Despite all the hype, Oregon once again don’t have what it takes to get past the biggest challenge their conference has to offer, losing 20-26 to Stanford, failing to score a single point before the fourth quarter, while the Cardinal simply relied on Tyler Gaffney to do everything for them on offense.
Just how much was Gaffney important? He ran 45 times for 157 yards, scoring a touchdown. After going 14-0 up, Stanford simply ran the ball, nothing else. Four field goals, and stop after stop against a stunned Oregon team, managing to run the ball only 62 yards. Marcus Mariota didn’t throw any interceptions, but he did fumble it once and completed only 20-of-34 passes as all the talk of maturity and experience came flying out the window against a defense that had all the answers for most of the game.
What didn’t work for Oregon until the fourth quarter, when they scored three touchdowns on three drives, simply not leaving them enough time to save their championship aspirations? Stanford blitzed very well and quickly against Mariota, who was 4-of-10 under heavy pressure throughout the game, and 0-for-5 in the first half, with Oregon finding themselves behind by 17 points after 30 minutes.
Oregon are known as the team with an offensive scheme that can’t be stopped, unless you’re Stanford apparently. The vertical attack didn’t exist, not until late in the game, and Oregon’s attempts to force Stanford to change up their 3-4 defense that reacts so well to Oregon’s zone blocking failed. The Ducks failed to score a rushing touchdown Thursday for the first time since the BCS National Championship Game against Auburn nearly three years ago, and their 22 rushing yards in the first half was their worst production in one half since 2009. Stanford worked the clock so well Oregon were limited to only 28 offensive plays in the first half, its fewest in a first half this season.
Stanford? An offense that just isn’t fun to watch, but it works. It won’t be enough for a national championship game after losing in Utah, but right now it looks like enough to end this season on top of the North division and head into another conference championship game, although playing at USC and ending the season against Notre Dame shouldn’t be really taken lightly.
Hogan threw the ball only 13 times, but he ran 8 times for 57 yards, scoring a touchdown. Gaffney himself carried the ball 45 times, breaking the Stanford record for rushes in a single game. The previous record was 39 by Tommy Vardell in 1991 vs California. Just like Stepfan Taylor last year in Stanford’s win over Oregon (17-14), Gaffney did very well after contact with 47 yards after a bad tackle. Oregon just couldn’t handle the physicality of Stanford doing the same thing over and over again, as some predicted might be too much for them if they ever get to play against Alabama.
The Pac-12 doesn’t change it seems. Oregon might be the most exciting team to watch in the country, but once again, they seem to be missing some ability to change their ways when it comes to their toughest rival.