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Ugly Ducks Grounded By Cardinal D

My how quickly heavenly dreams can turn in to nightmarish hellscapes.

Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks reaction from earlier in the game as the Ducks struggled all night.

In what was supposed to be a resume building win to help launch No. 2 Oregon even further in to the BCS stratosphere, their hopes for a second trip to the BCS National Championship game perhaps came crashing to the FieldTurf at Autzen Stadium Saturday night, as the mighty Ducks fell in gut-wrenching fashion to No. 13 Stanford in overtime, 17-14.

The Oregon coaches would likely tell you that there were a laundry list of issues that contributed to Oregon suffering it's first defeat of the season, but in particular, there were two or three glaring things that can be most readily recited for what went wrong for the Ducks on a cold November night.

Topping the list undoubtedly was the effectiveness of the physical Stanford defense in grounding arguably the nation's most potent offense. From the opening snap to Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson's game-winning 37-yard field goal in overtime, the Cardinal controlled the line of scrimmage and made Oregon one dimensional, holding the Ducks to 198 yards rushing on 40 carries. Despite the Oregon defense forcing three Stanford turnovers, the Oregon offense couldn't come away with a single point, a telling statistic that represents quite possibly the biggest difference in the game.

"We didn't capitalize enough on the turnovers our defense created, offensively, to put ourselves in a situation where we're on top," said Oregon head coach Chip Kelly.

"I think you had to mix it up on them, obviously, and I think we threw it 37 times. You couldn't be one-dimensional against such a good front. You got to keep them off-balance a little bit and I think on our [scoring] drives, it worked -- we kept them off balance -- but I'm just real impressed with [Stanford]."

A point of consternation for fans and those examining Oregon's loss to Stanford Saturday will be Kelly's decision to run the ball late in the fourth quarter on two separate occasions as the Ducks had the ball and were driving following a nine-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Hogan to Zach Ertz to tie the game at 14.

The Ducks were stuffed and forced into long third down situations where Oregon redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota was unsuccessful in converting the first down. Oregon's abundance of timeouts towards the end of regulation was one reason Kelly felt comfortable keeping the ball on the ground.

"We had timeouts to use, so you can run the ball in those situations," said Kelly. "They were in some nickel looks where, if you block it right, you're going to run it in the right situation. We tried to hit Kenjon [Barner] twice up in there.

"We had timeouts to use, so that's why we ran the football."

Where the offense faltered, Oregon's special teams -- particularly the place kicking unit led by Alejandro Maldonado -- broke down completely. Much like last season's devastating loss at home to USC almost one year to the day, Stanford's defeat of Oregon can be partially blamed on the mishaps of Maldonado, who in a sick twist of fate, missed a 41-yard field goal that would have kept the Ducks alive in the overtime period. Maldonado, who also missed a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter, spoke with emotion in his eyes after enduring punishing deja vu.

"The way I kick at practice is the way I got to put it out on the field," said Maldonado, who beat out Rob Beard for placekicking duties following the win at USC two weeks ago. "I was putting in results and that's why I won the job, but the results didn't show up today."

When asked if he believed he would retain placekicking duties, Maldonado simply replied, "I don't know."

With this being the Colton, Calif. native's second go-around missing a critical kick late in a season-defining game, Maldonado says he plans to do exactly what he did following the USC loss: Let the kick go.

"Rebounding from what happened last year, you just have to let go of it," said Maldonado. "That's the past. What happened last year, that won't change what happened today. It had no affect on me today. It was Stanford and it was us and that was it. It was no one else."

The Ducks are now in the unenviable position of having to not only take care of business on the field next week at Oregon State, but also scoreboard watch and hope chaos occurs ahead of them in the BCS Standings. With Kansas State losing to Baylor on Saturday and teams such as Notre Dame, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida still having to play difficult games remaining on their respective schedules, the Ducks' national title hopes aren't completely dashed, though they are on life support.

"It's hard to lose a game and be in the national championship thing, particularly when you lose one late in the season," said Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. "Bottom line is, the kids are probably hurting a little bit and we need to regroup, which we will.

"We've got to get ready and get excited to play our next Super Bowl which is the Civil War against Oregon State."

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