Tyler Gaffney rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown on a school-record 45 carries as the sixth-ranked Stanford Cardinal survived a late scare and stunned No. 2 Oregon for a second straight season with a 26-20 victory from Stanford Stadium.
The Cardinal (8-1, 6-1 Pac-12) made a statement to the rest of the nation, dominating the Ducks (8-1, 5-1) in every facet of the game for three quarters before nearly giving it away in the fourth.
Stanford took a 23-0 lead into the final frame and tacked on a 30-yard Jordan Williamson field goal with 11:40 remaining for a 26-0 advantage. It was Williamson’s 37-yard kick in overtime a season ago that lifted Stanford past then No. 1 Oregon.
Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota finally put Oregon on the board less than two minutes later when he marched the Ducks 60 yards in five plays and threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Daryle Hawkins.
After the Cardinal drove into field goal range, Williamson’s 40-yard try was blocked by Wade Keliikipi and returned 65 yards for a touchdown by Rodney Hardrick.
The two-point conversion failed, but Alejandro Maldonado’s onside kick was successful, and Mariota’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Pharaoh Brown on 4th-and- goal made it a one-score game with 2:12 left to play.
Maldonado and the Oregon special teams unit took the field to attempt another onside kick, but Jeff Trojan secured the ball and the game for Stanford.
Gaffney broke Tommy Vardell’s mark of 39 rushes that was set against California in 1991.
“I feel great, feel like I just played a football game. Probably feel as good as these guys,” Gaffney said.
Stanford controlled the tempo throughout with its ground attack, accumulating 274 yards rushing while possessing the ball for 42:34. The Cardinal converted 14-of-21 on third down and were penalized just twice, compared to 3- for-10 on third down with 10 penalties for the Ducks.
Kevin Hogan completed 7-of-13 passes for 103 yards while rushing for 57 yards and a score for Stanford, which improved to 6-0 when Hogan starts and completes 12 or fewer passes.
Mariota threw for 250 yards and a pair of scores on 20-of-34 efficiency, but rushed for a career-low -16 yards on six carries. Mariota entered the contest leading the nation with 9.1 yards per rush and fell to 20-2 as Oregon’s starting quarterback. Both losses have come against the Cardinal.
“It’s tough. You go out there and you have a good week of practice and just don’t pull it out. It is tough,” Mariota said. “It is hard because all these guys really worked hard for it. You know, it ain’t over. It happens. We’re going to come back stronger than ever, and we’re just going to take it in stride.”
Oregon picked up a pair of first downs on its opening drive but failed to convert on 3rd-and-6 from the Stanford 48. Josh Huff got behind the secondary but Mariota uncharacteristically underthrew his favorite target, and they had to punt.
The Ducks’ defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and Ben Rhyne punted out of his own end zone. Bralon Addison returned it 25 yards to the Cardinal 28 and on the third play, Mariota rolled out to his right and threw back across his body for Keanon Lowe down to the 7. Stanford’s defense made an important stand however, forcing a turnover on downs after Oregon opted to try for it on fourth down from the 4 rather than kick a field goal.
Stanford took over deep in its own territory and drove 96 yards in 12 plays for the first score. The big play on the march was a 47-yard pass from Hogan to Michael Rector down the right sideline. Gaffney carried nine times on the drive and capped it with a 2-yard touchdown plunge.
The Cardinal benefited from a defensive pass interference call early in the second. Hogan was intercepted by Avery Patterson, but Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was flagged and two plays later, Hogan took it in himself from 11 yards out for a 14-0 advantage. Oregon hadn’t trailed by 14 points since Nov. 19, 2011 against USC.
Oregon was on its way to a score midway through the second but De’Anthony Thomas fumbled inside the Stanford 5 and Shayne Skov recovered for the Cardinal. Thomas was ruled down on the field, but a lengthy review determined that the ball popped out before Thomas’ knee hit the carpet.
The home team took over with 8:26 left in the half and ate up the rest of the clock with a 20-play drive that resulted in Williamson’s 19-yard field goal.
Stanford led 17-0 at the break.
Ty Montgomery’s 57-yard kick return to open the second half yielded terrific field position for the Cardinal, which they turned into three points on a 34- yard Williamson kick.
Oregon trailed 20-0 just over five minutes into the third quarter when another red zone miscue cost the Ducks crucial points. Mariota picked up a 4th-and-8 conversion with his legs and completed consecutive passes to the Stanford 19, but A.J. Tarpley got to the quarterback and forced a fumble, which Jarek Lancaster recovered at the Cardinal 28.
Stanford once again moved down the field methodically, carving up a chunk of clock during a 14-play trek, which resulted in Williamson’s third field goal of the contest.
Stanford extended its home winning-streak to 14 games, which is third best in the nation behind Michigan (19) and South Carolina (15).
Stanford improved to 12-1 at home against ranked teams since 2009 and 4-1 against top-10 teams … The Cardinal have won 31 of their last 32 contests in the state of California … Stanford legend and hall-of-fame quarterback John Elway had his number retired at halftime … Mariota has now thrown 327 consecutive passes without an interception dating back to last season. His last pick came in the 17-14 overtime loss to Stanford. Mariota has also thrown at least one touchdown pass in all 22 games of his career … Byron Marshall was held under 100 yards for the first time in Pac-12 play for the Ducks. He ran for 46 yards on 11 carries … Oregon fell to 30-46-1 all-time against Stanford.