Oregon meltdown, fumble cost them against Stanford
The Oregon Ducks had the game in hand against Stanford on Saturday night, but a total meltdown highlighted by a late-game fumble cost them the win in a 38-31 overtime loss at Autzen Stadium.
Oregon converted a 3rd-and-3 at their 43 to give them a first down with 2:17 remaining. The ball was at midfield and Stanford only had one timeout left. That’s where their end-of-game strategy came under question.
The Ducks could have kneeled down three times and then punted. Assuming Stanford called a timeout after one of the kneeldowns, Oregon would have likely been punting from around midfield with about 10 seconds left. Instead, Oregon ran two rushing plays in a row. On the second play, CJ Verdell lost a fumble that was recovered by Stanford.
The Cardinal got the ball with 46 seconds left and moved into field goal range, with kicker Jet Toner nailing a 32-yard field goal to tie the game and send it to overtime. Stanford caught a touchdown pass on a tipped ball in overtime — just a microcosm of things going their way. They stopped Oregon after that to win the game.
Not only was the Verdell fumble an extremely costly play, but the team had many other opportunities to put the game away.
Oregon was up 24-7 and appeared to have scored a touchdown, but they lost the TD on a review due to college football’s pylon rule. The Ducks then botched two snaps on the following three plays and lost a fumble that was returned 80 yards for a touchdown to completely change the game. Instead of Oregon putting the game away, that swing gave Stanford momentum and let them come back in.
Oregon had so many opportunities to win the game and failed to take control because they kept fumbling away the football. They self-destructed. And some will question their strategy at the end.
Had Verdell converted the 2nd-and-3 run without fumbling, Oregon could have kneeled out the entire clock, so Mario Cristobal was playing to put the game away. Had they just kneeled instead, they would have simply needed to avoid a Michigan punt situation in order to win. Punting with 10 seconds left isn’t a guarantee to win, but chances of something going wrong are probably fairly low. Similarly, the chances of something going wrong on a 2nd-and-3 running play are also pretty low, but we saw how that turned out.