There's nothing worse than watching a favorite football team lose a game that they had well in hand, before they make a bunch of dumb-ass mistakes that snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.
That's what happened to the Oregon Ducks this afternoon.
Sure, their play sucked in much of the first half. But Oregon had a 24-17 lead at 1:59 left in the fourth quarter with Stanford on its own 4-yard line.
There should have been even less time left on the clock if Oregon hadn't inexplicably gone for a pass on its last possession instead of running the ball, as the Ducks had been doing successfully.
So that was a bad coaching mistake.
Then Kayvon Thibodeaux gets hit with a targeting penalty -- helmet to helmet contact -- that gives Stanford fifteen penalty yards. Really dumb move on the part of Thibodeaux.
Which was followed up by Brandon Dorlus getting a roughing the passer penalty, giving Stanford another fifteen penalty yards.
Thus Oregon gifts Stanford 30 of the 96 yards they needed, plus about 40 seconds extra time because of the absurd coaching decision to attempt a pass when Oregon had been doing a great job using up the clock near the end of the game.
And this was after Stanford's starting quarterback had to leave the game with an injury. His backup made some great plays, including a two yard pass that tied the game after a pass interference penalty on the Ducks gave Stanford one more play with no time left on the clock.
Stanford scores a touchdown in overtime. Oregon does nothing. Game over for the 3rd ranked Ducks.
I've experienced a lot of heartbreak watching Oregon games during the 50 years I've lived in this state. This one depressed me more than any I can recall. But maybe I'm blocking out a previous traumatic game akin to this one.
It just seemed like a broken promise of sorts.
I'd arranged my afternoon around watching the game. It was a nice day. I could have done some chores that beckoned on our ten acres. However, nothing seemed more important than watching Oregon take another step toward what hopefully would be a place in the college football playoff for a national championship.
Turns out the Ducks did take a big step. Backward.
Again, it was the way Oregon lost that was so disturbing. Like, maybe, just maybe, the coaching staff should have drummed into the defensive player's brains in the last two minutes, "No stupid penalties!" I wouldn't have minded Stanford beating Oregon. Instead, Oregon beat itself.
The 30 yards of totally unnecessary penalties was the difference in the game, along with the failure to take more time off the clock by running instead of passing on the Duck's last possession in regulation.
I rely on John Canzano of the Oregonian to put a game like this in perspective. Reading his post-game piece made me feel a bit better to know that my negative take on how Oregon performed fit with the view of a top sports columnist.
Oregon worked hard to lose on Saturday. It was without center Alex Forsyth. Play caller Joe Moorhead was out sick. The Ducks called passes when they should have rushed and UO had two players ejected for targeting. Oregon also blew a line of assignments, missed a bunch of tackles, and mismanaged the clock.
...Up by seven with two minutes to go? The No. 3 team in America? All those four and five-star players? Oregon blew the lead and left with a 4-1 record while a bunch of giddy Stanford engineering and computer science majors jumped the railing and hopped around on the field in front of them.
Put this 2021 Stanford game on the very top of the pile of a bunch of painful defeats to the Cardinal. Right up there with the losses in 2001, 2009, 2012 and 2013. Saturday, in fact, marked the fifth time in the last 20 years that the Cardinal beat a Ducks team ranked in the Top 10.
...Blame the Pac-12 refs?
I can’t go there today, folks.
Not while quarterback Anthony Brown Jr. was so shaky with his reads. Not with the defense wilting down the stretch. Not with so many points left on the field and so many questions unanswered. Credit to Stanford for the win, but let’s be real -- they’re just OK, aren’t they?
Oregon was a terrible, sloppy, uneven mess against that act.
...The Ducks players are going to get sick when they watch the film and observe all the ways in which they gave away what should have easily been a road win.