In the immediate aftermath of Oregon’s ghastly face-plant against Stanford on Saturday, losing a 31-24 overtime game that the Ducks seemingly had wrapped up, it was unclear which party had the right to be angriest.
Perhaps it was Oregon fans with the referees, who ejected star defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux for targeting and called three penalties on the Ducks to help Stanford mount a game-tying drive in the final two minutes.
Or maybe it was the Pac-12 office, which saw its best chance to put a team in the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2016 go up in smoke.
Then again, maybe the most aggrieved should be all the suckers who didn’t see this coming given that Mario Cristobal’s Ducks have had a habit of vomiting away winnable games, including in 2019 when they were on track for the Playoff and lost in late November to a mediocre Arizona State team.
But no matter who you’re mad at, the bottom line is that Oregon couldn’t close the deal despite numerous opportunities to do so and won’t reach the next level as a program until it ends this habit of losing at least one game a year to inferior teams.
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Everyone in college football can have a bad week, but the programs that contend for titles usually find a way to overcome it. That’s what Oregon should have done, especially given how good this team looked a few weeks ago when it beat Ohio State in Columbus. And when Oregon scored the go-ahead touchdown with 9:32 left Saturday to finally take the lead on Stanford, it appeared that’s exactly what the Ducks were going to do.
In fact, when Oregon had a first down at Stanford’s 39-yard line with 2:21 left, the game should have effectively been over. But two false start penalties and an incomplete pass gave the Cardinal a chance to get the ball back, and a pair of personal foul penalties gifted them 30 yards of field position.
The second one — a roughing the passer call — was undoubtedly questionable. And the defensive holding penalty on the final play of regulation that gave the Cardinal one more shot at the end zone from the 2-yard line wasn’t so great, either. If those flags end up costing the Pac-12 a Playoff berth, it’ll be one of the worst own-goals in the history of a league that specializes in own-goals.
Still, that’s what can happen when you don’t show up for a half and fall behind 17-7 and your players don’t execute down the stretch. Oregon can blame the refs or the league office for this loss, but at the end of the day, the Ducks had plenty of chances and just didn’t get the job done. That’s why Oregon is No. 1 in this week’s Misery Index, a weekly measurement of knee-jerk reactions based on what each fan base just watched.