Stanford shocks No. 3 Oregon following controversial penalty in final seconds

·4 min read

Stanford hadn’t scored a point for the entire second half, but it needed to drive nearly the length of the field in the final two minutes to keep its hopes of upsetting No. 3 Oregon alive.

Thanks to three costly Oregon penalties, the Cardinal did just that, and it ultimately led to the first loss of the season for the Ducks. The 31-24 upset delivered a brutal blow to the Ducks, the Pac-12’s best hope to return to the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2016.

The odds were completely stacked in Oregon's favor, but Stanford managed to drive 86 yards and force overtime on a Tanner McKee touchdown pass to Elijah Higgins. That game-tying touchdown came on an untimed down that followed a controversial defensive holding penalty on fourth-and-goal.

From there, Stanford scored to open overtime and then got a fourth-down stop to seal the upset victory.

Stanford led 17-7 at half, but Oregon stormed back

Stanford actually led 17-7 at halftime, but Oregon came all the way back to take a 24-17 lead with 9:32 to play. After back-to-back punts, Stanford had one final chance from its own 13-yard line with 1:53 to play. Two penalties later, Stanford was backed up to its own 4-yard line and things looked bleak.

But things turned when Stanford hit a 23-yard pass and then Oregon star pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux was flagged for targeting. All of a sudden, Stanford was out near midfield. Later in the drive, Oregon committed another personal foul penalty, this time a roughing the passer.

The controversial penalty that led to overtime

Following the two personal foul penalties, Stanford moved inside the 10 and had a first-and-goal from the 3 with under 20 seconds to play. The Cardinal took a loss on a first-down running play and McKee tossed incomplete passes on second and third down.

On fourth down, McKee went back to the air and his pass again fell incomplete as time expired. For a brief moment it looked like the Ducks had held on to a win. 

However, Oregon was flagged again. This time it was a questionable defensive holding call in the end zone.

That penalty resulted in an untimed down and one more shot for Stanford to send the game to overtime. This time, Stanford's fifth try from inside the 5, McKee connected with Higgins for the score that sent the game to overtime and could put the entire Pac-12 season into flux.

What does this mean for Oregon, Pac-12?

Oregon now has absolutely no margin for error if it wants to get to the College Football Playoff. 

The Ducks, who have been dealing with a bevy of injuries and were without offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead on Saturday due to illness, vaulted up the rankings when they upset Ohio State on the road in Week 2. Since then, though, the Ducks have been a little shaky. 

Last week, Oregon had just a 24-19 lead over winless Arizona entering the fourth quarter. Stanford is a far superior opponent, so the Ducks needed to play much better to pull out a road victory. 

For much of the game, Oregon looked sluggish and QB Anthony Brown struggled to get anything going in the passing game. Though the Ducks eventually took a fourth-quarter lead, that slow start would prove costly in the end.

Entering Saturday, Oregon was the Pac-12's only undefeated team. Behind Oregon, the only other ranked Pac-12 team is No. 20 UCLA. The Bruins are 3-1 with a three-point loss to Fresno State. As of this writing, there are two other teams with one loss — Arizona State and Oregon State. ASU has a loss to BYU. OSU lost to Purdue. 

All of a sudden, things are looking rather bleak for the Pac-12. 

Stanford's Tanner McKee runs with the ball against Oregon during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)
Stanford's Tanner McKee runs with the ball against Oregon during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)
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