the Holiday Bowl.
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