In the first fan vote in the history of STAT BOX STORIES, the showdown between #7 Oregon and #4 Stanford easily won out over games between#19 Nebraska and #12 Penn State as well as TCU at #5 Boise State. It is definitely one of the marquee match-ups on the college football schedule this weekend, pitting two Pacific-12 Conference teams against one another with each team holding Top 10 rankings in the Bowl Championship Series. Even with a loss on the season, the Ducks hold out the slimmest hope of being able to work their way into the National Championship picture; or, at least, a spot in one of the BCS Bowl Games if they can win out. Meanwhile, the Stanford Cardinal are sitting at 9-0 and hoping to win the inaugural Pac-12 Conference Championship Game on their way to one of the premier bowl games at the end of the season.
In NCAA Football 12, both Oregon and Stanford are rated pretty much identically. To give myself a challenge in playing the game for this entry, I decided to take control of the road team coming into a hostile environment. With an unbeaten season on the line–and a potential #1 NFL Draft Pick at quarterback–I knew that it would not be easy to come away from this game with a win, though I dearly needed one after my losses the past two days.
Clearly, offense was not difficult to come by in this wide open game, as the score line and scoring summary clearly illustrate. By halftime, the combined points total between the two teams had already exceeded the final total of the NCAA Football 12 game played last week between LSU and Alabama. Stanford elected to kick the ball off to begin the game and I put together a scoring drive ending with a mid-range touchdown pass to take the 7-0 lead. After my kickoff, it took a single play for the Cardinal to even up the score with a 77-yard touchdown run. With the ball back and visions of the scoreboard operator working overtime in my head, I tried to control the pace of the game by opting for more runs and chewed up nearly the rest of the first quarter before scoring my second touchdown of the game and a 14-7 lead. At the end of the first quarter, I held a strong advantage in Time of Possession–6:34 to Stanford’s 0:26–but still only had a 7-point lead to show for it.
The scoring didn’t slow down with the change of the quarter, either. Stanford tied game on a passing touchdown just over a minute into the second quarter and then their defense held strong to force me to go three-and-out and call the first punt of the game. With the score knotted at 14-all, Stanford began the drive down the field and I feared they would take a lead and start to put the game out of reach for me. Instead–in a play eerily reminiscent to a defensive touchdown I scored as LSU last week–my defense forced a turnover and returned an INT 76 yards for a touchdown.
With the tide suddenly turned and a 21-14 lead, the only other points scored before the half were traded field goal kicks. After so many points were scored early in the game, the third quarter was a decidedly quieter affair. The defenses for each team began to step their game up somewhat, and the only points scored came on another Oregon field goal. Oregon’s 10-point lead going into the final quarter was comfortable, but I wasn’t able to truly breathe easily until I punched the ball in from the 1-yard-line to make it a three possession game. Even though Stanford cut into that increased lead with a lengthy touchdown run not long after, their onside kick attempt after the score was easily recovered by my “hands team” to set up another clock-killing drive punctuated by a short touchdown run.
The final Stanford drive of the night came up empty and–with the Cardinal out of timeouts–all it took was a few kneeldowns to complete an upset victory.
Looking at the team statistics for the game gives me pause, as some of the numbers seem incredible even though I played the game myself. For example, I had no idea that Stanford had managed to rack up over 200 yards of rushing on me. Although 77 of those yards came on a single touchdown run, that still means that the Cardinal ran for 150 yards otherwise. Not a good showing by my rush defense over the course of the game. Of course, the defense picked itself up by keeping Stanford’s passing yards down and forcing the interception return for a touchdown at a key juncture in the game when it looked as though the Cardinal were going to assert control. On the plus side, my offense was very strong on third down, converting 10 out of 14 attempts including back-to-back conversions for first down on 3rd-and-9 plays of the game’s opening drive. Although the total yards skewed heavily in Stanford’s favor–nearly 200 yards more than Oregon–this was due in large part to how many kickoffs I made after the numerous scoring possessions, so the statistics lie to a certain degree there. Also of note is the final Time of Possession, which was much closer than how the first quarter would have suggested.
On the offensive side of the ball, it was definitely a big day for Stanford’s HB in terms of personal accomplishment; with 193 yards gained on the ground and 2 rushing touchdowns, he very well would have been Player of the Game had the result ended up being different. Oregon’s HB #21 locked up that Player of the Game honor despite earning 93 fewer yards. I’m sure if the virtual Stanford HB player had consciousness or an opinion, even he wouldn’t want to earn such an honor if it meant accepting the big loss at home.
With the conclusion of this NCAA Football 12 match-up here at STAT BOX STORIES, Week #2 is pretty much all wrapped up. Do be sure to come by the site tomorrow, however, to see your choices for the Week 3 fan vote where you will decide from multiple options which game I’ll play for Madden NFL 12 next week!