by: CHRIS PIETSCH/EUGENE REGISTER-GUARD - Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota loses the handle on the football under pressure from the Stanford defense.STANFORD, Calif. — Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was already wearing a left knee brace, with speculation circulating that he had a bad injury.

He didn't run the ball much in Thursday's 26-20 loss to Stanford — six carries for net minus-16 yards, including three sacks — showing limited mobility, and he hobbled off the field with help after a coverage sack and a lost fumble with 9:04 left in the third quarter, only to return to throw two TD passes in the late UO rally.

Mariota said after the game that he played in some pain, but he still could play, even after being injured again.

"It is what it is," Mariota said. "A little banged up. Nothing too extraordinary. Just going to take it, get healthy and be ready for next week."

As far as pain: "I don't know. I didn't focus on pain. You gotta play with that kind of stuff. The moment (the injury) happened, I told myself to get up and fight through it. The guys needed me."

As far playing with a brace: "I gotta learn to play with it. I've not played with a knee brace before. I've been doing it in practice and getting used to it. I can't think about that stuff, because you play tentative when you think about that stuff."

• A lot would have to happen for Oregon to jump back into the BCS national championship picture. The Ducks have to win their remaining regular-season games — Utah, at Arizona, Oregon State — and hope for the likes of Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Baylor and Stanford to lose.

"We're not even focused on that," Mariota said. "It's the same mentality from Day One. Come back (to practice), watch film, prepare for the next game."

Said coach Mark Helfrich: "We don't hold the cards anymore. ... Our guys know the landscape of things. We don't control any of that."

Josh Huff, a senior receiver, appeared emotional near the end of the game. Then again, a Stanford player popped him pretty good with a hit in the second half, and Huff needed help off the field.

"It just hurts," he said. "Just to see everything we worked so hard for go down the drain. Our heart is just broken right now."

Added offensive coordinator Scott Frost: "We have a team that we feel can play anybody in the country. The way college football is set up, you can't slip up. ... Our kids will bounce back. I'm not worried about that for a second. We have great character kids in our program."

• Offensive and defensive line play led Stanford to victory.

"When you walk into our new (football) facility, the players-only entrance, to the left is the offensive line (photo), to the right is the picture of the defensive line," coach David Shaw said. "That is what football is about. You control the line of scrimmage, and you have a chance to win."

• Shaw said Thursday's victory was "a more complete performance" than last year's 17-14 win in Eugene.

And, Shaw said he wasn't surprised when the Ducks had zero points in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.

"I know what we're capable of, defensively," he said. "We had two huge turnovers (De'Anthony Thomas and Mariota fumbles) in the red zone that kept it to zero. It wouldn't have been zero without those turnovers."

He also knew Oregon would make its run.

"But our guys didn't panic," he said. "We talked about not panicking."

• A key play was linebacker Shayne Skov stripping Thomas of the ball and recovering the fumble at the Stanford 3 in the first half, a play overturned from an on-field ruling on review.

"I was like, 'Screw it,' I'm going to go for the ball," Skov said. "Try not to lose it. You're already down to the goal-line area. So go for the ball, knock it loose, and I picked it up."

• It was Oregon's speed and playmakers against Stanford's ground-pounding and line play, and great UO offense against great Stanford defense.

"We knew going into this game it was going to be a test of wills," Skov said. "Two different approaches, two very different tempos. One team was going to decide the way it was going to go."

Well, that was, obviously, Stanford. The Ducks had 312 yards offense, with only 62 yards on the ground and went 3 of 10 on third-down conversions. The UO running back totals: Byron Marshall, 11 carries, 46 yards; Thomas, six carries, 30 yards; Thomas Tyner, one carry, 2 yards.

"We knew they're dangerous," Skov added. "But it's about two hours of football, and we have a lot of veteran guys on the team and we weren't going to let (a loss) happen."

• Mariota said that while older players helped him get over last year's Stanford loss, he'll feel compelled to help younger players move on after the Thursday loss.

"I feel like that's what's going to happen," he said. "It sucks to say this, but I've gone through it. It takes a lot out of you, and a lot of these young guys are still going to learn how to handle it. Come back the next day and work, that's really all you can do.:

• Helfrich defended his decision to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the Stanford 4 in the first quarter, rather than put three points on the board and perhaps inject some confidence in either beleaguered senior Alejandro Maldonado or freshman Matt Wogan.

Mariota and Bralon Addison couldn't hook up on the fourth-down pass play.

"I don't (regret it)," the head man said. "I'd do it the exact same way. We had a play that I had a ton of confidence in. I would do it again."

• Tyler Gaffney set a Stanford single-game record with 45 carries, for 157 yards. He and QB Kevin Hogan were the main weapons as Stanford rushed for 274 yards, held the ball for more than 42 of the game's 60 minutes and converted 14 of 21 third-down conversion attempts.

Hogan added 57 yards rushing on eight carries, and had to throw only 13 passes, completing seven for 103 yards. He wasn't intercepted, and he wasn't sacked.

"It was a grinder," he said. "We made the holes. Oregon's really good at filling in with their safeties, with their backside backers. It came down to lowering the shoulder and hoping for the best.

"(The offensive line), you watch games, they do their job. They're moving guys back yards and yards."

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