Oregon Failed Another November Test Because Stanford Was Much Tougher

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Oregon Failed Another November Test Because Stanford Was Much Tougher
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Oregon needed a better team effort to slow down Stanford RB Tyler Gaffney and the Cardinal offense.

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, ask George W. Bush. Fool us three or four times and all of us who believed in you finally have to admit it.

Things have been too easy for you, Oregon. When times get tough, character, heart and determination are what matter. The old adage of sports not building character but revealing it has never been more true.

The football program has been on a remarkable run in recent years. The wins, the uniforms, the recruiting success and the respect you have earned nationally have all played their roles in making Oregon the trendiest program in the nation.

The only question you had yet to answer was whether the Ducks could meet a bully in a back alley and walk out of it unscathed. That question has been answered once and for all.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Stanford LB Shane Skov led the Cardinal to a dominating win over the Oregon Ducks on Thursday night.

You can't hide from it anymore, Oregon.

Not behind another Fiesta Bowl win and not behind gaudy statistics. You can't even hide behind the smoked glass windows that make up your world-class facilities.

The truth is out. You just aren't tough enough.

Auburn manhandled you in the trenches, but you almost pulled it off. LSU did the same. If it weren't for all the turnovers, you might have pulled that one off, too. USC's defense pushed you around in your own stadium later that same season.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
De'Anthony Thomas never got on track and his fumble deep in Stanford terrtory changed the course of the game.

Then, there is Stanford.

In 2012, you hung tough in a bare-knuckle brawl against a Stanford team made up of future NFL stars on defense. The breaks didn't go your way then,and they certainly didn't go your way on Thursday night.

The only break you got was when the clock struck zero. Stanford broke your will, and with it the reputation you worked so hard to validate. You have been able to sidestep most of the criticism because of your overall success, but the truth has been exposed once and for all.

Your kryptonite is strength and toughness. Stanford has them both in spades. Those traits are most often referred to in a physical sense, but it's the state of mind that has you in this position.

Your brand of football is fun to watch, and there are few teams in the country capable of beating you, even on their best day. But all it takes is one, and for the third consecutive season, a November loss to a tougher team crushed your dreams.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Cardinal defense had the Ducks and their star QB, Marcus Mariota, on their heels all night.

The Stanford defense is great; it might just be the best in the country. You moved the ball at times, but when it came down to it, you couldn't keep your milk money. The bully took it away from you and left you looking softer than ever.

The Cardinal offense has been hard to watch at times, but it rolled over your Ferrari with a bulldozer, then backed up and did it again. There is no need to make you hear the statistics again because anyone who saw even a minute of the game knows how dominant Stanford was.

Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney didn't have any huge runs in terms of yards. He didn't have to. Neither did quarterback Kevin Hogan. They didn't need the explosion plays that you are used to making because their big runs were a matter of effort. Every time you had a chance to get a stop, their will was much greater than yours.

Gaffney carried it 24 times in the first half alone. You had a chance to get the ball back more times than anyone can count, but on all of those third-down plays, he dragged you past the first-down marker. You had Stanford pinned inside its 10-yard line and had three defenders with their hands on a quarterback on a 3rd-and-6.

Tackle a quarterback with six sets of hands and you have the ball at no worse than midfield, with an opportunity to cut into the lead before the half. Only, Hogan wanted it more. He ran through three of your best defenders for a first down.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Cardinal QB Kevin Hogan wasn't great statistically, but his effort and third down runs demoralized the Oregon defense.

The game was all but over at that point. It didn't matter that the Cardinal used that play to kick-start a drive that would still be going if the field was a mile long.

This was supposed to be your best defensive line in years, maybe ever, yet Stanford made you quit. You are supposed to be the team that wears down your opponents with startling efficiency, but Thursday night it was Stanford that imposed its will on you, again.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Stanford's power was too much for Oregon to handle in the trenches, in the open field and inside the helmet.

The Cardinal didn't do anything special. The Pac-12's best team knew it had you dead to rights before the first quarter was over. Stanford's head coach could barely keep a straight face during a halftime interview because he knew it, too. You could see it on their faces the same way the nation saw the fear in your eyes.

You thought you could weather the storm and turn it on at will, but Stanford didn't allow it. You let them run right through you and they didn't afford you the same courtesy.

You didn't like how your nemesis treated you, but you did nothing about it. You wore your heart on your sleeve and showed the country what you are really all about. Instead of looking in the mirror and believing in yourself, you played scared and you paid for it dearly.

Perhaps ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit was too dramatic in saying that it could take years to recover from a loss like this, but the time has come for you to man up.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Mark Helfrich couldn't believe what he was seeing out of his team.

Your roster is littered with NFL talent, even on the offensive and defensive lines. The lack of size along the lines, which used to be your downfall, has been replaced by a lack of effort and toughness.

During your blowout win over Tennessee, your student section was chanting for Alabama in front of a national TV audience. They believed in you, but you didn't believe in yourselves.

Maybe they had the right idea, though. You hung tough with SEC powers in recent years and wanted your chance to prove yourselves against the biggest bully of them all. The problem is that you can't even get a chance at the SEC because the biggest bully is in your own division.

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