The Miracle Run Comes to an End as Oregon Lets Down at Stanford

No matter how many Ducks tried, there was just no stopping Toby Gerhart.

No matter how many Ducks tried, there was just no stopping Toby Gerhart.

After the last four weeks, and especially after last week’s blowout of USC, I thought we were invincible. I thought Chip Kelly would never let his team show up unprepared, I thought the defense was for real, and I thought going on the road wouldn’t matter.

But boy, oh, boy was I wrong. And Toby Gerhart was there to remind me; it felt like he personally punched me in the gut on every single one of his 38 dominating carries.

I got too caught up in the winning streak. I didn’t take Stanford seriously. Even if we had played Florida I thought the Ducks would have won going away. I was overconfident. I was naïve. I was cocky.

Not even for one second did the thought of losing cross my mind. I honestly wasn’t even worried until the end of the third quarter, when Gerhart ran in his third touchdown to put the Cardinal up by 17.

At that moment, to quote Kanye West, “It all falls down.”

I could feel the game, and more importantly the national championship slipping away. The Heisman hopes of Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James eroded, just like the defense on those 38 Gerhart carries.

On Bill Simmons’ Levels of Losing this game ranked as a combination of The Alpha Dog and The “This Can’t Be Happening”.

Simmons definition of The Alpha Dog perfectly depicts what happened: “It might have been a devastating loss, but at least you could take solace that a superior player made the difference in the end. Unfortunately, he wasn’t playing for your team… You feel more helpless here than anything.”

On Saturday, Toby Gerhart was the alpha dog. Nothing Oregon did could stop him. His longest run was for 31 yards, yet he compiled over 220. Every carry, the Maxwell Award semi-finalist would break two tackles and then fall forward for six yards. It was heart-wrenching. Every play I knew it was coming, and every play I felt more and more helpless.

And if that weren’t enough, there was definitely a “This Can’t Be Happening” feeling as well. “You’re supposed to win, you expect to win, the game is a mere formality. … Suddenly your team falls behind, your opponents are fired up, the clock is ticking and it dawns on you for the first time, “Oh, my God, this can’t be happening.”

Here are my thoughts on the game:

·    Stanford was far  and away the better team today. I still feel Oregon is better overall, but there is no question they played harder and wanted this game more than the Ducks.

·    All the injuries Oregon has suffered finally started to add up and take effect. Without WT3 and Willie Glasper, the defense was helpless against the pass.

·    Talmadge Jackson alone made Andrew Luck look like John Elway.

·    For the first time in over a month, the defensive line had no push. The Stanford O-Line did a tremendous job of opening holes and giving Luck time in the pocket to find the open receiver.

·    The Ducks had given up 58 points in their previous five games. Then in one game, give up 51 to the Cardinal.

·    Oregon had been giving up 4.6 yards per attempt to Pac-10 quarterbacks; Luck averaged 12.6 yards.

·    Just as important as Gerhart for Stanford, was Chris Owusu. The speed demon put up 197 yards on five returns, giving the Cardinal a short field and recapturing the momentum after every Oregon touchdown.

·    Oregon, meanwhile, had the third best average yards per kickoff return in the country coming into this game, but on nine returns, the Ducks averaged just 19 yards a piece.

·    On the bright side, Oregon still controls their own destiny to the Rose Bowl. If they can get past Arizona in Tuscon, which is no small feat for the Ducks, only a total collapse would keep Oregon out of Pasadena on New Year’s Day.

·    The San Jose Mercury’s Jon Wilner couldn’t have predicted Saturday’s outcome any better. As part of his reasoning for picking Stanford in a “close, entertaining, high-scoring victory”, Wilner said that the atmosphere at Stanford Stadium was a huge edge for the home team.

·    Wilner wrote: “Sure, Autzen Stadium’s a tough place to play with the non-stop, jet-engine noise. But just watch as the laid-back, Riesling-drinking, tailgating-among-the-eucalyptus-tree Stanford crowd lulls the Ducks to sleep.”

·    Wilner couldn’t have been more right. Stanford Stadium has one of the shittiest atmospheres in college football. If it weren’t for us Duck fans, you could have heard a pin drop.

·    This game felt exactly like the Purdue games the past two years, except for the comeback part.

·    I can’t remember the last time Oregon put up 570 yards and lost.

·    At least Nick Allioti took full responsibility for the loss.

·    Allioti looks exactly like John Abruzzi from Prison Break.

·    I hate Stanford’s band. They had no sync, no togetherness. It looked like 50 people wearing red jackets and trumpets wandered on the field and started running around and playing off-key music.

·    And what was with the two guys with fake horns pulling the wagon around the field? I’m still trying to figure that one out.

·    Stanford’s halftime show was even worse than our color guard. I feel like I should have brought pen and paper for notes. Total buzz kill.

·    If losing to Stanford wasn’t enough by itself, the Stanford alum sitting behind me was on his phone giving a play-by-play to his friend. If I weren’t in shock from the loss, I would have turned around and done something politically incorrect.

·    You know those Nike sport specific t-shirts? Well I saw one that said Stanford Studying. I wasn’t even surprised. Only at Stanford.

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Oregon-Stanford: Expect the Ducks to Keep Rolling

It turns out that Masoli really is as good as he was in the Holiday Bowl last year. Good news for Oregon. Bad news for Stanford.

It turns out that Masoli really is as good as he was in the Holiday Bowl last year. Good news for Oregon. Bad news for Stanford.

Stanford might have a nicer campus, smarter students, and even a better synchronized swimming team, but when it comes to football, there is no doubt that Oregon comes out on top.

The Ducks are coming off a big win, while the Cardinal have been home resting up during their open date.

This has pushed many pundits to put the Ducks on upset watch this Saturday, but like Rob Moseley from the Register-Guard wrote, “Is an obvious trap game actually a trap game if everybody in the country thinks it’s a trap game?”

Not with Chip Kelly at the helm.

Many coaches spew clichés, but Kelly has more than lived up to his of “one game at a time.” More importantly, the players have bought in 100 percent.

Left tackle Bo Thran echoed the intense focus that Kelly has preached to his team weekly, particularly this week after the tremendous high from beating USC last Saturday. Kelly isn’t worried about a letdown against the Cardinal.

“It’s a special team,” Kelly said. “Their mindset is really good right now. We all live in the moment.”

So what will it take for the Ducks to get their eighth straight win?

There’s no reason to believe that Stanford will be able to slow down the Ducks offense. Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James have emerged as legitimate stars, and Heisman candidates, since the turnaround against Cal in September.

Since the game, Masoli has been the epitome of efficiency, completing over 70 percent of his passes, while running for 7.5 YPC in his 29 attempts.

James, meanwhile, will have a chance to break the 1,000-yard mark for the season this weekend, which would be just the 16th time in Oregon history and the first time ever for a freshman. The diminutive speedster is 16th in the country in rushing yards and third in yards per carry.

James has exploded the last three games, each time surpassing the 150-yard plateau.

Defensively, I expect Nick Allioti to focus on stopping Toby Gerhart, a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award. Stack nine in the box and force Andrew Luck to beat you through the air.

Although Luck definitely has the potential to be a great quarterback, he hasn’t been able to win a game this season when he’s had to do it by himself. The five-star recruit and, of course, valedictorian from Texas is 0-3 in games where he has attempted 30 or more throws.

Bottom line, I expect the Ducks to come out with another win.  Playing on the road is tough, and Stanford is a much improved team under Jim Harbaugh, but Oregon just has too many weapons.

I expect the Cardinal to hang around in the first half, but then the Ducks will run away with it in the third quarter.

Prediction: Oregon 42, Stanford 17

Pac-10 Weekend Preview: Possibility for Perfection?

There are only two teams in the Pac-10 in the AP Top 25. Pretty pathetic, considering this West Coast perennial powerhouse prides itself as talented and deserving of BCS births as the SEC and Big 12.  But after a disappointing season last year, the Pac-10 has the makings of a bounce back season, with USC and Cal as the headliners and several other teams on the cusp of contention.

This will be a scene far too familiar for Minnesota's liking tomorrow as Jahvid Best will undoubtedly hit paydirt.

This will be a scene far too familiar for Minnesota's liking tomorrow as Jahvid Best will undoubtedly hit paydirt.

With that being said, this is a big weekend for those teams trying to hang with the big boys out west, especially for the Oregon schools, each of whom host ranked opponents this Saturday. Meanwhile, Arizona and UCLA face second-tier teams from BCS conferences, where wins would go a long way in proving the overall strength of the conference.

I really like all of the matchups for the Pac-10 this weekend, and aside from the one intra-conference   game between USC and Washington, which could actually be highly entertaining (now that U-Dub has finally won a game for the first time in 16 tries – sorry, as an Duck fan I had to get in a cheap shot), I would not be surprised if the Pac-10 finishes with a perfect Saturday.

On to the games:

#8 Cal @ Minnesota – A matchup of golden animals, how cute. After barely knocking off Syracuse and Air Force, the Golden Gophers face their first true test of the season. Even with the home field advantage of their snazzy new digs, TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota doesn’t have nearly enough offensive firepower to be able to keep up with Heisman hopeful, Jahvid Best, talented redshirt freshman, Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, and surprisingly effective quarterback Kevin Riley and the rest of the Golden Bears. The only hope for Minnesota is if Cal reverts back to 2008 form, where they went 1-4 outside of Memorial Stadium (does a win at Washington State even count?), but I think Cal is too determined to stay in the BCS hunt.

Result: Cal 38, Minnesota 24.

#17 Utah @ Oregon – I wonder if Oregon looks back at their non-conference games for this season and regrets scheduling two non-BCS teams who desperately need every win to maintain their status as BCS contenders. Playing a team with everything to lose is a dangerous proposition, especially when Oregon is still figuring out its offensive personality. Fortunately for the Ducks, I feel Oregon saw enough of an improvement from Jeremiah Masoli and emergence from LaMichael James to pull out a tough win at raucous Autzen Stadium, and return to the top 25.

Result: Oregon 45, Utah 34

#3 USC @ Washington – It looks like Steve Sarkisian has really performed a quick fix for last season’s winless Huskies (ahh, can never say that enough). All of U-Dubs hopes rest in the legs and left arm of Jake Locker (who Husky fans consider as the 13th apostle), but this season it looks like he is finally ready to live up to the hype, after an impressive performance against a top 10 foe. But all that goes out the window when USC comes to town. Taylor Mays will provide a test Locker has never seen before, and the Trojan’s stable of running backs could put the game out of reach early.

Result: USC 38, 17

Arizona @ Iowa – With all the talented running backs in the Pac-10, Arizona’s Nic Grigsby often gets overlooked. But after the quick-footed back put up a 200-spot against Northern Arizona last weekend, you can bet Kirk Ferentz has done his homework.  In the end though,  it won’t matter, as the Wildcat’s ground game will prove too much to handle for the Hawkeyes.

Result: Arizona 24, Iowa 17

SMU @ Washington State – Did I say the Pac-10 would win every inter-conference game tomorrow? Sorry, I forgot how bad the Cougars were. Maybe next year, fellas.

Result: SMU 42, Washington State 13

If only the Cougars weren't horrible, the Pac-10 would be in for a perfect weekend.

If only the Cougars weren't horrible, the Pac-10 would be in for a perfect weekend.

#17 Cincinnati @ Oregon State – Wow, can those Bearcats put up points! 117 in two games is mighty impressive, but if you dig a little deeper, those games came against Rutgers and Southeast Missouri State.  Two teams not known for their pas defenses.  The Beavers, meanwhile, have a stopped the run very well this year, which will allow them to focus more attention on the Bearcats air attack. On the offensive side of the ball, look for Sean Canfield and the dynamic Rodgers brothers to do work in front of a national audience.

Result: Oregon State 48, Cincinnati 42.

San Jose State @ Stanford – For all the potentially great storylines – the Bill Walsh connection and the fact that the campuses are located less than 20 miles a part – this is one of the more boring games of the weekend. Dick Tomey has done a nice job for the Spartans but he can’t compete with the resources and firey attitude Jim Harbaugh gives to the Cardinal. The lone superstar in this game, Toby Gerhart, will determine the outcome, which doesn’t bode well for San Jose State.

Result: Stanford 24, San Jose State 20.

Louisiana-Monroe @ Arizona State – As impressive as the Warhawks 58-0 thrashing of Texas Southern was, I don’t think it matters. In a battle of the Sun Belt against the Pac-10, it doesn’t matter who’s playing (except Washington State), you can put a W in the Pac-10’s win column.

Result: Arizona State 42, Louisiana-Monroe 17.

Kansas State @ UCLA – The Bruins really made a statement last Saturday with a big-time win in Knoxville. UCLA will build on that momentum with a win over a Kansas State program battling through a down couple of seasons. The Wildcats have a positive net 2 points after games against Massachusetts and Louisiana-Lafayette: this game could get ugly.

Result: UCLA 31, Kansas State 13.

Pac-10 Weekend Preview: Possibility for Perfection?