The Miracle Run Comes To an End as Oregon Lets Down at Stanford

Keith Becker uosportsdude.comCorrespondent INovember 8, 2009

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 07:  Toby Gerhart #7 of the Stanford Cardinal runs with the ball during their game against the Oregon Ducks at Stanford Stadium on November 7, 2009 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After the last four weeks, and especially after last week’s blowout of USC, I thought we were invincible. I thought Chip Kelly would never let his team show up unprepared, I thought the defense was for real, and I thought going on the road wouldn’t matter.

But boy, oh, boy was I wrong. And Toby Gerhart was there to remind me; it felt like he personally punched me in the gut on every single one of his 38 dominating carries.

I got too caught up in the winning streak. I didn’t take Stanford seriously. Even if we had played Florida I thought the Ducks would have won going away. I was overconfident. I was naïve. I was cocky.

Not even for one second did the thought of losing cross my mind. I honestly wasn’t even worried until the end of the third quarter, when Gerhart ran in his third touchdown to put the Cardinal up by 17.

At that moment, to quote Kanye West, “It all falls down.”

I could feel the game, and more importantly the national championship slipping away. The Heisman hopes of Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James eroded, just like the defense on those 38 Gerhart carries.

On Bill Simmons’ Levels of Losing this game ranked as a combination of The Alpha Dog and The “This Can’t Be Happening”.

Simmons definition of The Alpha Dog perfectly depicts what happened: “It might have been a devastating loss, but at least you could take solace that a superior player made the difference in the end. Unfortunately, he wasn’t playing for your team… You feel more helpless here than anything.”

On Saturday, Toby Gerhart was the alpha dog. Nothing Oregon did could stop him. His longest run was for 31 yards, yet he compiled over 220. Every carry, the Maxwell Award semi-finalist would break two tackles and then fall forward for six yards. It was heart-wrenching. Every play I knew it was coming, and every play I felt more and more helpless.

And if that weren’t enough, there was definitely a “this can’t be happening” feeling as well. You’re supposed to win, you expect to win, the game is a mere formality. Suddenly, your team falls behind, your opponents are fired up, the clock is ticking and it dawns on you for the first time, “Oh, my God, this can’t be happening.”

Here are my thoughts on the game:

  • Stanford was far and away the better team today. I still feel Oregon is better overall, but there is no question they played harder and wanted this game more than the Ducks did.
  • All the injuries Oregon has suffered finally started to add up and take effect. Without WT3 and Willie Glasper, the defense was helpless against the pass.
  • Talmadge Jackson alone made Andrew Luck look like John Elway.
  • For the first time in over a month, the defensive line had no push. The Stanford O-Line did a tremendous job of opening holes and giving Luck time in the pocket to find the open receiver.
  • The Ducks had given up 58 points in their previous five games. Then in one game, give up 51 to the Cardinal.
  • Oregon had been giving up 4.6 yards per attempt to Pac-10 quarterbacks; Luck averaged 12.6 yards.
  • Just as important as Gerhart for Stanford, was Chris Owusu. The speed demon put up 197 yards on five returns, giving the Cardinal a short field and recapturing the momentum after every Oregon touchdown.
  • Oregon, meanwhile, had the third best average yards per kickoff return in the country coming into this game, but on nine returns, the Ducks averaged just 19 yards a piece.
  • On the bright side, Oregon still controls their own destiny to the Rose Bowl. If they can get past Arizona in Tuscon, which is no small feat for the Ducks, only a total collapse would keep Oregon out of Pasadena on New Year’s Day.
  • The San Jose Mercury’s Jon Wilner couldn’t have predicted Saturday’s outcome any better. As part of his reasoning for picking Stanford in a “close, entertaining, high-scoring victory”, Wilner said that the atmosphere at Stanford Stadium was a huge edge for the home team.    
  • Wilner wrote: “Sure, Autzen Stadium’s a tough place to play with the non-stop, jet-engine noise. But just watch as the laid-back, Riesling-drinking, tailgating-among-the-eucalyptus-tree Stanford crowd lulls the Ducks to sleep."
  • Wilner couldn’t have been more right. Stanford Stadium has one of the quietest atmospheres in college football. If it weren’t for us Duck fans, you could have heard a pin drop.
  • This game felt exactly like the Purdue games the past two years, except for the comeback part.
  • I can’t remember the last time Oregon put up 570 yards and lost.
  • At least Nick Allioti took full responsibility for the loss.
  • Allioti looks exactly like John Abruzzi from Prison Break.
  • I hate Stanford’s band. They had no sync, no togetherness. It looked like 50 people wearing red jackets and trumpets wandered on the field and started running around and playing off-key music.
  • And what was with the two guys with fake horns pulling the wagon around the field? I’m still trying to figure that one out.
  • Stanford’s halftime show was even worse than our color guard. I feel like I should have brought pen and paper for notes. Total buzz kill.
  • If losing to Stanford wasn’t enough by itself, the Stanford alum sitting behind me was on his phone giving a play-by-play to his friend. If I weren’t in shock from the loss, I would have turned around and done something politically incorrect.
  • You know those Nike sport specific t-shirts? Well I saw one that said Stanford Studying. I wasn’t even surprised. Only at Stanford.