Tyler Gaffney ran for 157 yards and No. 6 Stanford hammered No. 2 Oregon for three quarters, then held off a furious rally by the Ducks to crush their national title hopes for a second straight season, this time with a 26-20 victory Thursday night. George Kiriyama reports.
STANFORD -- For 55 minutes of Thursday night's 26-20 Stanford win, the Cardinal looked well on its way to a complete demoralization of No. 3 Oregon.
The last five? Anything but.
For No. 5 Stanford, however, style points don't matter. It held off Oregon's furious late-game charge to retake control of the Pac-12 North and clear its path for a return to the Pac-12 Championship Game and the Rose Bowl.
Stanford led 26-7 when kicker Jordan Williamson trotted on the field with just over five minutes to play to attempt his fifth field goal of the game. Perfect to that point, Williamson's attempt seemed like formality.
That formality was blocked and returned 65 yards for a touchdown to breathe new life into the Ducks. After recovering the ensuing onside kick, Oregon found the end zone again.
The next onside kick bounced into the arms of Stanford receiver Jeff Trojan and the Cardinal held on.
Asked candidly earlier in the week what he thought about Oregon being favored by 10 points, Stanford coach David Shaw replied: "It's only 10? I thought it was going to be higher. The fact that it's only 10 is a huge credit to our kids because it should be higher."
The Stanford Blueprint calls for most of what transpired before a sold-out crowd of 51,545 at Stanford Stadium. A dominant defensive effort limited the dynamic Oregon offense to 312 yards and 35 fewer points than its season average.
Offensively, Stanford came away with points on six of its final eight drives. It was successful on 14 of 21 third downs and rode Tyler Gaffney for 157 yards on a school-record 45 carries.
It was somehow surprising, yet not unforeseen.
Stanford delivered the outlier in a season of Oregon blowout victories a year ago, but a repeat performance seemed unlikely. Since losing to Stanford a year ago, the Ducks had run off 10 straight wins -- all by at least 17 points -- and hadn't lost a true road game since its trip to The Farm in 2009.
Calling Thursday's performance a repeat wouldn't be fair to Stanford. The Cardinal bullied Oregon up front, its quarterback was the one making plays with his legs and, for a night, Stanford Stadium provided an atmosphere fitting for the game's magnitude.
For the third straight season, the matchup will likely cost the loser an opportunity to play for a shiny Crystal football.
What it means: Ultimately it could mean another Pac-12 Championship and another appearance in the Rose Bowl. The win also allows for an outside chance that the Cardinal could play for the National Title, albeit slim. Even if Stanford were to have lost, the Rose Bowl would have been the likely bowl game.
What's next: Stanford travels to USC (6-3, 3-2) next week where it will look to extend its four-game winning streak against the Trojans. The current win streak already ranks as the longest in the history of the rivalry, which dates back to 1922.
Elway's Number retired: Former Stanford quarterback John Elway's No. 7 was retired in a halftime ceremony. Sophomore defensive end Aziz Shittu and junior wide receiver Ty Montgomery will be the last players to wear the number.