All eyes were on Palo Alto on Saturday night to watch two of the nation’s best teams and individual players square off for the likely eventual Pac-12 title.
#7 Oregon entered the game with a Chip on their shoulders and on their sideline, both of which propelled their motivation heading into a game with #4 Stanford that they entered as an underdog for the first time since the national championship game last season.
On a slippery field Stanford lost their footing on their climb to a national championship. Turnovers led to them losing their grip on the Pac-12.
No amount of Luck in the world was going to keep the Ducks from flying away with the Pac-12 north crown and a golden opportunity to host the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game in Autzen Stadium on December 2nd.
Oregon showed the offensive firepower many have come to expect from the nation’s most exciting offense over the past few years.
Ducks running back LaMichael James maintained his status as the leading rusher in the country by racking up 146 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. On Stanford’s unstable and slick natural grass surface, James looked like the only player that was able to control his movements.
The highlight of the night came early in the second quarter when James took the ball up the middle, made a few quick cuts that caused Cardinal defenders to slip, and then raced 58 yards to the endzone.
It may have come early, but the tone had been set for the rest of the night. Oregon came to play. Fast.
While James may have done enough on the national stage to run his way back into Heisman Trophy contention, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck did not play up to the hype that has left him already preparing his acceptance speech for the award.
Luck struggled against an athletic and aggressive Oregon defense. The Ducks forced 5 total turnovers on the night, including 2 interceptions and a fumble from Luck. All 3 Luck turnovers led to Oregon touchdowns.
While the turnovers were not the whole story, the efforts of the Duck defense cannot be understated. They continued to put relentless pressure on the quarterback, sacking Luck 3 times and leaving them 5th in the nation in that category for the season. Prior to the Oregon game, Stanford had allowed only 4 sacks all season.
One of the concerns about the Duck defense is the lack of size along the defensive line. But the big and physical offensive line of Stanford was the one getting pushed around in the trenches, making it difficult for Luck and the rest of the offense to find any form of rhythm.
Oregon may not have had the ball for long, but when they did they ran past the Stanford defense with ease.
On their first 5 touchdown drives the Ducks did not need to hold the ball more than 2 minutes. Big scoring plays by James, freshman running back De’Anthony Thomas and wide receiver Josh Huff all went for more than 40 yards.
Quarterback Darron Thomas may not have dominated the game statistically like Stanford’s golden boy, but he managed the game very well. Thomas completed 11 of his 17 attempts for 155 yards and 3 touchdowns. Most importantly he did not turn the ball over and allow the Cardinal to have any extra opportunities to get back into the game.
The “Duck swagger” may have never been more apparent than on 4th down. Head coach Chip Kelly is notorious for his willingness to take risks. Three times Kelly gave the offense the green light to go for it on 4th down. Two of those attempts translated into touchdowns for Oregon.
Kelly gave Stanford the impression he was going to be taking chances all night right away. After a first quarter score from D. Thomas to wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei, Kelly decided to go for the 2-point conversion by snapping the ball directly to tight end David Paulson, who then threw to the long snapper for the score. Who other than Kelly could have imagined that up?
It was that kind of night for the Cardinal. For 60 minutes the speed and control of Oregon dominated Stanford in every facet of the game.
As a result Oregon has taken Stanford’s spot at #4 in the BCS poll, with the Cardinal slipping to #9. The Ducks now need to win only one of their remaining two games to clinch the north division title and host the championship game.
But after a win like this the Ducks have much to be proud of. They sent a message to the rest of the country that had forgotten about the power from the Pacific Northwest; they are still here, they are motivated, and they want revenge.
They want another shot at LSU.
About the Author
Written by Rob Parness
My name is Robbie Parness and I am a student at the University of Oregon. I'm a California native that loves to play, watch and talk about all kinds of sports. I would love to become a sports writer someday or work in sports in any capacity.