When Oregon lost to Stanford, 26-20, Thursday night in Palo Alto, fans of the Ducks program no doubt felt they’d been down this road before. And they had.
It’s almost haunting to consider that in another Thursday-night game in November — this one in 2007 — Oregon’s national-title aspirations went bust at Arizona, in similarly dispiriting fashion. The No. 2 Ducks, who were 8-1 at the time, lost to Arizona Nov. 15, 2007, when quarterback Dennis Dixon crumpled to the turf with a knee injury. Oregon fell, 34-24, and lost its next two games as well.
Before the Stanford game, a report by a Eugene TV station surfaced that quarterback Marcus Mariota would be playing with a sprain of a knee ligament. There’s no doubt Mariota didn’t look himself, running six times for minus 16 yards, a few of the carries as sacks.
Mariota and Oregon coaches acknowledged the injury, but only vaguely.
As much as the removal of Mariota as a running threat may have hurt Oregon, I wonder whether it didn’t hurt him throwing as well. He was severely short on a would-be touchdown to Josh Huff inside the Stanford 10 that would have given the Ducks an early 7-0 lead. He also misfired on a fourth-down call to Bralon Addison in the corner of the end zone in the first half.
Because Stanford dominated both lines of scrimmage, it’s tough to say Mariota’s injury was the difference in the game. But without him at peak efficiency, Oregon had little shot.