Oregon tried a reverse on The Opening kickoff of the half, and started at their 10 for their efforts. A.J. Tarpley and Alex Carter defeated blocks to make second- and third-down tackles, resulting in a Duck punt that Drew Terrell fumbled… but after his knee hit the ground, as per a lengthy video review. Stanford went three-and-out as Kevin Hogan could find open only check-downs instead of downfield receivers. Indeed, Cardinal wide receivers have a mere 29 total yards to this point. However, dark horse MVP candidate Daniel Zychlinski continued to shine, pinning the Ducks back at their four.
Oregon assumed possession as Trent Murphy skied for a smartly thrown Marcus Mariota ball but could not quite hang on for an interception, and the Ducks took advantage, reeling off another five first downs on a Stanford-like steady progression upfield. De'Anthony Thomas capped a 16-play, 95-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run. The possession must be frustrating for Stanford's defensive brain trust, who largely did their jobs as the Ducks managed no play longer than 17 yards on the march. Still, the drive was Oregon's longest in seven games, though it took just 3:20 off the clock. Nonetheless, were he defensive coordinator, this writer would chalk up the points to solid Oregon execution and hold the course, for Stanford has to like its odds moving forward on drives that see no Oregon plays of longer than 17 yards.
But then, in patented Oregon style, the Ducks compounded one big blow with another. Fan favorite Kelsey Young gained 12 yards on an outside run Stanford's very next play from scrimmage, but defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu dislodged the ball with his helmet and the Ducks recovered at the Card 39. Stanford, much to its credit, responded in turn with its biggest hold of the game, as a Ryan Clanton holding penalty helped the Cardinal force a 42-yard field goal attempt. Alejandro Maldonado yoinked the try perhaps a foot wide right.
Stanford's tight ends then sputtered, with Levine Toilolo flat dropping a second-down pass and Brian Jackson ripping out of Zach Ertz's hands another would-be first down on the subsequent play. The Cardinal responded to a great defensive play in kind, however, with Oregon going three and out in turn, as Terrence Brown dove to punch away a third-down out route to Will Murphy. Yet Oregon would have the last say in the quarter as Ekpre-Olomu forced his second fumble of the day, this time stripping Taylor at the Duck 38.
Play of the quarter: The Stanford front four continues to generate pressure on Marcus Mariota and the Oregon attack. They drew a key holding call after Young's fumble to kill a drive, and a flushed out and harassed Mariota nearly gave A.J. Tarpley his second interception on the same possession. Alas, the front four hasn't come through yet with a true play of the game – with Murphy coming the closest on his interception-turned-pass-defection – and they may have to if Stanford is going to manage the W. But in the meanwhile, here is to their yeoman work all evening long.
Stat of the quarter: (-2). After Young and Taylor's fumbles, Stanford is now minus-two in the turnover battle, with three cough-ups to Oregon's one. Earlier this week, David Shaw said Stanford must play near-flawless football to beat the Ducks, and that hasn't happened thus far. Still, give Stanford a world of credit. They have matched the No. 1 team in the country, and an offense no one has been able to slow, nearly blow for blow, and find themselves within striking distance with 15 to go.
End of regulation: Stanford 14, Oregon 14
Stepfan Taylor and the Stanford offensive line asserted their will to start the quarter, as a 49-yard drive saw the Cardinal gain 40 rushing yards, with six Taylor runs accounting for 30. But on the decisive third and three, Reumond Wright spelled Taylor, and Wright could not drive past the line of scrimmage on a play on which Stanford fans would have had to like the stronger Taylor's odds. Then, on a fourth and three from the Duck 26, trailing by seven with eight minutes to play, on came Jordan Williamson for a field goal attempt. Williamson's year-long funk, dating back to the Fiesta Bowl, continued, as the sophomore pushed the attempt perhaps a foot left, in a weird symmetry after Maldonado missed by a similarly narrow margin a quarter earlier.
Oregon's offense then went quietly, with Stanford generating great pressure on third and long, but Mariota falling with the lightest of Trent Murphy touches, if any. Stanford responded with an all-time classic drive.
The Cardinal took over with 6:28 to go and the ball on their 22. Taylor would run four times on the drive for 16 yards. Ryan Hewitt converted on fourth and one from the Duck 10 with a two-yard dive, and Levine Toilolo's seven-yard reception gave the Cardinal the first of their four first downs on the march. Otherwise, it was all Kevin Hogan and Zach Ertz on what will supplant Joe Montana's historic effort for the title of "The Drive" – at least to the Cardinal faithful.
Hogan escaped sack after sack, not merely to throw the ball away, but to find Ertz time and again. 12 yards over the middle on second and short, 22 yards on a sliding catch on the right sideline, nine yards on third and 10 to set up Hewitt's dive, and then what was initially ruled an incompletion on first and goal from the 10. Ertz caught the ball twice in the back left corner of the Duck end zone, regaining possession after his defender pried loose the ball as the two tumbled to the turf.
After Ertz rolled on his back over his defender, his right shoulder pad hit the turf in bounds while his left shoulder came down on the back chalk. The back judge, mere feet from the play, immediately and decisively waved the pass incomplete, gesturing to indicate that Ertz came down out of bounds. A lengthy review followed, however, and the call was overturned as it appears – thought this writer is still unsure after seeing a dozen replays -- that Ertz's right pad hit the ground in bounds hundreths of seconds before his left hit out of bounds.
All told on the drive, the officials missed a Flemming false start on the fourth and one, gave Stanford an extra two yards on a spot, and made the overturn of a razor-thin call that few officiating crews would have the fortitude to make given the circumstances.
The Card then saw a major call go against them, however, as Ed Reynolds drew a pass interference flag on third and long for breathing upon -- and perhaps brushing -- his man. Oregon not only had a fresh set of downs at their 37 with the perfect amount of time left to drive for the game-winning score, but Stanford also was robbed of its best opportunity to win the contest in regulation.
But, yet again, Stanford's front held, stonewalling the Ducks on first and second downs near midfield. On third down, Mariota threw a deep corner and Josh Huff appeared to have a step – but ran a deep post route instead. After a punt and another Kevin Danser holding call, Hogan took a knee. Overtime awaited.
Play of the quarter: Ertz's touchdown catch gets the nod for several reasons. The play was incredibly close. Ertz had to make an incredible catch to hang on. The play was incredibly important in the context of the game. And, not least of all, the play capped one of Stanford football's greatest drives of all-time. (Old-time Booties, what is Stanford's greatest drive you've seen? Elway leading the troops to the would-be game-winning field goal in the '82 Big Game? Luck vs. USC for the 37-35 game-winning field goal in 2010? Where does this drive rank?)
Stat of the quarter: 406-404, Stanford. Through regulation, only two yards of total offense separate the Cardinal and the Ducks. Stanford is ahead in the air 211-207, while Oregon is ahead on the ground, 197-195. As the numbers reflect, it's hard for this one to be much closer.
Still to come: A look back at overtime and our "What They're Saying" take on a most dramatic and consequential of Stanford victories.
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