STANFORD, Calif. -- There was a Heisman Trophy-worthy performance delivered Thursday night at Stanford Stadium.
Unfortunately, the guidelines for the most prestigious award in college football mandate it is presented to the most outstanding player in college football and not the most outstanding unit. As such, the Stanford offensive line and defensive front seven are not eligible but will be happy to settle for grinding out a 26-20 win over Oregon to take control of the Pac-12 North.
Running back Tyler Gaffney ran for 157 yards and one touchdown on a school-record 45 carries. With the way Stanford was dominating at the line of scrimmage, even the Tree that serves as mascot for its controversial marching band probably could have managed half of what the former minor league baseball player totaled.
Frequently relying on sets with extra offensive linemen, sometimes putting eight or nine on the field at one, Stanford simply overpowered an undersized UO defense that was on the field all night. Stanford converted 14 of 21 third downs and held the ball for 42:34.
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Quarterback Kevin Hogan was efficient, using his legs to keep the chains moving. Hogan was 7-of-13 passing for 103 yards, adding 57 yards and one touchdown on eight carries.
His more touted Oregon counterpart, Marcus Mariota, did not fare nearly as well. Mariota was 20 of 34 for 250 yards and two touchdowns, with minus-16 yards rushing.
Seemingly unwilling to run for long stretches of the game -- perhaps because of a reported MCL injury in his left knee that only came to light minutes before kickoff -- Mariota had to be helped off the field favoring that same left knee after scrambling and losing a fumble in Stanford territory in the third quarter.
Relentless pressure from the entire Stanford defensive line and linebacker corps left Mariota tentative. He was unable to set his feet and deliver the ball with any real power. Mariota missed one deep shot in the first half that, in retrospect, could have changed the game.
Instead, Stanford was allowed to control the pace of the game, for three quarters, anyway. But after a blocked field goal attempt was returned 65 yards for a touchdown, UO recovered the onside kick and drove 57 yards for a drive capped by a 12-yard touchdown pass on fourth down from Mariota to tight end Pharoah Brown.
Another onside kick was recovered by Stanford and two Anthony Wilkerson runs and a naked bootleg from Hogan were enough to run out the clock.