EUGENE, Ore. >> Marcus Mariota finally beat Stanford.
Now on to the rest of the season and perhaps a shot at the playoffs after fifth-ranked Oregon snapped a two-game losing streak to the Cardinal with a 45-16 victory Saturday night.
“To get this win was huge. It will build a lot of momentum heading into the rest of the year,” Mariota said. “It was one of those things — good to get it under your belt and bury the hatchet a little.”
Mariota, who celebrated his 21st birthday this week, threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores for Oregon (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12, No. 5 CFP) . Thomas Tyner returned from an injury to run for two touchdowns.
For the past two seasons Oregon has looked to have a good shot at a national championship berth, and both times Stanford derailed the Ducks’ season. This season Oregon climbed to No. 2 in the AP rankings but stumbled with a home loss to Arizona on Oct. 2.
“I know we’re on a path to be a really good team in our conference,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “Our guys are tough. We’re physically tough. They’re mentally tough.”
Stanford’s defense had not allowed an opponent more than 30 points in a string of 31 games, the longest streak in the nation. The Cardinal (5-4, 3-3) had allowed just four total rushing touchdowns through the season’s first eight games; Oregon finished with four.
“The bottom line is we played against one of the best teams in the nation tonight and we fought them as hard as we could,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “We tried to stay close and we got within a score in the second half. We had to play a near perfect second half and we didn’t do that.”
All of Stanford’s losses have come to ranked teams. A 26-10 loss to Arizona State dropped the Cardinal out of the Top 25 after a streak of 72 weeks in the rankings. Stanford rebounded last weekend with a 38-14 victory over Oregon State.
The Cardinal had allowed opponents an average of just 250.6 yards a game. Opponents were only averaging 12.5 points. Oregon had 525 yards in total offense.
“These defenses, they’re so stout, sometimes you’ll get a yard or two on the first down and you can’t think that’s the end of the world, you’ve just got to continue to battle,” Mariota said.
The Ducks efficiently marched down the field on their first series, scoring on Mariota’s 6-yard scoring pass to true freshman Charles Nelson. Stanford narrowed it on its opening possession with Jordan Williamson’s 47-yard field goal.
Mariota faked a handoff and instead ran untouched for 22 yards into the end zone to give the Ducks a 14-3 lead. Stanford countered with Williamson’s 43-yard field goal.
Thomas Tyner, who sat out Oregon’s 59-41 victory over Cal last weekend with an undisclosed injury, muscled his way into the end zone for a 1-yard scoring run to make it 21-6.
Oregon starting defensive end Arik Armstead, who returned from a left ankle injury, was hurt again in the second quarter and had to be helped off the field by his teammates.
After Aidan Schneider kicked a 40-yard field goal for the Ducks, Stanford’s Patrick Skov got into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 24-13 at halftime.
Stanford was driving early in the third quarter when Erick Dargan intercepted Kevin Hogan’s pass at the 1. Stanford’s Alex Carter intercepted Mariota’s was on Oregon’s ensuing series and the Cardinal went on to score on Williamson’s 25-yard field goal to narrow it to 24-16.
Tyner got into the end zone again, this one with a spin move to elude defenders on a 21-yard scoring run to close out the third quarter. Mariota added a 7-yard keeper early in the fourth after Oregon recovered a Hogan fumble forced by Dargan, then found Darren Carrington with a 25-yard scoring pass to make it 45-16.
Tyner finished with 10 carries for 63 yards.
“We ran into a buzz saw today,” Shaw said.
In 2012, Oregon was ranked No. 1 when the 14th-ranked Cardinal came to Autzen Stadium and shocked the Ducks 17-14 on Williamson’s 37-yard field goal in overtime. Oregon would go on to finish ranked No. 2 in the nation after rolling over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, which would turn out to be Chip Kelly’s last game as coach.
Last season, the stakes were high on both sides, when the No. 5 Cardinal piled up a 26-0 lead after three quarters then held off a frenzied fourth-quarter rally by the No. 3 Ducks to escape with a 26-20 victory. It was later revealed that Mariota was playing injured, and Oregon would go on to drop another game to Arizona and miss out on a BCS bowl for the first time in four seasons.