The Cardinal will not go undefeated this year. After losing to Oregon on Saturday, Stanford has moved to #9 in the BCS. The loss greatly disappointed me, as I’m sure it did many people. The game had too much hype and overall too much anxiety. Oregon scored another sound victory against Stanford for the second year in a row.
It would be easy to be too critical after Saturday’s performance. Oregon presented an unfavorable matchup for our team from the start. Our team has shown a vulnerability to the big play. Oregon did a good job of getting favorable matchups at the second level. The slippery field only made matters worse. I remember a play where Terrence Brown fell just as a Duck received the ball. Oregon receiver Josh Huff proceeded to run past Brown and safety Michael Thomas for a touchdown. The tackling in the secondary has been suspect all year. The Ducks had the personnel to really expose that weakness. The Oregon offense made the most of its misdirection. Running back LaMichael James strutted his stuff as well. He ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns. James ran all over the field just as he has been doing all year. Last year, he won the Doak Walker award for being the best running back in the country. He showed up for Oregon and took advantage of the step (or two) he had on the Stanford defense.
The loss does not, however, fall on just the defense. Stanford was outplayed as a team. The offense could never really get going. Many experts expected a shootout because the success the Cardinal offense has had all year. As a team, Stanford played sloppy. They gave away the ball six times. Oregon’s first touchdown came after a Luck interception. Even when the defense came up with a play, Stanford could not capitalize. Off of two Duck turnovers, the Cardinal only converted three points.
Oregon played great coverage. Quarterback Andrew Luck threw the first interception because he just did not have anywhere to go with the ball. He stood there looking and looking. When he finally saw the open man, the defense reacted and made a big play. Though Stanford managed to score thirty points, Oregon thoroughly stifled Luck and the rest of the offense. It also seemed like every time we needed to convert a crucial down, the ball would bounce of someone’s hands. The play that comes to mind was when Stanford was driving on their first drive in the third quarter. They managed to get down to the Oregon 30 but failed to convert on a 3rd and 6. Tight end Colby Fleener could not reel the ball in. He would have had an easy first down. After that, kicker Eric Whitaker missed the field goal. Stanford came away with nothing.
Please put all these things in context. Games are not won or lost on a single play. But mistakes, any mistakes, against a team like Oregon will come back to haunt you. The Ducks made some mistakes. They completely muffed a fair catch after forcing a Stanford punt. It did not end up mattering at all because their damage control was impeccable. That is what good teams do. Oregon played an outstanding game and they just given credit for that. They took advantage of the things they do well and exposed the things with which Stanford struggles. Sometimes, you just get beat. Oregon is extremely talented and one of the best teams in the country.
Other people can be as critical as they want. Sure, Stanford will not be playing for the National Championship. I was so excited just to have that even be a possibility. We are truly spoiled to have such a great team. Sadly, the Cardinal will have to play catchup to get a BCS bowl but it is still a possibility. Luck also still has a shot at the Heisman as well. Not all is lost.
The season is not going to end just because we lost to Oregon. Big Game is coming up. Can’t we just take out our frustration on Cal?