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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Oregon's speed is too much for Stanford, 53-30

The No. 6 Ducks scramble the Bowl Championship Series possibilities by soundly defeating the No. 3 Cardinal, which turns the ball over five times.

November 12, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Ducks running back LaMichael James celebrates after a big gain against the Cardinal in the third quarter Saturday at Stanford Stadium.
Ducks running back LaMichael James celebrates after a big gain against… (Kyle Terada / US Presswire )

Reporting from Palo Alto, Calif. -- Stanford let the grass grow this week in an attempt to neutralize Oregon's speed but ended up being cut down to size.

The most important game on the Farm since 1940 turned from frenzy to fizzle as No. 6 Oregon soundly defeated No. 3 Stanford, 53-30, before a crowd of 50,360 at Stanford Stadium.

Stanford turned the ball over five times.

"You play against a team with that kind of speed, that kind of talent, that's as well coached as they are, you turn the ball over, you can't win," Cardinal Coach David Shaw, summing up the night perfectly, said afterward.

Oregon's win ended Stanford's 17-game winning streak, probably ended the Cardinal's national title hopes and maybe got one-loss Oregon back in the race.

The Ducks certainly helped scramble the Bowl Championship Series possibilities.

Oregon was the last team to defeat Stanford, last year, in Eugene. That score was 52-31, and the Ducks used the momentum to make a national title run.

Not much has changed in a year except that Jim Harbaugh is no longer Stanford's coach.

"They're not a good team," Shaw, the new coach, said of Oregon. "They're a great team."

Oregon's team speed, like last year, was just too much. Stanford actually had a 21-3 lead in Eugene, but Saturday it was forced into catch-up mode early when Oregon turned an Andrew Luck interception into an 8-0 lead.

Stanford (9-1) joined Boise State on Saturday as teams that lost their undefeated status.

Things change fast in college football, so now what?

Did Luck, the preemptive No. 1 pick in next year's NFL draft, derail his Heisman Trophy chances?

He finished with two interceptions and another "pick six" on prime-time television.

"Not good enough to win," Luck said. "Worst game of the year, I guess."

Can Oregon, left for dead after an opening loss to Louisiana State in Texas, get back in the national title race?

Louisiana State and Oklahoma State, both Saturday winners, appear to be on a fast track to the Jan. 9 title in New Orleans.

The real fun starts only if one or both of those schools lose.

Oregon might jump three spots to No. 4 in Sunday's BCS standings.

Last week, the talk after LSU's 9-6 overtime win over Alabama was whether the teams might meet in again in the national title game.

With another loss or two, there might not be any other choice.

Yet now we must also reconsider a rematch between Oregon and LSU.

If Alabama and Oregon win out, their only defeats would have come against LSU.

Are we now only an Oklahoma State loss from having this argument? Alabama would seemingly get the nod over Oregon in the scenario, but what if Alabama loses at Auburn?

Oregon's season isn't over, either, with the Ducks hosting red-hot USC next week in Eugene.

"Stanford's a great team," Oregon tailback LaMichael James, who rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns, said. "But we've still got two games left."

Three, LMJ, if you count the Pac-12 Conference title game.

There won't be any grassy-knoll conspiracy theories as to why Stanford lost to Oregon.

Stanford Stadium's Tifway II Bermuda was not cut since Wednesday, and even then the lawnmower blades were set on high.

It was a ploy Notre Dame used in 2005 against USC in the famous "Bush Push" game. That grass was so thick, a small tailback could go missing for days.

Stanford wanted to literally slow the game down and churn its way to victory.

Did it work?

No.

James looked just as fast on his 58-yard, second-quarter scoring burst.

De'Anthony Thomas was a blur when he took a screen pass from Darron Thomas and blazed 41 yards for a touchdown just before the half.

And Oregon started the second half with Josh Huff taking another short Thomas pass and sprinting 59 yards for a score. That gave Oregon a 29-16 lead.

Stanford was still within two touchdowns when Jeremy Stewart's one-yard, fourth-quarter plunge cut the lead to 43-30.

But Oregon sealed the victory when a 40-yard field goal was quickly followed by Boseko Lokombo's 40-yard interception return for a score.

The Stanford band played on, but things were not "All Right Now."

Call this "Game of the Century Jr."

The sellout crowd was half as large as last week's turnout in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

This game, though, was twice as fun. Alabama and LSU combined for only 15 points, with neither scoring a touchdown.

Saturday night's game was also much sloppier — and stranger.

Oregon scored two touchdowns on fourth down and Stanford scored one.

Stanford's field-position strategy was going to work only if the Cardinal took care of the ball, and it certainly didn't do that.

The miscues started early when Dewitt Stuckey stepped in front of a lazy Luck sideline pass, setting up Oregon's first touchdown.

"There are no easy touchdowns," Oregon Coach Chip Kelly said. "They did give us short fields, and that did help and we were able to capitalize."

Stanford is still not out of the major-bowl hunt. If the Cardinal wins out it, it will almost assuredly land in the Fiesta Bowl.

The day's other big winner was Houston (9-0). Boise State's loss now puts the Cougars in position to snag the BCS bid that Boise probably forfeited.

Houston, because of its schedule strength, has almost no chance of reaching the BCS title game.

But neither, after Saturday, does Stanford.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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