STANFORD, Calif. — For all that Stanford squandered with two botched snaps, suspect defense, a missed field goal and a failed 2-point conversion, the Cardinal can at least take some solace on what is left.
Stanford remains in control of the Pac-12 North race even if its playoff hopes have been nearly eliminated.
Kevin Hogan nearly overcame two costly fourth-quarter fumbles by throwing a pair of touchdown passes before his tying 2-point attempt was broken up with 10 seconds left, sending the seventh-ranked Cardinal to a 38-36 loss to Oregon on Saturday night.
“Everybody is going to talk about how terrible this loss is, how awful this is,” coach David Shaw said. “We got to win one game next week to go to the Pac-12 championship game.”
The Cardinal (8-2, 7-1, No. 7 CFP) had higher goals coming into the game with hopes of getting into the four-team playoff if they could avoid another loss.
But they allowed three touchdowns of at least 45 yards, missed a 43-yard field goal in the third quarter and Hogan lost two fumbled snaps in the fourth to help the Ducks (7-3, 5-2) build a 12-point lead.
Despite all that, Hogan had a chance when he threw his second touchdown pass of the fourth quarter to Greg Taboada with 10 seconds left to cut Oregon’s lead to 38-36.
Needing a 2-point conversion to tie it, Hogan tried to find tight end Austin Hooper over the middle against the blitz. But linebacker Joe Walker got a finger on the ball and the Ducks held on for the win.
“There was a guy coming after Kevin scot free,” Shaw said. “Just didn’t make the play. Either the throw or the catch.”
Vernon Adams threw for 205 yards and two scores, Royce Freeman ran for 105 yards and a score and Charles Nelson scored on a 75-yard run to keep the Ducks’ hopes for a conference title alive.
Oregon needs to win the final two games and hope Stanford loses next week at home to California to win the Pac-12 North title.
“Any time you lose, it stings, it’s tough,” linebacker Kevin Anderson said. “If you told me at the beginning of the season we’d have a chance to beat Cal to win the Pac-12 North, go to the Pac-12 championship with a chance to go to the Rose Bowl, I’d say that’s awesome. A little bit of perspective here, but it definitely stings right now.”
Hogan threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score. McCaffrey set a Stanford record with his eighth straight 100-yard rushing game, running for 147 yards and a touchdown.
With Adams healthy after being slowed early this season by a broken right index finger, the Ducks showed off the high-powered offense they’ve been accustomed to in recent years. They gained 436 yards on 48 plays, averaging 9.1 yards per play for the most allowed by Stanford this century.
“We’re definitely a different team than at the beginning of the season,” Adams said. “We’re playing a lot faster and I’m a lot more confident in the offense.”
Trailing 23-21 at the half, the Ducks took control in the third quarter. They took the opening kick and easily drove down to score on Freeman’s 19-yard run.
The Ducks then stopped Hogan for 1 yard on a third-and-3 and Conrad Ukropina missed a 43-yard field goal attempt.
The teams then traded three-and-outs before Oregon struck with another big play when Adams found Taj Griffin open down the sideline for a 49-yard touchdown catch that made it 35-23.
Hogan’s two touchdown passes to Taboada helped Stanford nearly overcome the deficit but the Cardinal fell short.
The contrast in styles between grind-it-out Stanford and fast-break Oregon was stark as Stanford took a 23-21 halftime lead.
The Cardinal got touchdown runs from Hogan and McCaffrey and powered their way to 276 yards on 43 plays in 21:32 of possession.
The Ducks relied on the big plays with Nelson scoring on a 75-yard run and Adams hitting Darren Carrington on a 47-yard pass in the final minute to gain 268 yards on 23 plays in 8:28.