Undefeated no more
The Oregon Ducks were well on their way to a BCS National Championship. They were 10-0, they were the second-ranked team in the country and their offense was putting up more points per game than any other team in college football. The path to the Natty was set, and a perfect season was well underway.
And then the Cardinal came to town.
The Stanford Cardinal entered week 12’s contest as the 13th-ranked team in the nation, and despite being the underdogs, they took down Mighty Oregon in grand fashion.
The Ducks fell to the Cardinal 17-14 in overtime, and while fans may be disappointed about the national championship becoming a near-impossibility, the bigger story may be that the Pac-12 championship and the Rose Bowl are also now in question.
What used to be “Plan B” is now the goal, and it’s all because of an untimely loss to Stanford this past weekend.
The key matchup in this contest was Oregon’s rushing offense versus Stanford’s rushing defense, and it’s safe to say at this point that the Cardinal came away with the victory in that battle.
The Ducks have been one of the best running teams in the country this year. Their modern twist on a classic strategy has helped them run circles around opponents, and it’s been what has helped them open up the passing game. Unfortunately for the team from Eugene, the Cardinal were the No. 1 rushing defense in week 12, and they showed it against Oregon’s attack.
Kenjon Barner entered his name in Heisman talks with his performance against USC, but those talks have been put to a hault with his most recent outing: 61 yards and zero scores on 21 carries.
Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas did prove to be difference makers when given the chance on the ground, but Kenjon Barner is the leader of this team, and his lack of productivity kept the Ducks under 200 yards rushing.
The Ducks’ passing game has been fantastic all season. Heading into this game, Marcus Mariota had the nation’s highest quarterback rating and he was showing the poise of a senior in just his first season behind center.
Oregon’s passing game had been efficient, but it’s safe to say that their efficiency had been a byproduct of an exceptional running game. Defenses had been forced to hone in on Barner all season, and when Stanford managed to completely take him out of the game, it put the pressure square on the shoulders of Mariota.
Mariota had his worst game of the year, as he threw for 207 yards, one touchdown and one interception on just 21-of-37 passing.
Kicking, Kicking, Kicking
This one right here goes without saying, but let’s dive in anyway.
Chip Kelly hasn’t trusted his kicker in quite some time. That point has been obvious going back to the botched field goal that could have sent the USC game to overtime in 2011.
Kelly’s willingness to constantly go for it on fourth down is more than just having guts; it speaks volumes to how badly he wants to keep Alejandro Maldonado off the field.
Nobody ever remembers the kicker unless a game comes down to the wire. Alejandro Maldonado had only made one field goal prior to his big miss Saturday night, but nobody thought anything of it heading into the contest.
No game has ever been decided by one play, but unfortunately for the junior, it’s safe to say that his legacy is now cemented into Oregon history for all the wrong reasons.