CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

College football: In BCS race, the West is the late-night place to be

Stanford's win over Oregon State and Fresno State's OT defeat of San Diego State weren't widely seen but could have big BCS impact.

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The late-show time slot on Saturday night continues to provide enthralling bedtime stories.

Ah, but what do those games mean anyway?

This weekend, two heart-stoppers only affected the Bowl Championship Series title race plus the Rose and Fiesta bowls.

In case you nodded off: Stanford, the highest-ranked one-loss school in the BCS chase, survived a furious rally to hold off Oregon State, 20-12.

The game was deemed so over by Beavers fans that they started filing out of Reser Stadium in the fourth quarter.

Wait . . . there was really something better to do after 10 p.m. in Corvallis?

Stanford held a 20-9 lead and the ball with less than five minutes left. It was like a wolf eating a lamb chop — just try taking it away.

Trying to overcome an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit against Stanford's clock-management dominance is like trying to play catch-up in basketball against Dean Smith's "Four Corners."

The Cardinal needed one first down to clinch the victory when senior tailback Tyler Gaffney inexplicably fumbled deep in Stanford territory.

"I mean it was unacceptable," Gaffney said later. "They put trust in me and I lost a little focus."

The Beavers chipped the lead to eight with a field goal, forced a Stanford punt, and got the ball back with easily enough to time to drive down field and tie the score.

And drive Oregon State did, all the way to Stanford's doorstep. The Cardinal prevailed only when the stalwart defense broke up a fourth-down pass in the end zone.

Stanford salvaged victory to move up to No. 5 in the BCS standings Sunday, behind Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State.

Stanford can now single-mindedly look forward to the Nov. 7 showdown against Oregon in Palo Alto.

The Cardinal played well enough to beat Oregon State, but . . .

"It wasn't good enough to beat Oregon," Stanford Coach David Shaw pronounced, "or be in the next game against Oregon."

The other late-night thriller played out near the Mexican border, where 17th-ranked Fresno State needed overtime to beat San Diego State, 35-28. The win kept Fresno State undefeated and positioned (for now) to claim the school's first BCS bowl spot.

Fresno State improved to No. 16 in the BCS, temporarily meeting the threshold for a trip to this year's Fiesta Bowl.

The Bulldogs appeared doomed when San Diego State kicker Seamus McMorrow set up for a 37-yard field-goal attempt that would have won the game in regulation.

The kick came out low, though, and was blocked by Marcel Jensen to force overtime.

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