Stanford rumbles over Oregon, hangs on for 26-20 win

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For the second year in a row, Stanford has upset the BCS apple cart.

The No. 6 Cardinal used a powerful run game and a physical defense to beat No. 2 Oregon in Palo Alto, 26-20.

With the win, Stanford moves to 8-1 overall and 6-1 in the Pac-12, while Oregon falls to 8-1 and 5-1 in league play.

For about three-and-a-half quarters, this game was the province of the Cardinal ground game. Running back Tyler Gaffney carried the ball a career-high 45 times for 157 yards and a touchdown as Stanford punched the Ducks in the mouth over and over again. The Cardinal rushed for 274 yards and converted 14-of-21 third down conversions while holding the ball for an unbelievable 45:30.

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan was efficient and killed the Ducks with timely scrambles. He was 7 of 13 for 103 yards and rushed for 57 yards and a score. The Cardinal didn’t need him to do much more since they were in control for most of the game.

Ah, but what about the end?

When Cardinal placekicker Jordan Williamson hit his fourth field goal of the game to put Stanford up 26-0 with 11:40 to play, it looked like the Ducks were going to go quietly into the Northern California night. There was even talk of blanking Oregon, something that hasn’t happened since 2007.

But Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who struggled most of the game, suddenly came to life. He led Oregon on a 60-yard drive that culminated in a 23-yard touchdown pass to Daryle Hawkins. That made it 26-7 with 10:11 to play.

Oregon’s onside kick failed and Stanford drove the ball to the Oregon 23-yard line and then Williamson lined up for his fifth field goal of the night. But the attempt was blocked and Rodney Hardrick returned it 65 yards for a touchdown and it was suddenly 26-13 after Mariota’s 2-point conversion attempt failed.

The Ducks lined up for another onside kick and this time it worked. Oregon recovered and, seven plays later, had a first and goal at the Stanford 2-yard line with almost four minutes to play. It looked like Oregon had a chance to pull off a miracle comeback.

But this is where the Ducks’ hopes died. While Oregon eventually scored on a fourth down play to make it 26-20, the Ducks ate up valuable time on the clock and, with one time out left, it wouldn’t be able to get the ball back unless its next onside kick worked.

It didn’t. Wide out Jeff Trojan recovered it and Stanford ran out the clock. Afterward, Stanford students stormed the field.

And it no doubt set off celebrations in Tallahassee and Columbus, as both Florida State and Ohio State’s odds of making it to the BCS title game improved substantially tonight. When Sunday’s BCS standings come out, we’ll see FSU holding on to its spot at No. 2 behind No. 1 Alabama.

For Oregon, it’s back to the drawing board. On the bright side, it won’t have to face a Stanford defense of this caliber anytime soon as 15 of the 22 players on the Cardinal’s defensive two-deep are seniors. Mariota’s Heisman hopes took a big hit, though the late rally mitigated the damage somewhat, but he’s going to need some help down the stretch to win his school’s first Heisman.

As for Stanford, it’s now in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 North and has an outside chance at crawling back into the BCS title hunt. If Alabama loses to LSU, Ohio State loses to Michigan or Michigan State and Baylor drops a game in the next month, it will be well-positioned to give the title tilt a physical presence — from the Pac-12, no less.

No. 7 Utah thumping UCLA in all phases at halftime of Pac-12 South showdown

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In the past month or so of Pac-12 play, no team has been quite as dominant as No. 7 Utah has been. In the same span, no team has looked more improved than UCLA.

The two clashed on Saturday night in Salt Lake City and staged a rather interesting battle for the top of the Pac-12 South standings, with the Utes jumping out to a 28-3 halftime lead over the pesky Bruins in what is shaping up to be a defining game for both sides the rest of the month.

UCLA had their chances to make this far more interesting than the score would have indicated, having blown several opportunities inside their opponent’s 35 yard line (grand total of three points on four trips). Worst of all QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson fumbled while taking a sack, which Mika Taufa picked off the turf and rumbled 68 yards the other way. That turned a close game into a bit of a runaway in the final minutes of the second quarter and spoiled a solid initial effort for the Bruins offense that had nearly doubled (62 yards) the amount of yards rushing that the Utes normally allow for an entire game.

It took awhile for Utah’s offense to get warmed up just like their counterparts on the other side of the ball but when things started clicking, it was all coming downhill for the home squad. Tyler Huntley threw for 145 yards on just 11 attempts and scrambled for a touchdown run before the midway mark while tailback Zach Moss was already up 116 yards and two trips into the end zone on a robust 9.7 yards per carry (he also chipped in with two catches for 65 yards too).

This is a huge game for both sides and it will be interesting to see how each responds coming out of the locker room given how both are typically second half teams. UCLA is still fighting to get to a bowl game this season but will have their hands full trying to pull of another miraculous road rally in a chilly environment as Utah hopes to impress the CFP Selection Committee some more and tighten their grip on the division standings at the same time.

Appalachian State scores 28 straight points to lead Georgia State at halftime

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Looking for a game or two to keep on your Group of 5 radar this evening? No. 25 Appalachian State is leading Georgia State 35-21 in Atlanta as the Mountaineers hope to remain in the running for a spot in the New Years Six bowl lineup at the end of the year.

Georgia State got the scoring started after the defense came up tall with two consecutive three-and-outs. After being forced to punt after a three-and-out, Appalachian State recovered a Georgia State fumble on the punt return by Quavian White. But the Panthers forced a second straight three-and-out to force another punt. Dan Ellington completed a short touchdown pass to Devin Gentry at the end of an 84-yard drive for the 7-0 lead.

Appalachian State answered with Zac Thomas completing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Corey Sutton, but big plays by the Panthers later in the first quarter would see Georgia State build a 21-7 lead. A 67-yard run by Destin Coates gave Georgia State the lead right back, and a Chris Bacon interception return for a touchdown off Thomas had the Panthers up two touchdowns. Thomas shrugged off the mistake and led the Mountaineers on a touchdown drive once they stepped back on the field. Another pass to Sutton was good for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 21-14 before the end of the first quarter.

The Mountaineers came back to tie things up at 21-21 with a Thomas touchdown run midway through the second quarter, and the defense gave the Mountaineers their first lead of the game when Shaun Jolley picked off a pass by Ellington and ran 30 yards the other way for the go-ahead touchdown.

We’ll see if Appalachian State can avoid taking its second loss of the season and remain in the driver’s seat for a spot in the first Sun Belt Conference championship game at the end of the year.

No. 13 Baylor takes huge lead over No. 10 Oklahoma to locker room

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Charlie Brewer has out Jalen Hurts-ed Jalen Hurts, making plays with his arm and his feet, while Hurts has committed two turnovers that led to two Baylor touchdowns. As a result, No. 13 Baylor holds a stunning 31-10 lead over No. 10 Oklahoma at the half in Waco.

Oklahoma forced a Baylor punt to open the game and, taking over at their own 47, quickly moved into the red zone, but Jalen Hurts was sacked on a 3rd-and-5 and the Sooners settled for a 39-yard Gabe Brkic field goal.

Charlie Brewer had Denzel Mims streaking wide open for what would have been a 78-yard touchdown on the first play of the ensuing drive, but skipped the ball to him. It didn’t matter. He hit Mims for 11 yards on the next snap, kicking off a 78-yard touchdown drive that Brewer himself capped with a 2-yard keeper.

After forcing one of the rarer sights in college football — an Oklahoma three-and-out — Baylor went up 14-3 on a 30-yard connection that missed earlier, as Mims got about as open as a receiver can get on a 30-yard fade route.

Facing an uncharacteristic 14-3 deficit, Oklahoma added to its own misery with a pair of Hurts turnovers. The first came deep in his own territory, when the quarterback placed the ball on the ground in an attempt to steady himself and simply lost the ball, which Terrel Bernard recovered for Baylor at the OU 27. Brewer kept for 23 yards on the final play of the first quarter, then added the final four on the first snap of the second.

On Oklahoma’s next possession, the Sooners reached the Baylor 36 when Grayland Arnold stepped in front of a Hurts pass and returned it 71 yards to the OU 9, where he was finally tackled by Hurts himself. A second Brewer-to-Mims scoring strike put Baylor up 28-3 at the 11:02 mark of the second quarter, and putting the Sooners on the wrong end of a 48-3 run dating back to the fourth quarter of the Iowa State game.

Oklahoma finally stopped the bleeding with an un-OU like 14-play, 75-yard, near 6-minute drive, one that was extended when a 4th-and-5 incompletion at the Bears’ 33 was wiped away due to defensive holding by Baylor’s Jameson Houston. Hurts’ 5-yard pass to Austin Stogner made the score 28-10 with 5:06 left in the first half. He closed the half 8-of-14 for 80 yards with a touchdown and an interception while rushing 12 times for 26 yards with a fumble.

Baylor answered the Sooners’ prolonged drive with one of its own, moving 61 yards in 13 plays, but stalling at the the OU 11 as the Bears settled for a 28-yard John Mayers field goal with three seconds left before halftime.

Brewer finished the half 13-of-18 for 140 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 14 times for a game-high 77 yards and two more scores.

OU will receive to open the second half.

New Mexico State, Rice win; Akron now lone remaining winless FBS team

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And then there was one.

Heading into Week 12, New Mexico State and Rice were two of three winless teams at the FBS level.  Playing FCS Incarnate Word at home, NMSU cruised to a 41-28ricericrice win to secure its first “W” of the season; heading east to Murfreesboro, Rice hung 31 points on Middle Tennessee State in the first half and then hung on in the second for a tight 31-28 win.

The Aggies’ win snapped an 11-game losing streak — they have still lost 14 straight to FBS teams — while the Owls, who came in as 14-point underdogs, had lost nine in a row prior to today.

So, with those twin wins, it leaves Akron as the lone FBS that has yet to win a game this season — and, based on past performance and future opponents, there’s no win in sight.

Akron has played 10 games this season, and, obviously, lost them all.  The closest they’ve come to a non-defeat?  An eight-point loss to a UMass team that’s 1-10 on the season.  The other nine games, they’ve lost by a combined score of 326-77.

For Week 13, Akron has drawn Miami (OH), which is one win away from winning the MAC East.  The following week, they get a 4-6 Ohio team that has beaten them 10 of the last 11 times they’ve played.

So, yeah, good luck Zips.