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The don'ts are what did in Stanford

11/15/2011

STANFORD Calif. -- There was no shortage of inward-facing-pointed-fingers Saturday night following Oregon's 53-30 wallop of Stanford.

It was a mea culpa for the masses.

But there was also an understanding that Oregon was simply the better team.

"We knew we couldn't give up the explosive plays," said Stanford safety Michael Thomas. "One missed tackle in the open field is all it takes. That's all it takes with these guys. Give all the credit to them."

Stanford did exactly what head coach David Shaw said it can't do -- miss tackles and turn the ball over. All week leading up to the biggest game in school history, Shaw said one missed tackle will turn into a big play and even one turnover can be a game-changer. He was right, and Oregon actually turned missed tackles into three big scoring plays -- notching touchdowns of 58, 41 and 59 yards. And turnovers accounted for 21 Oregon points.

"I don’t think we gave them our best game and they took advantage of it," Shaw said. "They are a great team. They are well-coached. They did what they wanted to do.

"They are not a good team. They are a great team. That LSU game, I watched it probably about four times this week. They don’t turn the ball over against LSU, they might be ranked No. 1 in the nation right now. LSU is really good. LSU took advantage of their mistakes. Any time you play a team that is good, and you turn the ball over, it’s too hard to win."

And that's perhaps the most frustrating element of Saturday night's game for the Cardinal. They knew exactly what they had to do -- or in this case -- exactly what they couldn't do. Turnovers and missed tackles both doomed Stanford.

"They made adjustments like they do every game at halftime – switched up blocking schemes a little bit," said defensive end Ben Gardner. "For the most part, it was all stuff we’ve seen. Against a great team like this, you can’t make mistakes. You can’t have guys out of place. You can’t miss a tackle or else it goes for 60 and a TD. That happened too many times tonight."

Naturally, the loss of safety Delano Howell -- who was coming back after missing the last three games -- hurt Stanford in the secondary. He had five tackles -- all solo -- through the first 22 minutes of the game before forcing a fumble with his casted-hand and leaving for the rest of the game.

"His physical presence is much-needed," Thomas said. "It does something for our team. We have to have that mentality of next guy up. Next guy came in, we still made mistakes and that cost us."

There are plenty of what-ifs from Saturday night. But any football player or coach worth their helmet sticker will tell you what-ifs are worthless.

"We felt like we were prepared," said linebacker A.J. Tarpley. "But give credit to them. They are a great club and they have great players on that team. They just happened to make some plays. We came in confident with our game plan. We just didn’t play well as a team."