Stanford holds off Oregon, 26-20
Stanford, Calif. • Stanford was flawless for more than three quarters, then held on for its postseason life to defeat second-ranked Oregon 26-20 on Thursday at Stanford Stadium.
The Cardinal led 26-0 with 10 minutes remaining when the momentum shifted.
Oregon ripped off 20 points in eight minutes - the surge included a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown-but was unable to corral an onside kick with two minutes remaining, allowing the Cardinal to run out the clock.
The victory extended Stanford's home winning streak to 14 consecutive games and kept all sorts of postseason possibilities in play.
The Cardinal took control of the Pac-12 North race and will play for the league championship - and a berth in the Rose Bowl - if it defeats USC next week and Cal on Nov. 23.
Stanford also remained alive in the hunt for the national title, although it needs help in the form of losses by several undefeated teams.
But the big picture wasn't on Stanford's mind when time expired. Instead, the sixth-ranked Cardinal (8-1, 6-1) celebrated one of the biggest wins in school history.
Led by linebacker Shayne Skov, the defense proved that last year's performance in Eugene was no fluke-shutting out the Ducks into the fourth quarter and derailing quarterback Marcus Mariota's Heisman Trophy campaign two years after Oregon did the same to Andrew Luck.
Stanford's ground-and-pound approach delivered an unstoppable running game as tailback Tyler Gaffney set the school record with 45 rushing attempts and gained 157 yards.
Stanford's Kevin Hogan, not Mariota, was the best quarterback on the field. His stat line was modest (7 of 13 for 103 yards), but Hogan made all the right decisions and burned the Ducks with his mobility.
Oregon compounded its problems on the lines of scrimmage by wasted two scoring chances inside the Stanford 10 yard line: The Ducks turned the ball over on downs in the first quarter and turned it over on a fumble in the second.
The Ducks threatened to strike first in the opening minutes. But just as it did in a similar situation last year in Eugene, the Cardinal defense held inside the 10 yard line. It stuffed the Ducks on two running plays, then forced an incompletion. Oregon went for it on fourth down, but Mariota missed a high-risk fade pass to the corner.
Stanford took possession at its 4 and did what it does best, repeatedly ramming Gaffney into the heart of the defense. Gaffney rumbled for four yards, then seven, then nine, then four as the Cardinal approached midfield. Then Hogan hit Ty Montgomery for nine yards on the left sideline and Michael Rector for 47 down the right sideline. Four Gaffney runs completed the 96-yard drive and gave Stanford a 7-0 lead.
Oregon was forced to punt, and the Cardinal offense picked up where it left off - only with much better field position than on the previous drive.
Hogan hit Montgomery on third down to keep the drive alive, then got bailed out when an interception near the end zone was nullified by pass interference on the Ducks. The penalty moved Stanford into the red zone, and Hogan dashed in from the 11 on a keeper that pushed the lead to 14-0.
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