It is rare when a football game between two top ranked 25 teams comes down to the second to last possible play of the game. When it does though, it’s hard to find more drama anywhere else. If you weren’t able to watch the second half of the Oregon / UCLA game, don’t worry, the Ducks ran away with it. The Oregon State / Stanford game on the other hand would end up being arguably the best game of the day only behind South Carolina’s double overtime comeback against Missouri.
It was one of those games that as a fan on the losing side, you say, “We almost had it,” just that one play which by the way the Beavers would have needed a two point conversation and still win out in OT, but nonetheless it felt so close. But was it really just one play; Cardinal fans could be saying if we only wouldn’t have fumbled to give Oregon State a field goal, we could have run the clock out and won by at least eleven. This can go on for a while, this play then that play oh and then that other one too. In the end you could say you nearly had them if a quarter of the game went differently.
To be honest though, there actually was one play that did decide the outcome of this game. Hate to put most of the blame on a true freshman but you cannot deny that Victor Bolden’s fumble on the second half kickoff return was not the ultimate difference maker. Don’t believe me? Just look at the numbers.
It took Stanford nearly two entire quarters to finally get in the end zone against the Beavers defense and another seventeen minutes for their third after the easy second touchdown. The Beavers won the turnover battle two to one; they barely had more offensive yards in fifteen and seventeen more minutes of possession time then Stanford. That last stat more than any should have meant a win for the Beavers. Stanford has only lost the time of possession battle twice the entire year, once in their loss to Utah and once in a win over Army, only because Army somehow runs the ball more than Stanford. Coming into last night, Stanford has roughly twenty minutes of total extra possession time than their opponents, ground and pound while taking time off the clock is their game and Oregon State beat them at it.
Going back to the fumble, it put Stanford at Oregon State’s 12-yard line and ultimately gave Stanford their easiest touchdown of the game. Stanford was barely able to get two touchdowns in the game coming off of 66 and 73 yard drives, their third longest drive was only 41 yards which resulted in a fumble. It would be fair to say Stanford would not have scored a third touchdown without that turnover and Oregon State could have ended up with more points as a result or if needed, they could have gone for it on fourth down instead of kicking the field goal at the end of the game.
Ultimately I want to just say this: in a sports world where fans and analysts could say this play or that play decided the game, it was the fumble by Bolden that ended up being the difference in this one after Oregon State played a near perfect game against Stanford. And sorry Beaver fans, in the words of UCLA head coach Jim Mora, you did not play tonight for any moral victories, you played to win and you didn’t and now no longer hold your own fate for the Pac-12 North title.