EUGENE, Ore. >> As Stanford’s game-winning field goal tumbled through the goal posts, Oregon running back Kenjon Barner fell to his knees in dejection. With a clear path to the BCS championship game, the speedy Ducks slipped up.
A 17-14 loss in overtime to the No. 14 Stanford denied top-ranked Oregon a chance to clinch the Pac-12 North’s spot in the conference championship game. And it put a bid for a national championship nearly out of reach.
“I told those guys that it’s tough, things aren’t always going to go your way. That’s life. That’s football” coach Chip Kelly said after the game. “I don’t fault them for their effort. It hurts so bad because they invested so much as a group. “
Stanford players rushed the field after Jordan Williamson’s 37-yard field goal in overtime to win it.
If both Stanford and Oregon win in their final games next weekend, both will finish with one conference loss, which means Stanford will win the head-to-head matchup and go to the Pac-12 championship for a chance to play in the Rose Bowl.
After winning its fifth straight, Stanford (9-2, 7-1) will play its finale next weekend at No. 17 UCLA, which defeated No. 21 USC 38-28 earlier in the day to claim the Pac-12 South. Oregon (10-1, 7-1) will play Oregon State in the annual Civil War rivalry game in Corvallis.
“As I told our guys, we don’t get a trophy for this game,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “All we did was put ourselves in a good position and no we have to go play a really good UCLA team next week.”
If Stanford beats UCLA, the Cardinal and Bruins will play a week later in Northern California for the Pac-12 title. If UCLA wins and Oregon beats Oregon State, the Ducks will host UCLA on Nov. 30.
The loss snapped a 13-game winning streak for the Ducks, which was the longest in the nation coming into Saturday.
Oregon’s loss, coupled with No. 2 Kansas State’s 52-24 loss to Baylor, means third-ranked Notre Dame is now the lone unbeaten team in the race for the BCS title game. Kansas State and Oregon were the 1-2 teams in the BCS standings.
The Fighting Irish control their national championship run, with No. 4 Alabama and a couple of other Southeastern Conference teams also in the thick of it.
Oregon was the only Pac-12 team that Stanford hadn’t defeated over the past two seasons.
Last year, Stanford was ranked No. 3 and looking toward its own national championship bid with quarterback Andrew Luck when then-No. 6 Oregon visited Palo Alto and emerged with a 53-30 victory. Running back LaMichael James, who would join Luck’s NFL draft class in the spring, ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
The year before, Oregon defeated the Cardinal and Luck 52-31 in an early October hurdle en route to an undefeated regular season and an appearance in the BCS title game against Auburn.
“They beat us last year when we were knocking on the door. So it feels kind of good to get that feeling back,” Stanford tight end Zach Ertz said.
In both seasons, Oregon went on to win the conference titles. The Ducks have won three straight Pac-12 championships.
“It hurts, it really does, but the guys in the locker room have done a good job of helping me keep my head up,” Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota said. “It’s not an easy one to swallow but there’s another game on the horizon.”
Redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan threw for 211 yards and a game-tying fourth-quarter touchdown for Stanford, while Stepfan Taylor rushed for 161 yards on 33 carries.
Down 14-7, Stanford went for it on fourth-and-1 on the Oregon 12 with 2:17 left in regulation and Ryan Hewitt ran two yards for the first down. Hogan hit Ertz with a 10-yard scoring pass to tie it at 14 with 1:35 to go. Ertz fought to gain control of the ball with a defender as he fell to the turf on top of a Ducks player. The play was initially ruled incomplete, but a video review overturned it for the game-tying touchdown.
“I knew I caught it, I just wasn’t sure if I was inbounds or not. The ball bounced my way. It was a great play call by the coaches,” Ertz said.
Despite a pass interference call that gave them a crucial first down, the Ducks were forced to punt on the ensuing series and Stanford took over with 36 seconds to go and the game went to overtime. Alejandro Maldonado missed a 41-yard field goal for the Ducks to open the extra period before Williamson’s game winner.
The Cardinal had the nation’s best run defense going into the game, allowing an average of just 54.8 yards a game. Oregon, meanwhile, had the country’s third-best rushing offense, averaging 325 yards a game.
Stanford held Ducks running back Kenjon Barner, who was averaging 136 yards rushing a game, to just 66 yards. Overall, the Ducks managed only 198 yards on the ground.
Oregon’s top rusher was Mariota, who ran for 89 yards. The redshirt freshman who had been getting Heisman buzz, threw for 207 yards and a touchdown.
Stanford stuffed what appeared to be a sure first-quarter Oregon touchdown drive when Mariota took off on a 77-yard keeper to the Stanford 15. But the Ducks couldn’t get much closer, and Stanford got the stop when Oregon went for it on fourth-and-2 on the Cardinal 7.
Stanford scored first on Hogan’s 1-yard plow into the end zone early in the second quarter, but Oregon answered with Mariota’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Keanon Lowe to tie it at 7-all.
Oregon extended its lead to 14-7 on De’Anthony Thomas’ 6-yard scoring run in the third quarter, but missed a chance when Maldonado’s 42-yard field goal attempt went wide right.
Williamson missed a 43-yard field goal attempt for Stanford early in the fourth quarter.
The Ducks went into the game hurting on defense after a 59-17 victory over California last weekend.
Oregon was without free safety Avery Patterson seriously injured his left knee in the second quarter and is believed to be out for the rest of the season. Patterson had taken over as starter for senior John Boyett, whose career at Oregon ended earlier this season when he needed surgery on both knees. Starting nose guard Wade Keliikipi did not play.
Because the Ducks do not disclose injuries, there was also uncertainty about the secondary, leading to speculation that the team might use Lowe or even multi-purpose sophomore back Thomas on defense. But they did not.
“One thing we take pride in is we don’t make excuses,” Kelly said. “The No. 1 stuff and the injury stuff everybody else has to deal with, so we don’t make excuses. Stanford played better than us tonight and they won the football game.”