Stanford hadn’t scored a run all through the second half, but it had to drive almost all over the field in the final two minutes to keep its hopes of No. 3 Oregon alive.
Thanks to three costly Oregon penalties, the Cardinal did just that, ultimately leading to the Ducks’ first loss of the season. The 31-24 upset delivered a brutal blow to the Ducks, the Pac-12’s best hope of returning to the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2016.
The odds were completely in Oregon’s favor, but Stanford managed to drive 86 yards and force overtime on a Tanner McKee touchdown pass to Elijah Higgins. That tying touchdown came on an untimed down that followed a controversial defensive penalty on the fourth goal.
From there, Stanford scored to open overtime, then got a fourth stop to seal the upset win.
Stanford led 17-7 at half time, but Oregon stormed back
Stanford even led 17-7 at halftime, but Oregon came all the way back to take a 24-17 lead with 9:32 left. After back-to-back punts, Stanford had one last chance to play from his own 13-yard line with 1:53. Two penalties later, Stanford was supported to his own 4-yard line and things looked bleak.
But things turned when Stanford hit a 23-yard pass and when Oregon Star Pass star Kayvon Thibodeaux was flagged for targeting. Suddenly Stanford was near midfield. Later in the drive, Oregon inflicted another personal foul penalty, this time a rough handling of the passer.
The controversial penalty that led to overtime
After the two personal penalties, Stanford moved within 10 and had a first-and-goal out of 3 with less than 20 seconds left. The Cardinal took a loss on a first-down running play and McKee threw incomplete passes on the second and third down.
In fourth place, McKee went back into the air and his pass fell incomplete again as time went on. For a moment, it looked like the Ducks had held onto the win.
Oregon, however, was re-marked. This time it was a questionable defensive call in the end zone.
That penalty resulted in an untimed down and another shot for Stanford to send the game into overtime. This time, Stanford’s fifth attempt from within the 5, McKee linked up with Higgins for the score that sent the game to overtime and could set the entire Pac-12 season in motion.
What does this mean for Oregon, Pac-12?
Oregon now has absolutely no margin for error if it wants to make it to the College Football Playoff.
The Ducks, who have suffered a slew of injuries and were left without offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead on Saturday due to illness, jumped higher in the rankings when they upset Ohio State on the road in Week 2. Since then, however, the Ducks have been a bit shaky.
Last week, Oregon was just 24-19 ahead of scoreless Arizona going into the fourth quarter. Stanford is a much better opponent, so the Ducks had to play much better to get a win on the road.
Oregon looked sluggish for much of the game and QB Anthony Brown struggled to get anything going in the passing game. While the Ducks eventually took a lead in the fourth quarter, that slow start would ultimately prove costly.
Oregon came in on Saturday and was the Pac-12’s only undefeated team. Behind Oregon, the only other ranked Pac-12 team is the No. 20 UCLA. The Bruins are 3-1 with a three-point loss to Fresno State. At the time of writing, there are two other teams with one loss: Arizona State and Oregon State. ASU loses on BYU. OSU lost to Purdue.
Suddenly things look rather bleak for the Pac-12.