Oregon Ducks vs. Stanford Cardinal 2015: Ducks Eye Revenge


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Roughly three years ago, the 10-0 Oregon Ducks entered a November 17th showdown against the 8-2 Stanford Cardinal at Autzen Stadium. Leading up to the game, the Ducks were steamrolling anyone put before them. (Fun fact: aside from Stanford, Oregon defeated all of its opponents that year by an average of 31 points.) And my, the 2012 Ducks were loaded. I mean, look at some of the players that made up this roster: Bralon Addison, Kiko Alonso, Arik Armstead, Kenjon Barner, John Boyett, DeForest Buckner, Michael Clay, Erick Dargan, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jake Fisher, Hroniss Grasu, Taylor Hart, Troy Hill, Josh Huff, Dion Jordan, Kyle Long, Colt Lyerla, Byron Marshall, Terrance Mitchell, De’Anthony Thomas, and Tony Washington. Oh, and don’t forget about the redshirt freshman quarterback named Marcus Mariota. He ended up being alright.

As for Stanford, well, what was there to fear? Jim Harbaugh was gone. So was Andrew Luck. And the Cardinal had recently made a switch at quarterback from Josh Nunes to some Kevin Hogan guy. In just his second collegiate start (and first road start), Hogan was asked to lead his team into the most hostile venue in the Pac-12 and upset a team poised for a shot at a National Championship. What are the odds of that happening?Stanford still had talent, and it’s signature defense, but this Oregon team was too fast and athletic for Stanford’s traditional Big-10 style of ball. Right? For Oregon, at home, with a favorable rainy mist, what could go wrong? Somehow, everything did.

Every Oregon fan can name the turning points in what is now considered one of the most dreadful games in the program’s history. From De’Anthony Thomas’ lack of a block for Marcus Mariota to Maldonado’s field goal woes. The Ducks just didn’t get it done.

I stood soaking wet in the standing-room only section of the jumbo screen side of the stadium as Jordan Williamson chipped in the 37-yard field goal to seal the win for the Cardinal in overtime, and in the process, vanquish Oregon’s National Championship aspirations. Before Williamson even teed off his kick, fans filed out of the stadium in hoards. The public execution was too much to bear for many. I opted to stay, and long after the ball went through the uprights — and even after the swarm of white uniforms stormed the field in celebration — I remained still. Perhaps it was because I was still in disbelief of what just unfolded. Wait…they lost? To Stanford? But the Ducks are supposed to play Alabama for the program’s first-ever National Championship.

You know how the rest goes. Stanford would go on to win the Pac-12 as well as another Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, the Oregon Ducks were forced to settle for an anticlimactic Fiesta Bowl blowout win over the overmatched Kansas State Wildcats — who weren’t even the best team from the Big-12. The bowl game was a slap in the face to Oregon and a waste of what is likely the best team in the program’s history. Three years later, the much-needed four-team playoff arrived, giving hope to one-loss teams desperate for the chance to prove their worth. If the same playoff existed in 2012, there’s no question the Ducks would have earned a spot. Oh, what could have been. That same year, in a National Championship game that saw Lebron James (and many others) calling for the Ducks to replace the fraudulent Notre Dame Fighting Irish at halftime, the Alabama Crimson Tide coasted to yet another National Championship. Two years later, even with Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, the Oregon Ducks fell short of the National Championship they still crave so desperately.

In the midst of a season of three losses and even more turmoil, the future of the program is in question. The team nobody could catch now fighting to stay in the pack. Sadly for the Oregon Ducks, there may never be a team quite like the one in 2012. A group who will always best be remembered as the team who fell a few plays short of a chance at a National Championship. This season, it’s Stanford who finds themselves in the hunt for a National Championship. With their only loss coming on the road against Northwestern in the first game of the season, the Cardinal are positioned well enough to sneak in. Stanford wins out, and they’re likely in the playoff. This year, the Ducks are the road underdogs. The chip on the shoulder belongs to the Ducks, despite the thrashing Oregon handed Stanford last year. The Ducks don’t have a playoff berth to play for, nor an at-large bowl game. In fact, even if Oregon defeats Stanford Saturday night, the Cardinal can still win the Pac-12 North with a win over Bay Area rival Cal.

Oregon’s motives going into the Stanford game go beyond just the opportunity to win the Pac-12 for a second straight season. This year, it’s about payback, because no other team has relished the role of spoiler to Oregon more than Stanford. How truly sweet it would be to return the favor and ruin Stanford’s season. It just might be enough of a feat to deem Oregon’s 2015 season a success. On that rainy November night in 2012, Stanford denied Oregon a Pac-12 title and possible National Championship.

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This Saturday at Stanford Stadium, the Oregon Ducks hold the same opportunity; to deliver rejection to the Cardinal, which is something Stanford students aren’t accustomed to experiencing. Kickoff is set for 4:30pm Pacific Time on FOX.