Park: Oregon's faltering provides Cardinal chance to assert Pac-12 dominance – The Stanford Daily
Quite literally the only thing I remember from high school English is one scene from “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” in which the two eponymous protagonists are seen flipping a coin again and again and again and again and again ad nauseum, with the coin showing heads 76 times in a row, much to the comical consternation of the duo.
According to my English teacher, that scene was meant to introduce the absurdity of the world in which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern live, provide some comic relief and make some deep social commentary about the clash between the notions of free will and chance or something philosophical like that. I’m an engineering major now; it’s not my job to remember these things.
Anyway, that scene kept replaying over and over in my head as I watched Utah absolutely disgrace Oregon on Saturday night.
Utah might not have scored 76 touchdowns in a row against the Ducks, but they might as well have. The absurdity of what happened at Autzen Stadium on Saturday was on par with that of a coin landing heads 76 times in a row, anyhow.
The Utes, known primarily as an offensively-challenged team over the last few years, found just about every possible way in the book to score, from the halfback pass to a gorgeous fake punt return touchdown that evoked memories of Devin Hester.
As the night grew ever longer and Utah held a four-touchdown lead in the third quarter, the game grew ever uglier, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the debacle on the screen — partly because there’s a certain therapeutic element to watching Oregon lose, but mostly out of utter disbelief.
I don’t think anybody in the country could ever have fathomed the possibility of Oregon losing in such a fashion. Talk all you want about Alabama’s slow-grinding death machine, but Oregon’s light-speed, maniacal attack held an aura of invincibility nearly unparalleled in the country, with an almost-unblemished track record and big win after big win to show for it.
But cracks in the foundation have been appearing increasingly over the last few years, with losses to LSU, Stanford, Arizona, Ohio State and most recently Michigan State to show for it. And then on Saturday, with a deafening thud, Medusa was beheaded, with Utah as Perseus slaying the monster.
That is to say, the once-impenetrable aura of invincibility in Eugene — the same aura that had experts predicting championship after championship for the Ducks, year after year — has now been shattered. Nobody’s afraid of Oregon and of the system installed by Chip Kelly anymore.
That leaves the door wide open now for Stanford to finally claim the respect that it deserves.
The Cardinal should absolutely feel slighted by the fact that they were always deemed “little brother” to Oregon in the North, the team that had to beat Oregon every year to prove that it belonged, unlike the Ducks, which got a free pass and the benefit of the doubt. Stanford has as many Pac-12 Championship wins as Oregon, remember?
That’s why it’s so much more imperative now that Stanford finishes this season strong and claims its stake to the vacated throne of the Pac-12 North. It will certainly take the Cardinal a while to build anything close to the “dynasty” that Oregon felt like it had over the last several years, but Stanford is in great position to stake its claim.
With that in mind, it might not necessarily be a bad thing that Stanford seems to be an offense-first team this year, because part of the aura of Oregon was that the Ducks’ relentless superiority over other teams could always be counted on to show on the scoreboard.
For as good as Stanford’s defense has traditionally been, worse teams would always appear to be in the game because the Cardinal offense wouldn’t have enough firepower to emphasize the talent gap between Stanford and its opponents. As much as I hate to say it (and as much as Stanford fans know it shouldn’t be the case), margin of victory matters when you’re trying to build a reputation as a dominant power.
You not only need to win, but you need to win convincingly, especially in a conference like the Pac-12 where most people are asleep by the time the late game finishes up, and lots of “experts” and fans only check the scores after they wake up.
Now, I’m not saying Stanford needs to become Oregon, and I know that Stanford’s coaching staff couldn’t care less about the outside reputation of the program as long as it kept winning.
But if Stanford can shed its perceived “underdog” persona and convincingly establish itself as the new powerhouse of the Pac-12 North, it would pay dividends in continuing to draw top recruits to The Farm and point the eyes of the nation out West to Stanford Stadium on game days. It would revitalize the Stanford fan culture and make Stanford football a truly noteworthy event, week after week. It would make it impossible for the majority of the student body to remain ambivalent about Stanford football.
With how well Stanford has been recruiting, we know that the football will be good for years to come — and if the aura of invincibility shifts to the Cardinal, students, fans, media and recruits alike will react accordingly. And there’s nothing but good that can come of that.
Do-Hyoung Park, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, has likely not read a book or taken an English class since he read “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” in high school. Tell him why his interpretation of the play is dead wrong at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.