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Rule of Tree Rewind: Stanford Can't Withstand Second-Half Blow

Stanford, which had been flawless in the red zone entering Saturday's game, wasted a couple of valuable opportunities against the Ducks.
Stanford, which had been flawless in the red zone entering Saturday's game, wasted a couple of valuable opportunities against the Ducks.

I'll try to make this quick, like Oregon's scoring drives, so you can get back to enjoying your Sunday, unless you're a Giants fan. Some of the commenters over at Addicted To Quack thought Saturday's game was over when Stepfan Taylor darted 44 yards for a touchdown to put Stanford ahead 21-3 late in the first quarter. Seriously? After watching the ease with which Darron Thomas maneuvered the Ducks down the field on their opening drive, the thought never crossed my mind. It was only a matter of time before Oregon stopped committing turnovers and started forcing them.

Thomas hooked up with Jeff Maehl to pull the Ducks to within 21-10 early in the second quarter and then Chip Kelly out-Harbaughed Jim Harbaugh by calling for an onside kick, which kicker Rob Beard recovered to set up another Oregon touchdown. Some will point to that play as the turning point in the game, but Stanford answered right back on the strength of a brilliant call of its own, an Andrew Luck play-action touchdown pass to Coby Fleener on 3rd and 1 at the Oregon 36. The Cardinal headed into halftime with a 31-24 lead over the No. 4 team in the nation, in a hostile environment, knowing it would receive the ball to start the second half. And then the Top 40 music came on.

Oh, maybe that was only my experience. (The sports bar where I was watching the game turned down Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit at halftime and never brought them back up, so I had the privilege of watching Stanford's demise set to the tunes of DJ Khaled and Keisha.) Oregon tied the game on its first possession of the second half and the Cardinal were marching the ball to reclaim the lead when disaster, and Javes Lewis, struck. Lewis' scary helmet-to-helmet hit on Chris Owusu appeared to knock the receiver out and turned what would have been another Stanford first down into a 1st and Goal opportunity for the Ducks. LaMichael James scored from three yards out on Oregon's next play, and when Luck's next pass was intercepted by Cliff Harris, the thought crossed my mind that this one was over.

The Cardinal defense, held, however, stopping Oregon on fourth down deep in Stanford territory. But Luck and the offense remained out of sync, particularly inside the Oregon 20. Stanford, which was a perfect 26-for-26 in red zone opportunities coming into the game, failed to cash in on a pair of opportunities in the fourth quarter when the game was still within reach. I think "All I Do Is Win" was blasting when James broke free for Oregon's final touchdown of the game. Oregon's fans already had their hands in the air, and they stayed there, and they stayed there.