The Cardinal quarterback was hot too. He had already led his team to road victories from behind this season, at UCLA and at Notre Dame, where the Card trailed 21-0 last week. Today, he had found Jamal-Rashard Patterson on a 26-yard pass just before halftime for Stanford's only score of the day, and a fleeting 7-6 lead.
But the driving rain of Autzen Stadium – and a ferocious Oregon defense – snuffed out any Stanford magic, as Luck threw interceptions on both would-be go-ahead drives, and Oregon (4-1, 1-1 Pac-10) escaped with a 16-7 victory.
Luck made a touchdown-saving tackle of Duck corner Talmadge Jackson after his first pick, with 5:33 to play off a tipped ball, and when Stanford (4-1, 1-1 Pac-10) nickelback Michael Thomas forced a fumble on Oregon's next possession and defensive tackle Sione Fua recovered, the notoriously loud Autzen sounded like a library. The fans' nervousness appeared justified, as Oregon led just 9-7 with 1:12 left, and Luck quickly brought Stanford to the Duck 40 on a 13-yard play-action pass to Owen Marecic. Stanford had 43 seconds to gain 10 yards and get into field goal range, and Luck was looking for them on the game's decisive play on second and ten.
Scrambling to his right to avoid an Oregon pass rush that abused Stanford right tackle Derek Hall all day, Luck tried to find Chris Owusu on a sideline with a dart, but Oregon free safety John Boyett anticipated the play, made a clean interception and returned it untouched for the game's final margin.
"Just trying to help out the voters and give them their reason not to rank us," Coach Jim Harbaugh said postgame, still upset his then-undefeated Cardinal had not earned a Top 25 ranking the week previous. "And Andrew couldn't get any mustard on that last one because the balls were so wet."
The Cardinal managed only 260 yards of offense, its lowest total in the Jim Harbaugh era, converted just 4-of-14 third downs and earned just nine first downs on the afternoon.
"I think Oregon's defense remembered what we did to them last year [a 51-42 Stanford win], and wanted to prove a point today," Luck said. "But you have to take your hats off to Oregon, because this is the best defense we've faced since I came to Stanford, and they showed it today."
Still, were it not for Luck's two interceptions and a third-quarter Chris Owusu fumble, Stanford could have won this game, as Oregon's offense struggled every bit as much in the relentless wind and rain.
Oregon converted only two third downs, and gained only 12 first downs and a meager 279 yards of offense. The Ducks did run for 99 yards to Stanford's one (the Card had 32 yards on 14 carries, but lost 31 yards on four sacks), but quarterback Nate Costa struggled in a 12-of-30 day, while Luck was comparatively accurate at 13-of-22. Still, Costa didn't throw a single interception, and on a dreary, rainy October afternoon, that was enough for the Ducks to earn their first Pac-10 win.
"This one probably won't lead off SportsCenter," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said, "but if you play in the Northwest, you're going to have to win in the rain, and if you play in this conference, where every game is so close, you're going to have to win ugly. We lost at the last minute last week [at Arizona State, 17-16], and people were saying what a great game that was, but I'll take today's game any day."
The Ducks became just the fourth FBS team this year to win a game in which they didn't score an offense touchdown, and kicker Rob Beard was the reason why. Beard made field goals of 40 and 55 yards in the first quarter, when the rain and wind weren't as intense, and just barely knocked through a 37-yarder in the third quarter, when the conditions were about as bad as they could get. The wind pushed Beard's 42-yarder wide right in the fourth, but Oregon still had a 9-7 lead thanks to his leg, and Boyett and Jackson ensured the lead stood up.
Stanford receiver Chris Owusu accounted for much of Stanford's offense with six receptions for 150 yards in a losing effort.
FG Oregon: Rob Beard, 40-yd field goal, 7:38 left. Oregon 3, Stanford 0.
FG Oregon: Rob Beard, 55-yd field goal, 1:34 left. Oregon 6, Stanford 0.
TD Stanford: J. Patterson 26-yd pass from A. Luck, 1:08 left. Stanford 7, Oregon 6.
FG Oregon: Rob Beard, 37-yd field goal, 4:36 left. Oregon 9, Stanford 7.
TD Oregon: John Boyette returned interception 67 yards, 0:33 left. Oregon 16, Stanford 7.
|Third down conversions||4-14||2-12|
Key Stanford player stats
QB Andrew Luck: 13-of-22, 259 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
WR Chris Owusu: six receptions, 150 yards
WR Jamal-Rashard Patterson: 1 reception, 26 yards, 1 TD
RT Derek Hall: two sacks allowed
LB Shayne Skov: eight tackles, 1 PBU
DT Sione FUA: 1 FF, 1 FR
@Stanford 35, Sacramento State 6
Stanford 22, @UCLA 16
Stanford 52, @Wake Forest 14
Stanford 30, @Notre Dame 27
@Oregon 16, Stanford 7
Stanford at USC
Stanford vs. Washington State
Stanford at Washington
Stanford vs. Arizona
Stanford at Arizona State
Stanford at Cal
Stanford vs. Oregon State
Inspired by reading stories like this as a kid in the Michigan student newspaper on game days, the author hopes you enjoy reading this series every bit as much as he enjoys writing it. The 2010 season is being simulated on EA Sports NCAA 2011, with the author playing all Stanford games and simulating the rest in a dynasty mode.
All statistics, game summary, rankings, player news and out-of-town scores are reported unchanged from game simulation. (I.e. Don't call the author pessimistic if Stanford struggles. Call him bad at video games.)
Got any idea for future weeks, especially if they're funny? PM dannovi.
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