The No. 14 Stanford Cardinal (8-2, 6-1 Pac-12) kept their Rose Bowl hopes alive after defeating the No. 11 Oregon State Beavers (7-2, 5-2 Pac-12) at Stanford Stadium.
As expected, the game was a low-scoring affair that showcased the physicality of both teams. The Cardinal got off to a quick start and led 14-0 after the first quarter.
The Beavers then seemingly woke up and scored 23 unanswered points. It wasn't until the end of the third quarter that Stanford finally put up more points.
The Kevin Hogan-led Cardinal would go on to win the critical match 27-23, which likely means at least second place in the Pac-12 North for Stanford.
Of course, the next game is the big one for the Cardinal. They'll have to travel to Eugene to take on the undefeated Oregon Ducks.
Before that matchup though, there are a few takeaways from the win against the Beavers that Stanford must acknowledge in order to continue their success.
After a program-changing move by head coach David Shaw to name QB Kevin Hogan as the starter for the pivotal game against Oregon State, the Cardinal offense was a thing of beauty in the first quarter.
Hogan's first start was against a Beavers team that has one of the best scoring defenses in the Pac-12, second only to Stanford.
He went 22-of-29 for 254 yards and three touchdowns, but he also threw two critical picks in the game.
Because of those turnovers, the defense couldn't get off the field and Oregon State reeled off 23 points before Stanford could respond.
But Hogan also showcased his dual-threat nature and rushed for 49 yards.
Stanford's new QB was phenomenal in the first and fourth quarters, even reminding me of the Andrew Luck days, but his poor play in between is what allowed the Beavers to get back into the game. Hogan will need to be more consistent, especially against a team like Oregon next week.
The only thing is that Hogan will have to do so in a hostile environment. He showed us what he's made of against the Beavers. Now he needs to be close to flawless for 60 minutes against a Ducks defense that will surely put the pressure on him.
Give Oregon State coach Mike Riley tons of credit. He recognized what Stanford was doing on both defense and offense and made the necessary adjustments to get his team back in the game.
Stanford's defense was susceptible to quick slant routes by the Beavers' two outstanding receivers, Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton. After the first quarter, Oregon State exploited that weakness and took the lead.
It seemed as though David Shaw and the Cardinal couldn't make their own adjustments to counter the Beavers. Their strong defense looked to be just average at some points and the offense was anemic for much of the second and third quarters.
It was not until the fourth quarter that the defense really stepped it up and stopped the Beavers offense. Kevin Hogan joined the surge and made the necessary adjustments which led to two critical touchdowns.
Against a dynamic Oregon team next week, Stanford will have to be quicker to adapt to the Ducks' style of play on both sides of the ball. The Ducks offense can score in a hurry, and the Cardinal need to be on their toes to prevent them from putting 40 or so points on the board.
The game against the Ducks is no doubt the biggest game of the season for the Cardinal. Sure, the USC game was big, but Stanford's had the Trojans' number for years.
It seems as though every season in recent history for the Cardinal comes down to the game against Oregon. And every time, the Ducks outplay them miserably.
Next week, Stanford has the chance to beat an Oregon team that may potentially be No. 1 in the nation after Alabama fell to Texas A&M.
Every play needs to count, and the "funny business" I'm referring to is the Wildcat formation and other "trick" plays that David Shaw likes to run.
The Wildcat has been essentially ineffective for Stanford this season. To me, it's a waste of a play because it basically tells the defense what you want to do.
Now, not all of the Cardinal's trick plays are bad. Some plays, such as the end-around with Jamal-Rashad Patterson, have yielded some great results.
And whatever way Stanford can put points on the board against the high-scoring Ducks is fine by me. All I'm saying is that the Wildcat is very unlikely to fool Oregon's defense, or any decent defense for that matter.
Next week will be the defining game for Stanford football in the 2012 season. With that said, let's see if they fix their mistakes and finally beat the Ducks.