STANFORD, Calif. — A first quarter interception. A third-quarter fumble. An interception returned for a touchdown that capped a disappointing night.
Against a high-powered Oregon offense that Stanford's defenders couldn't catch, those rare miscues by Andrew Luck were enough to probably end his hopes for a national or Pac-12 championship and dent his Heisman Trophy candidacy.
Luck turned the ball over three times and No. 3 Stanford allowed sixth-ranked Oregon to score three long touchdowns in the Cardinal's 53-30 loss on Saturday night to snap a school-record 17 game winning streak.
"It's disappointing obviously," Luck said. "We haven't had that long to digest it. You always want to win every game. Disappointment? Yes, but life goes on."
The Ducks (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12) once again spoiled a season for Luck and the Cardinal (9-1, 7-1 Pac-12). They handed Stanford its only loss a year ago to deny the Cardinal a conference title with a 52-31 win at home.
Luck then bypassed the NFL draft despite being the presumptive No. 1 pick to play one more year at Stanford, with hopes of winning the Pac-12 and possibly the national title, but was done in by the Ducks again. He threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns but threw two interceptions for the first time since last year's Oregon game, lost a fumble and was sacked a career-high three times — one fewer than he had all season.
"I knew it wasn't going to be a cake walk," he said. "I had no grand illusions of just showing up and things just falling for our team because we just show up on Saturdays. We still have football left. For that I'm grateful."
Oregon now has the inside track to the Pac-12 North title and Stanford needs to win its final two games and hope for another at-large bid to a BCS game.
LaMichael James ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns and Darron Thomas threw for three scores as the Ducks once again proved to be too much for the Cardinal.
Oregon's no-huddle, spread-option ended any hopes of Stanford's first national championship. Instead, the Ducks are suddenly back in the BCS title mix after rolling off their ninth straight victory — and first against a top-five team on the road team — since a season-opening loss against top-ranked LSU.
"It means nothing until the first week of December," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "We've lost one. We lose two we're not even in the discussion."
Thomas threw for 155 yards and three touchdowns to anchor one big-play burst after another. He tossed scores of 59 yards to Josh Huff and 41 yards to De'Anthony Thomas to leave sold-out Stanford Stadium stunned and silent.
The Cardinal did little with the few mistakes Oregon made.
James muffed a punt that and gave Stanford a chance at the Oregon 34. The Ducks quickly stifled Stanford again, and Eric Whitaker missed a 48-yard field badly right.
"They took advantage of our turnovers," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "We got turnovers and didn't turn them into points. That's the bottom line. When you play a team with that kind of speed and that kind of talent and is as well-coached as they are, if you turn the ball over, you can't win."
When the Cardinal got the ball back, Isaac Remington smashed Luck and forced the quarterback to fumble. Oregon recovered and James followed with a 4-yard score on fourth-and-2 to give the Ducks a commanding 36-16 lead in the third quarter.
All the Luck in the world couldn't bring Stanford back.
The two offenses traded scores until Boseko Lokombo intercepted a pass by Luck and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown to give the Ducks a 53-30 lead. Luck dived for the tackle at the goal line and got planted in the grass.
While a pair of the nation's highest-scoring offenses showed imperfections, Oregon pounced on the mistakes and ran away with points each time.
Dewitt Stuckey also intercepted a pass by Luck that setup the Ducks' first score, a 4-yard touchdown pass from Darron Thomas to Lavasier Tuinei that started an avalanche of Oregon offense.
James ran through the middle untouched for a 58-yard touchdown to extend Oregon's lead to 15-6 early in the second quarter. The Ducks threatened to pad their lead again until Delano Howell, with a cast around his right hand, punched the ball loose from Kenjon Barner and Stanford recovered.Comment on this story
Kelly gambled all night and his offense made him look good.
On fourth-and-7 from the Stanford 41, De'Anthony Thomas took a short pass and raced down the sideline for a 41-yard TD that pushed Oregon in front 22-9 late in the first half. With the Ducks again about to make the game a rout, Luck answered in impressive fashion.
He led an eight-play, 84-yard drive capped by a threaded 13-yard TD pass to Whalen for the second time. The crucial score with 24 seconds remaining in the half trimmed Oregon's lead to 22-16.
"Against a great team like this you can't make mistakes, you can't have a guy out of place," defensive lineman Ben Gardner said. "You can't miss a tackle otherwise it goes for 60 yards and a touchdown. That happened too many times."