STANFORD -- Shayne Skov showed up for his postgame media session wearing horn-rimmed costume glasses. So did his teammates. According to one, the Stanford linebacker had handed out the glasses in the locker room.

"We're proud to be Nerd Nation," explained Skov. "This was Revenge of the Nerds."

Well, more of a sequel. This was Revenge Of The Nerds Who Got Into The Heads Of Oregon And Made The Ducks Offense Largely Vanish.

You might remember that Ducks offense? Flashy uniforms? Touchdown machine? Unstoppable force of nature? That offense never showed up Thursday night until a brief (and much too late) cameo appearance in the fourth quarter of a game that the Cardinal won, 26-20.

Full marks to Oregon for never quitting and for making things tense toward the end. But those who watched the entire game will realize how deceptive the final score was.

The truth is, Stanford's defense won the day, holding Oregon scoreless for all but the final 11 minutes of the game. The truth is, after the Ducks' first offensive drive of the game, they never again had the ball with a chance to take the lead.

And the truth is, the words of Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas were pinging in the Stanford players' eardrums all evening. Earlier this week, Thomas said he expected the Ducks to score 40 points against the Cardinal.

The Stanford players, owing to their superior SAT scores and intelligence, did not publicly admit that the boast mattered at all and would not have an effect on how they approached the game.

But it did. And it did.

"People can write what they want and say what they want," Skov said. "But what counts is the guys that take the field."

His coach, David Shaw, was even more direct.

"Talk doesn't win games," said Shaw. "We talk with our pads. And we did that tonight."

And not for the first time. For the second straight year in the Stanford-Oregon matchup, brains and brawn defeated flash and fashion. Last season, Stanford beat Oregon 17-14 in Eugene.

Thursday night was even more impressive. There are textbooks written by Stanford's Nobel Prize winners that are not as comprehensively efficient as the textbook authored by Shaw, his staff and his players on Thursday.

Stanford's offense controlled the ball most of the night. Stanford's defense kept the Oregon offense from doing any major damage, at times exerting territorial control -- if not dictatorial control -- over Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota, a Heisman Trophy candidate. As the night progressed, you could see Mariota start to hesitate and double-clutch, leading to off-target passes.

Was that the result of Cardinal nerds crawling into Mariota's brain and making him think twice? Sure looked that way. Shaw said that one of the biggest keys was keeping Mariota's feet from gaining too many yards when the pass plays broke down. That is his specialty. A banged-up leg might have been partially responsible -- although Mariota was not officially injured -- but he was held to minus-16 net yards on six official carries.

"He got outside a few times," Shaw said, "but they weren't touchdowns. They were first downs."

Meanwhile, the Stanford tackles were hitting hard enough to cause four Oregon fumbles, two of which the Ducks coughed up to the Cardinal. There was also a fourth-down stop inside the Stanford 5-yard line. Add it all up and that's why, when the Cardinal players gazed up at the scoreboard at the start of the fourth quarter, Oregon still had zero points. The Ducks hadn't been held scoreless for that long in four years.

"I wasn't surprised," Shaw said, "because I know what we're capable of defensively. ... The biggest factors were the turnovers, first and foremost, and no big plays. ... It's making tackles. These guys are tough to tackle and our guys did a great job."

Skov, mayor of the Nerd Republic, concurred in a policy speech.

"We don't concede points," Skov said. "What happens between the lines is dictated by us. That's the only thing we can control. And that's how we play. ... It's effort, intensity and communication."

It's also having an offense that scores 26 points against a pretty good Oregon defense. That helped, too. Kevin Hogan, the Cardinal quarterback, had the efficient game he needed to have.

"I was expecting something like this," Hogan said. "I go up against our defense every day. I knew they weren't intimidated. I was expecting something like what happened."

Oregon finally scored with 10:11 left in the fourth quarter on a pass play from Mariota to Daryle Hawkins. This was followed by a blocked field goal return for another Ducks touchdown with 5:07 remaining and a recovered onside kick that led to another touchdown.

But Stanford stopped the bleeding when Jeff Trojan recovered the next onside kick attempt with 2:10 left in the fourth quarter. The Cardinal then held onto the ball and ran out the clock.

"You knew they were going to make a run," Shaw said of the Oregon fourth-quarter surge. "We were ready for it, we knew it was going to happen, and then it started. It didn't feel like it was ever going to end. But our guys didn't panic.

"We talked about it, talked about not panicking. People play them tight, and then they make a play, and next thing you know it's a waterfall. But we wanted to turn the faucet off. Our guys did that."

So it turns out that the Stanford players were not just proud nerds but successful plumbers. If they stare hard enough with their new glasses, they might be able to see all the way to Pasadena.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercPurdy.