It was a game for the ages at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon, and it won’t be forgotten for a long time.
The 13th-ranked Cardinal came into Saturday night’s contest against the No. 2-ranked Ducks as 21-point underdogs. They wound up handing Oregon their first loss of the season and eliminating them from the BCS Title Game in a thrilling 17-14 overtime win.
Stanford played their best defense of the year when it mattered most, limiting Marcus Mariota and the powerful Ducks’ offense to just 198 yards rushing and 207 yards in the air.
The teams played a scoreless first quarter, but the big play came when the Ducks were stopped on a fourth down play on the Cardinal seven-yard line. Oregon should have scored on that drive when Mariota ran 77 yards down the right sideline, but did not get into the end zone thanks to running back De’Anthony Thomas’ failure to execute a simple block on the last defender back for Stanford.
Freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan and the Stanford offense capitalized on the momentum from that key defensive stop by marching 93 yards down the field to draw first blood. The drive included several key third down conversions and was finished off by a nifty one-yard run by Hogan himself, slipping by several defenders to score the touchdown.
But Oregon isn’t the number two-ranked team in the nation for no reason, and they found a way to battle back and regain control.
Late in the second quarter, Mariota threw a 28-yard dart to Keanon Lowe for a touchdown to tie things up at 7-7. That was after Hogan failed to connect with tight end Ryan Hewitt on a fourth-and-1 play from the Ducks’ 41 yard line, a play that should have been made. Stanford definitely had its fair share of miscues in this game, which included two fumbles and a missed field goal in addition to the fourth-down debacle.
The Cardinal stopped Oregon nicely on the opening drive of the second half, but the Ducks’ struck on their second opportunity. Mariota led them on a textbook 16-play, 95-yard drive finished off by a six-yard touchdown by Thomas. However, that would be the only time that the Ducks got into a rhythm at all in this game.
Oregon took a 14-7 lead into the fourth quarter, thanks to a Stepfan Taylor fumble late in the third with him team in Oregon territory. Also, kicker Jordan Williamson missed a 43-yard field goal early in the final frame.
But Stanford stopped the Ducks on the next possession, and the Cardinal would hit pay-dirt on their ensuing drive. On a first and goal play from the ten-yard line, Hogan through a perfect lob to tight end Zach Ertz in the corner of the end zone. Ertz made a miraculous catch, grasping the ball at the last second before he fell. He was originally ruled out-of-bounds on the field, but after a lengthy review, the referee ruled that Ertz’s shoulder was inbounds while he had possession.
That tied things up at 14-14, and the game was headed to overtime after the Ducks (surprise, surprise) were stymied on their final drive of regulation.
Just for good measure, the Cardinal defense would come up big for the final time on the opening drive of overtime by the Ducks. They stopped two Mariota rushes and one pass attempt, forcing them to kick a 41-yard field goal, which was missed by Alejandro Maldonado.
That meant that Stanford just needed a field goal to win, and Williamson redeemed himself, banging it through the uprights from 37 yards to seal an incredible victory for the Cardinal.
The win snaps a 13-game win streak for the Ducks and a two-year Stanford winless streak against Oregon.
It also means that Stanford can clinch the Pac-12 North if they beat UCLA next week, putting them in the Pac-12 Championship Game for a chance to play in the Rose Bowl.