Here's a dozen notes from the Stanford Cardinal going into Eugene and shocking the Oregon Ducks.
They did. Aside from a 77-yard run by Marcus Mariota, the Cardinal didn't allow any play longer than 28 yards. For that Shaw credited his players and coaches, but also mentioned Stanford's recruiting. On that long Mariota run, the speedy Duck QB was chased down by DB Devon Carrington, an effort which Shaw said might've been the play of the game.
"We are much faster (than we used to be) on the back end. Some runs that were about to be 20-yard runs went for only 12 yards," Shaw said. "We've got speed."
Stanford held Oregon 158 yards below its season average and limited the Ducks to just 4 of 17 on third downs.
"Our defense never gets enough credit," Shaw said. "We stunted, we twisted -- we tried to make 'em run laterally."
Start with kicker Jordan Williamson, the goat of Stanford's Fiesta Bowl loss last season. After he missed a 43-yard fourth quarter field goal in a game in which every point was dear, Shaw pulled his kicker aside and gently delivered some tough love.
Said Shaw: "I went up to him, I put my arms around him, and told him, 'It's time to grow up. I don't want to talk about how talented you are anymore. Make the kicks.' And for the first time I saw him look me in the eye and say, 'I got you, Coach.'"
Williamson, who has struggled this season since his Fiesta Bowl flop, booted a 37-yard field goal in overtime that provided the winning margin.
"I was thinking I was going to make it," Williamson told reporters when asked about his pre-kick thoughts."
The Cardinal pitched a first-quarter shutout of Oregon's state-of-the-art offense. You know how many times that's happened this season to the Ducks? Exactly never.
Oregon scored seven points in the first half. It had a touchdown lead in the third quarter, but lost it in the fourth quarter. It got the ball first in overtime, lost 2 yards, gained 3, had a brain cramp on a third-down incompletion and then clanged a 41-yard field attempt off the left upright.
Anyway, Oregon was outscored, out-first downed, outrushed, out-passed, outgained, out-time of possessioned, outdone on third-down conversions, outdone on fourth-down conversions and generally out-muscled. As an added bonus, Oregon is also, for the moment, on the outside looking in when it comes to the BCS championship.
4. Matt Takimoto at Addicted to Quack talks about how hard it is to win a national championship, and how Oregon didn't get the bounces this year:
This year's Oregon football team is better than the 2010 team that made the BCS National Championship game. I don't have any doubt about this in my mind. But unless something really strange happens, this team will not be making that same trip. Why? Because Jordan Williamson made his kick, and Giorgio Tavecchio did not. Or Jordan Williamson made his kick, and Alejandro Maldonado did not. Whatever, kickers are stupid. The point is, a false start by a kicker, the first and only I can remember seeing in my lifetime, was possibly the biggest turning point in an undefeated regular season. This year, Oregon's defense couldn't corral a fumble that laid on the turf for what seemed like a kajillion years. If Oregon plays Stanford ten times, at Autzen, I think they win 7-8 times. But they didn't win tonight. Because it's really effing hard to win a national championship.
So for all the "win the day" and "each week is our national championship" talk that Kelly puts out there, he better be able to turn that microscope on himself. Unfortunately, if you compare the 2009 Boise, 2010 Ohio State, 2011 LSU, and 2011 Auburn games, with the 2012 Stanford game it doesn't appear he has. The same flaws and fundamental game issues that plagued Oregon then came up to bite them Saturday. Offensive line issues like against Boise? Kicking a FG when you should have gone for it like against Ohio State? Wide receivers not holding the edge like against LSU? Not going to the passing game enough like against Auburn?
This loss is on Chip Kelly. So to hell with it all.
7. An interesting note from Jon Wilner about Stanford's strategy to keep the game close, since it was more in the wheelhouse of how Cardinal football has operated this year.
As overtime arrived, Stanford appeared more comfortable with the circumstances, having played in two overtimes and a handful of close games this season. The Ducks haven’t been in a tight game all year.
"We wanted to get them into a close game, because they hadn’t been in one," Tarpley said.
Indeed, other than USC, Oregon has had every game they've played well in hand by the third quarter, and they have never really been seriously threatened in the final minutes until Saturday night's game in Autzen.
8. Video highlights
9. Was this Zach Ertz game-tying touchdown a catch?
I saw it very passionately argued both ways, by fans of teams besides Oregon or Stanford. It looks to me like his shoulder lands in bounds as he has clear possession of the ball, and all the rolling around and carrying on that occurs afterward doesn't matter. Once it's a touchdown, it's a touchdown. Satisfactory call by the refs in a tough spot, as far as I'm concerned.
10. Animated drive chart. As jtlight at Addicted to Quack points out, Oregon only produced 58 yards of offense after their final touchdown drive.
Animated Drive Chart brought to you by Gameday Depot.
But at the end of the day all that matters is the number of W's on the board, and Stanford is in a position to get their 10th win and clinch the Pac-12 North with a win over UCLA next week.
That's where things get interesting - a win for Stanford clinches the Pac-12 North, but also sets up a rematch against the Bruins the following week for the Pac-12 title. If the Cardinal are going to win the conference and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl, it looks like they will have to beat the Bruins two weeks in a row to do so. If Stanford loses to UCLA next week and Oregon beats Oregon State in the Civil War, the Ducks will earn the Pac-12 bid and host the title game on Dec. 1.
A Pac-12 title is likely Oregon's best chance to get back into the BCS title game picture, which was arguably the devastating fallout from the loss. After finally reaching No. 1 in the polls and No. 2 in the BCS, Oregon will slide down in the pecking order because of an inability to make/create a few plays in a game they were heavily favored to win. The Ducks are not out of the BCS title race, but they will need to pass that chaos magnet to the other teams in the top five now and hope for the best worst.
12. Sometimes it just comes down to the lucky bounces, like a fumble that should have been Oregon's until it bounced right back into the hands of a Cardinal player. Andy Staples of SI on the crucial OT fumble.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly offered an elegantly simple three-word explanation that described his team's loss and the race for the national title in general.
"The ball bounces," Kelly said.
One moment, the ball rests in the hands of Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan during a second-down play in overtime. The next, it wobbles on the Autzen Stadium turf like a great brown Easter egg waiting to be snatched. Oregon linebacker Michael Clay sees it. He dives. The ball caroms back and forth on his forearms. Then it bounces away. When the bodies rise from the turf, Stanford guard Khalil Wilkes proves that possession is ten-tenths of the law. Two plays later, Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson kicks a 37-yard field goal. It gives the Cardinal a 17-14 win, knocks Oregon from the top of the polls and sends the national title race spiraling further into uncertainty. "It hurts everyone so badly because they have all put so much into this," Kelly will say later. "It's times like these that you wish you would have the right words to say to take the pain away. But there are no words to do that."