PALO ALTO, Calif. -- No. 5 Stanford stymied Oregon's explosive offense for the second year in a row, beating the No. 3 Ducks 26-20 Thursday night at Stanford Stadium and severely damaging Oregon's chances for a national championship.
Oregon (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) made it exciting by rallying from a 26-0 deficit in the fourth quarter. A 12-yard pass from quarterback Marcus Mariota to Pharaoh Brown with 2:12 left made it 26-20, but Stanford recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
"Tonight you see who we are: a big, physical team that plays extremely well together." Stanford coach David Shaw said.
The Ducks came into the game ranked second in the nation in scoring (55.6 points per game), rushing offense and total offense. However, Stanford shut them out for three quarters Thursday and limited them to 61 rushing yards.
Oregon scored at least 34 points in all but two of its past 35 games, and both failures were against Stanford. The Cardinal beat the Ducks 17-14 in overtime last year, and Stanford's defense was more dominant this time.
Mariota, a Heisman Trophy front-runner heading into the game, finished 20-for-34 passing for 250 yards and two scores. He also fumbled the ball away in the third quarter.
Here's what we learned Thursday in Palo Alto:
---1. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is unlikely to remain the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy after Thursday's 26-20 loss to Stanford. He was 20-for-34 passing for 250 yards and two scores, but was just 12-for-26 for 135 yards a no scores through three quarters. He had rushed for 511 yards with a 9.1-yards-per-carry average in the previous eight games, but had minus-16 yards rushing on Thursday. He was never able to produce the big play, and he underthrew a pass intended for a wide-open Josh Huff that would have been a touchdown in the first quarter. Instead, it was incomplete. He injured his knee when he fumbled in the third quarter, but returned to the game. "I'll be ready for next week," he said.
---2. Stanford's deliberate tempo based on power can effectively counter Oregon's fast-paced attack based on speed and variety. "Two different approaches, two very different tempos. One team was going to decide how it goes," said Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov, who had 10 tackles, including two tackles for loss, and forced two fumbles. Stanford had the ball for 42 minutes, 34 seconds compared with 17:26 for Oregon. "They did a great job of just grinding it and grinding it and grinding it," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said.
---3. Stanford would play in the Pac-12 title game for the second straight year if it wins its remaining conference games against USC (Nov. 16) and Cal (Nov. 23). To get to the national championship game, Stanford not only needs to win the rest of its games, including a game against Notre Dame and the Pac-12 title game, but probably needs losses by at least two, and perhaps three, of the four remaining unbeaten teams currently ranked in the 10 (Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Baylor). Oregon needs Stanford to lose one of its remaining conference games to play in the conference title game.
---4. Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney is a durable runner who can gets yards consistently. He had 45 carries on Thursday, breaking the school record by six carries. He finished with 157 yards, giving him 1,043 for the season. It was his third straight game of 145 rushing yards or more.