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11/08/2013 1:48 AM EST
No. 6 Stanford holds off No. 2 Oregon 26-20
STANFORD 26, OREGON 20

By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- Stanford squashed Oregon's national
championship hopes again, schooling the Ducks in power football.
Florida State might want to send the Cardinal a thank you card.

Tyler Gaffney ran for 157 yards and No. 6 Stanford hammered No.
2 Oregon for three quarters before holding off a furious rally
by the fast-paced Ducks for a 26-20 victory Thursday night.

The Cardinal made it two in a row against the Ducks, who haven't
lost to any other team in the last two seasons.

"If you control the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball
you can beat these guys," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "We're
a big, physical football team that plays well together."

Kevin Hogan ran for a touchdown and played a mistake-free game
at quarterback for Stanford (8-1, 6-1 Pac-12) as the Cardinal
put on a clinic in how to play keep away from a team that was
averaging 55.6 points. Stanford ran 66 times for 274 yards -
sometimes behind as many as nine offensive linemen - and held
the ball for 42 1/2 minutes.

Heisman Trophy contender Marcus Mariota, who said he was playing
on a left knee that was a "little banged up," was inaccurate and
under pressure much of the night. He finished 20 of 34 for 250
yards with a fumble, but threw two fourth-quarter touchdown
passes, sandwiched around a blocked field goal return for a
score by Rodney Hardrick, to pull the Ducks (8-1, 5-1) to 26-20
with 2:12 left.

Oregon recovered one onside kick, but couldn't do it twice, and
Stanford ran out the clock.

"We don't hold the cards anymore," first-year Ducks coach Mark
Helfrich said.

Those belong to No. 3 Florida State now. The Seminoles don't
have to worry about the Ducks nudging them out of second place
in the BCS standings behind Alabama.

FSU was in danger of slipping to third in the BCS if Oregon
could have registered a big road victory against a quality
opponent. Now, the Seminoles face a manageable remaining
schedule with a good chance to win their way to the BCS
championship game at the Rose Bowl in January.

Unbeaten Baylor and Ohio State have to be happy, too, with one
less hurdle to clear.

As for Stanford, it gets first place in the Pac-12 North and the
inside track to another league title game and Rose Bowl. And
maybe if things get really weird, the Cardinal can get back in
the national title hunt.

Stanford won a three-point game in overtime at Oregon last year
to deny the Ducks a chance to play for the national
championship, but it didn't look as if there would be much drama
in the return bout on the Farm. Stanford led 17-0 at halftime
and added three more field goals by Jordan Williamson in the
second half.

Oregon looked like dead Ducks, down 26-0 early in the fourth
with Stanford hammering away behind Gaffney, who set a school
record with 45 carries.

"I feel like I just played a football game," Gaffney said with a
smile.

Even after Oregon finally broke the seal with a 23-yard
touchdown pass from Mariota to Daryle Hawkins, the Cardinal went
on another time consuming drive and attempted a long field goal
that would have sealed it.

Instead, the Ducks blocked it, Hardrick scooped and scored from
65 yards out with 5:08 left and suddenly it was interesting.

Only 5 seconds later it got even more interesting when the Ducks
recovered an onside kick. They quickly moved inside the Stanford
5, but got pushed back to a fourth-and-goal from the 12. Mariota
threw a touchdown pass to Pharaoh Brown with 2:12 remaining, but
the time it took the Ducks to get in while burning a timeout was
key.

Stanford grabbed the next onside kick and Oregon was powerless
to stop the clock.

Stanford put Oregon in a 14-0 hole, the Ducks' largest deficit
of the season, with a power football clinic that started when
the Cardinal came up with a fourth-and-goal stop from the 4 in
the first quarter.

Stanford followed with a punishing 96-yard drive that included
one long strike from Hogan to Michael Rector. Gaffney's 2-yard
plunge made it 7-0.

With a little help from a pass interference call that wiped out
an Oregon interception, Stanford made it 14-0 on Hogan's option
keeper from 11 yards out with 11:26 left in the second quarter.

And just when it looked as though Oregon was about to get back
in it, Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov ripped the ball away from
De'Anthony Thomas at the Stanford 2.

Stanford followed that with another 96-yard drive, this one on
20 plays that ended with Williamson kicking a 19-yard field goal
to end the half 17-0.

It was the first time Oregon had been shut out in the first half
since Oct. 10, 2009, against UCLA, and a lot of people had to be
left wondering how Stanford lost to Utah last month.

At halftime, Stanford retired John Elway's No. 7 jersey and the
Hall of Fame quarterback concluded the ceremony by imploring the
fans to stay into the game and the Cardinal to keep kicking Duck
... tail.

They obliged, and Oregon is again on the outside looking in at
the national title race.

"It is tough and it is hard because a lot of these guys have
really worked hard," Mariota said. "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."

---

Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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