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Saturday, November 17, 2012
Updated: November 18, 12:05 PM ET
Stanford spoils Oregon's title plans

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com

EUGENE, Ore. -- One by one the Oregon players took their seats in the postgame interview room and tried to explain the unexplainable.

How, they were asked in a dozen different ways, had they lost to Stanford in overtime, 17-14?

At home.

On Senior Night.

To a team they were favored to beat by three touchdowns.

"Things," said Ducks safety Brian Jackson, "don't always go the way that you plan."

Jordan Williamson
Jordan Williamson's 37-yard field goal in overtime lifted Stanford.

The original plan called for Oregon to score its usual FBS-leading 55 points per game, improve its record to 11-0 and move from No. 2 to No. 1 in the BCS standings. Then the Ducks would beat Oregon State in the Civil War, win the Pac-12 title game and start shopping for suntan lotion.

Miami, here they come.

Meanwhile, Stanford had its own plan: Ruin Oregon's plan.

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.

Four plays later, Stanford's Jordan Williamson kicked a 37-yarder for the win and sprinted half the length of the field in celebration. Or did he float?

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.

So foreign was this whole losing-thing experience that Jackson did a double take when Williamson's game winner somersaulted through the uprights.

"It didn't really seem real at the time," he said. "They're like, 'We won! We won!' Their kids are going up in the air. And I'm just, like, 'Really?'

"I couldn't really believe it."

Meanwhile, Notre Dame is, like, thrilled. And former BCS No. 1 Kansas State, which forgot to bring its A, B or C game to Waco, was de-clawed by Baylor. And one-loss Alabama wants to send a box of chocolates and a flower arrangement to Stanford coach David Shaw.

One moment, Oregon controlled its BCS destiny. Now it doesn't even control its Pac-12 North destiny. If Stanford wins out, the Cardinal is going to the Rose Bowl.

"Obviously we had a lot riding, but that's just one loss," said Jackson.

But it was a huge loss and it happened on national TV. Worse yet, it happened late in the regular season, when there is less wiggle room to recover.

Yes, Stanford was 13th in the BCS standings. No, it didn't matter. The list of things that had to go wrong for Oregon to lose this game could have filled the upper deck of Autzen Stadium.

And yet, Stanford checked almost every item off the list. The Cardinal held Kenjon Barner to 66 yards and zero touchdowns. It held quarterback Marcus Mariota to 207 passing yards and one touchdown and forced an interception. It had nine tackles for losses and one sack.

"That's life," said Oregon coach Chip Kelly. "That's football."

"It hurts," said Mariota, who played in his first-ever OT game. "It really does hurt."

To a player, the Ducks complimented Stanford on its game plan and its ability to do what nobody else had done to Oregon this season: tie the offense's shoelaces together.

"When you have a high-powered offense like ours, you don't expect a defensive game," said Oregon linebacker Michael Clay.

Maybe that was part of the problem. Stanford put the Ducks in an uncomfortable position.

There is still a sliver of BCS hope for Oregon. If K-State can lose to Baylor, and Oregon can lose to Stanford, and Alabama can lose to Texas A&M a week earlier, then who says Notre Dame can't lose to USC in L.A. this Saturday? And if that happens, the BCS possibilities multiply like bunnies.

Marcus Mariota
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota did not find his usual space to operate the Ducks' fast-paced offense.

"I'm not worried about the BCS," said Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan. "I'm worried about my teammates."

I understand. But it's also OK to consider your options. Jackson did.

"We have one loss and there's only one undefeated team," he said. "And it really just depends on what's going to happen at the end of next week. Every team has one more game to play. And then let the [BCS] computers decide from there.

"So our hope isn't over."

Well, that's not exactly how it works, but Jackson's BCS heart is in the right place. Strange things happened Saturday. Strange things can happen next Saturday too.

In the meantime, the Ducks are going to try to forget what happened here on their home field. It won't be easy.

More than an hour after the game, senior offensive guard Kyle Long stood with his mom near the entrance of the Oregon athletic facility.

"Can we not talk about it?" said Long to his mom.

"OK, we won't talk about it," she said.

Here's guessing they were not talking about the loss that ruined Long's Senior Night and, quite probably, Oregon's season.