Facing one of college football’s best quarterbacks, a powerful running attack, and giant tight ends in a hostile environment, the Oregon Ducks had plenty to worry about entering their matchup against the Stanford Cardinal.
So much was made about the Cardinal and quarterback Andrew Luck before and during the game on ESPN. When the contest was over, Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbsteit talked about how Stanford had lost. In fact, the story was that Oregon had won in resounding fashion (which the two announcers seemed to overlook), taking advantage of turnovers, sloppy conditions, and superb play by the dangerous trio of LaMichael James, Darron Thomas, and De’Anthony Thomas to handily dispose of their favored opponent.
Mike Garrity’s moment
After Oregon capitalized on a Dewitt Stuckey interception late in the first quarter with a touchdown, head coach Chip Kelly pulled a rabbit out of the hat. This is nothing new for him, but what took place was nonetheless surprising. They were lined up as if they were going to try for a two-point conversion following the touchdown, as they often due to keep the opponent guessing, but more often than not realignment and a far from entertaining extra-point ensue.
This time, that was not the case. They remained in the strange formation and tight-end David Paulson took the snap, looked around for an open receiver, and lofted a beautiful pass to the back of the end-zone, where a red-shirt freshman linebacker twisted around, leaped, and hauled in a magnificent and shocking grab. Who was this guy? Mike Garrity, who had to be looked up online by my friends just to get his identity and information. He was an unknown, but he had unexpectedly made it 8-0 Oregon.
James and the Black Mamba run wild
Stanford climbed back in behind the powerful running of Stepfan Taylor, but Oregon proved two can play that game. First, James broke free on a second-down carry after nearly slipping in the backfield, making one defender miss during his 58-yard sprint to the endzone.
De’Anthony Thomas only needed to make one move, too, and he made the most of great blocking as well. His breakaway came towards the end of the second quarter on a gutsy call by Kelly. It was 4th-and-7, the Ducks were out of field goal range, and, judging by the result, had a play for this specific situation. Throwing off his back foot amidst pressure, which proved successful many times, Darron threw a screen-pass to De’Anthony, who used his blazing speed to coast into the end-zone amidst surprisingly little resistance.
“We felt we had a good play call in that situation based on our scouting,” Kelly said in the aforementioned Oregonian article. “They blocked it real well. I felt David Paulson did a good job downfield. Obviously, if you give De’Anthony that much open space he’ll turn it into something.”
He certainly did that, notching his 13th touchdown of the season. Oregon was up 22-9, and they were far from finished.
Bo Lokombo seals the a surprisingly convincing win
The Ducks did an excellent job throughout the second half of running the ball, making smart decisions in the passing game, and draining precious minutes off the clock the Cardinal couldn’t afford to lose. Because of their overall success, Oregon managed to extend their advantage to 46-30 in the fourth quarter. Josh Huff had a 59-yard touchdown reception. James was relentless. And an inspired defense stuck a fork in Stanford.
Lokombo, a sophomore linebacker and former South Eugene High School graduate, picked off Luck with five minutes remaining and the Cardinal’s hopes hanging by a thread. Fittingly, he coasted in for his third touchdown of the season. The lead was now 53-30, as it would remain.
Given the talent Oregon has, that they won wasn’t altogether surprising. How they won, though, was. The environment was supposed to be hostile. Their opponent was supposed to be mistake-free and too powerful. As it turned out, the crowd was silenced early while Stanford lost three fumbles, threw two picks, and was out-rushed 232 to 129.
Who knows where both teams will stand in the BCS standings at season’s end. What bowl game they will participate in is up in the air. The end of the tunnel is murky, but the outcome of this game proved one thing: the Ducks are the best team in the Pac-12 and a top-five team in the country. That is what they came in trying to prove, and did they ever do that.