TWISH: Card, Ducks battle once, twice, thrice

This week in recent Stanford history, the Cardinal and Oregon have met three times in Palo Alto. Last Saturday's game fell on the same day the teams played in both 1983 and 1994. (Alas, the Ducks stood victorious in both of those contests as well.)

Still, just two years ago and coming off a bye week, Stanford hosted a No. 7 Oregon side fresh off a resounding victory over USC. The ensuing game produced an ending never seen before around these parts.

Nov. 7, 2009: Stanford 51, Oregon 42

The Cardinal crafted a remarkably simple but effective plan to combat the Ducks' spread attack. Stanford controlled the clock for nearly 38 minutes as Toby Gerhart tallied a school-record 223 yards to go with two scores. Andrew Luck, among his 12 completions for 251 yards, found Jim Dray and Chris Owusu on pinpoint touchdown passes.

You probably remember Nate Whitaker's clinching 48-yard field goal with 11 seconds left, but consider what occurred following his 41-yard boot earlier in the fourth quarter. That put the Cardinal seemingly in control, holding a 48-28 edge with 10:48 remaining.

The Ducks then unleashed their trademark fast break, nearly stealing a victory in the process. Consecutive touchdown drives, in which Oregon consumed 155 yards in an aggregate of 3 minutes and 30 seconds, pushed the home team to the brink.

Immediately after D.J. Davis' 21-yard touchdown catch-and-run made it a six-point game, the Cardinal was stuck at the Oregon 31. It was fourth down, with three yards to the invisible yellow line. A "consensus," according to Jim Harbaugh after the game, of assistant coaches wanted to go for it. Just minutes earlier, Whitaker had pushed a 44-yard attempt to the right.

"I just had a good feeling about Whitaker." the head coach explained. "I just felt like he was going to make it."

Whitaker's poise allowed for a truly wild postgame scene, as Stanford students flooded the field. Their team (6-3 overall) was now eligible for a bowl for the first time in eight years.

Nov. 12, 1994: Oregon 55, Stanford 21

The Ducks arrived with Rose Bowl dreams in their grasp, their Pac-10 Championship a week from becoming official. Their gameday gear did not yet resemble what James Caan wore in "Rollerball." Coach Rich Brooks had yet to bolt to the St. Louis Rams. These are undeniable truths.

Seventeen year later, we're still unable to verify if Stanford was actually there.

Sure, the Cardinal did literally play what turned out to be Bill Walsh's final home game as head coach. David Shaw caught a touchdown pass when matters had long since been decided. Yet Stanford's presence remains in question due a thoroughly uninspired effort, the lowlight of the 3-7-1 season.

Danny O'Neil threw an Oregon-record six touchdown passes, three to wide receiver Cristin McLemore. The Ducks led 31-7 at halftime, prompting hordes of Stanford supporters to bolt for the exits and wonder to why even bother.

Nov. 12, 1983: Oregon 16, Stanford 7

This marked the first Stanford game I saw in person. I was four years old, and my parents – still season ticket holders since 1972 – finally took me along. I never saw John Elway live, but I did see Don Lonsinger. And Kevin Lusk. There were few titans from this one to remember.

The Cardinal fell to 1-9. Oregon did them a few games better (4-6-1), but their '83 season is remembered more a game known in Duck flocks as the "Toilet Bowl." Oregon and Oregon State finished their season with a 0-0 tie, the last time two major college teams would play to such an outcome.


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