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College Football Classic Rewind: Stanford Rallies to Upset Oregon

Posted on November 09, 2011 by A.J. Foss

In the era of the Bowl Championship Series, there have several occasions where an unranked team has pulled off an upset of a team that has been in the top-10 of the BCS standings or a serious contender to get the national championship game.

Such was the case on October 20, 2001 when an unranked Stanford Cardinal traveled to Eugene, Oregon and upset the heavily-favored Oregon Ducks.

Entering the 2001 season, expectations were high for Oregon as they were coming off a 10-win season and a Holiday Bowl win from the previous season and earned a top-ten ranking in both the AP and Coaches’ preseason polls.

The Ducks were led by head coach Mike Bellotti, who in his seventh season as the Oregon head coach and had complied a record of 49-22 in his first six seasons, and featured a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Joey Harrington.

Oregon entered the game with Stanford having won their opening six games of the season and had moved up to #5 in both polls, still very much alive in the race for the national championship.

While Oregon had aspirations for a national championship, Stanford was just hoping to have a winning season and get to a bowl game.

Stanford head coach Tyrone Willingham was also in his seventh season as a head coach in the Pac-10 and while he had taken Stanford to the Rose Bowl in 1999, his time in Palo Alto had been average as his record during that span was 35-33-1, including a 5-6 season in 2000.

The Cardinal entered the Oregon game with a 3-1 record, having lost to Washington State the week before, and most experts believing they would lose for the second week in a row as they prepared to face Oregon at their home in Autzen Stadium, a place where the Ducks had won their previous 23 games.

The first quarter was a typical Pac-10 shootout as both teams combined for 35 points in the opening 15 minutes of the game.

Stanford got the ball first and thanks to back-to-back completions that gained 65 yards, the Cardinal got on the scoreboard with a 1-yard touchdown run by Casey Moore to give the Cardinal a 7-0 lead.

The Ducks answered quickly with a four-play, 65-yard drive that took only 79 seconds and ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Harrington to Keenan Howry that tied the game at 7.

Brian Allen returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards setting up a six-yard touchdown run by Kerry Carter that put Stanford back on top, just a minute and 43 seconds after Oregon’s touchdown.

It actually took the Ducks four minutes to get back into the end zone as Oregon traveled 72 yards in 10 plays, culminating with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Harrington to tight end Justin Peelle to tie the game at 14.

Joey Harrington was brilliant in the first quarter as he threw for 173 yards and three touchdowns.

Stanford appeared on their way to another score on their next possession as they drove from their own 20 to the Oregon 31-yard-line, only to be stopped on 4th down and giving the ball back to Oregon.

Three plays later, Harrington would threw his third touchdown pass of the quarter, a 39-yarder to Howry, to put the Ducks in the lead for the first time at 21-14 with 56 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

The Cardinal put together another touchdown drive that extended into the second quarter as Carter ran in from six yards out on a 4th-and-1 to tie the game once again at 21-21 with 11:53 remaining in the second quarter.

But the touchdown came with a price as the Cardinal lost starting quarterback Randy Fasani on the drive, when he was hit in the knee by Oregon defensive end Zach Frieter on a Fasani scramble.

Freiter left the game with a concussion while Fasani was lost with a sprained right knee and replaced by redshirt sophomore Chris Lewis with his second snap of the game being Carter’s touchdown.

It seemed the defenses finally woke up on both teams’ next possessions as both teams went three-and-out and punted the ball back to their respective opponents.

However on the Stanford punt, Howry ran it back 81 yards to the Stanford six-yard-line, setting up a six-yard touchdown run by Maurice Morris to put Oregon back in the lead at 28-21 midway through the second quarter.

Both teams missed chances for more points before the end of the first half as the kicker for each team missed field goal attempts and the score remained 28-21 in Oregon’s favor as the first half came to a close.

After all the offensive fireworks in the first half, the third quarter started off with both teams punting on their opening possessions, which was followed by another Oregon punt, and then Stanford not gaining a 1st down on their second possession, setting up another Cardinal punt.

That is when the Oregon special teams struck as Howry received the punt at his own 31-yard-line, and returned it 69 yards for the touchdown to give the Ducks their largest lead of the game at 35-21 with 7:37 remaining in the third quarter.

Three plays after Howry’s punt return, the Ducks’ defense forced the first turnover of the game as linebacker David Moretti jarred the ball loose from running back Brian Allen, with cornerback Steve Smith recovering the loose ball at the Stanford 31-yard-line.

But on 2nd-and-6 from the 27, Harrington was picked off by safety Tank Williams, who returned it 22 yards only to have an illegal block bring the ball back to the Stanford 15-yard-line, but stopping the Ducks’ chances from putting the game out of reach.

Kerry Carter only rushed for 64 yards on 26 carries, but scored four touchdowns to help Stanford upset Oregon.

The Cardinal made the Ducks pay as they converted the interception into a touchdown as Lewis found Teyo Johnson for a 28-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 35-28 with 3:30 left in the third quarter.

However on the ensuing kickoff, Onterrio Smith accounted for the Ducks’ second special teams touchdown as his 96-yard return for a touchdown pushed Oregon’s lead back to 14 points at 42-28, just 18 seconds after the Cardinal had cut the lead to seven points.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Stanford special teams made its presence felt as Alex Smith blocked an Oregon punt, which was recovered by Stan White giving the Cardinal the ball at the Ducks’ 18-yard-line.

However, Stanford could not take advantage of the blocked punt as the Cardinal were stopped on 4th-and-goal at the three-yard-line, but the Cardinal special teams would block their second straight punt, this time with Amon Gordon making the block and Stan Asomugha making the recovery at the Ducks’ 19-yard-line.

It only took the Cardinal one play to get into the end zone, after a false start penalty, as Lewis connected with Luke Powell with a 24-yard touchdown to bring Stanford back within a touchdown at 42-35.

Even though there was 9:09 left in regulation, Stanford went for the onside kick following the touchdown.

The kick actually went for 25 yards and was recovered by Colin Branch, giving Stanford the ball at the Oregon 40-yard-line.

Eight plays later, Carter punched it in from one yard out on 4th-and-inches to bring the Cardinal to within an extra point of tying the game.

But Mike Biselli’s extra point was tipped by Oregon defensive end Seth McEwen, and the kick sailed wide right and no good, keeping the Ducks in the lead at 42-41.

The Ducks took over at their own 22-yard-line with 5:32 left in the game and needing to come up with some 1st downs to milk the clock as much as possible.

Two plays got the Ducks nine yards and a 3rd-and-1 when Harrington dropped back to pass, only to be drilled by Tank Williams, forcing a bad throw that was picked off by defensive end Marcus Hoover at the Oregon 33 with 3:55 left on the clock.

After two plays gained six yards, Carter would get a 1st down with a six-yard run which was followed by a 14-yard pass from Lewis to Powell on 2nd-and -9 to give Stanford a 1st-and-goal at the six-yard-line.

Three plays later, Carter would get his fourth touchdown of the game, a three-yard run that gave the Cardinal the lead for the first time since the first quarter.

The Stanford bench explodes in celebration after they ended Oregon's 23-game home winning streak at Autzen Stadium.

Stanford went for the two-point conversion and after Johnson caught a Lewis pass in the end zone, the Cardinal had a 49-42 lead with 1:10 left in regulation.

Despite having the lead, the Stanford faithful did not feel secure in their lead as they knew they had to stop Harrington, who had led the Ducks to nine 4th quarter comeback victories during his time in Eugene.

Taking over at his own 28-yard-line and no timeouts in his pocket, Harrington completed three passes for 38 yards to put Oregon at the Stanford 37-yard-line, but then threw four straight incomplete passes to end the game as Stanford came away with a 49-42 upset win.

The loss would come back to haunt the Ducks as they were left of the BCS Championship Game as they finished #4 in the final BCS rankings behind undefeated Miami and one-loss Nebraska, even the Cornhuskers had lost their final game of the regular season 62-36 to Colorado and did not even play for their conference championship while Oregon won the Pac-10 title.

Oregon had to settle for playing in the Fiesta Bowl against Big 12 champion Colorado and easily dispatched the Buffaloes 38-16 to finish the season #2 in both the AP and Coaches polls as Nebraska was routed by Miami 37-14 in the national title game.

As for Stanford, they would finish the season 9-3 after a loss to Georgia Tech in the Seattle Bowl, but would suffer an even bigger loss as Willingham left the Cardinal to become the head coach at Notre Dame, where he won his first eight games in 2002, before going 13-15 over the next two and a half seasons and was ultimately fired after the 2004 season.

Stanford would struggle for several seasons until Jim Harbaugh came to Stanford in 2007 and helped build the Cardinal into a Pac-10 power.


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