This Time Its 26-15 Cardinal
It was the typical and perfect autumn afternoon for football in Palo Alto today, complete with tail gaters, the battling bands, and 70 degree sunny weather. The atmosphere was one of cordial but edgy competitiveness that can be a precursor to one of those “instant classics”.
Then kickoff time came, and “Stanford football” broke out.
One hesitates to be too critical of “Stanford football”, because rushing and defense are not bad things, and winning, which the Cardinal does at lot, is the object of the game.
But 10 of 17 passing for just 60 yards, by Keller Chryst for the winning team, and sub 42% passing (Oregon State’s Marcus McMaryion, gettng pressured below, completed only 10 of 24 passes, for only 137 yards, and with 2 interceptions, is just plain ugly football.
This bothers Stanford Coach David Shaw not at all, and he was completely satisfied to run the clock out to claim a hard fought 26-15 win over Oregon State, as the Cardinal earned bowl eligibility for the 8th year in a row. And the Beavers saw the silly hope of a bowl game that has been garnering actual conversation locally lately officially laid to rest for the 3rd year in a row, and 5th time in the last 7 seasons.
It was a harbinger of things to come when Stanford fumbled on the 3rd play of the game, and Oregon State took over on the Cardinal 33, and quickly moved into the red zone on their first play, an 11 yard run by Ryan Nall, only to not only fail to punch it in, but come away empty handed when Garrett Owens missed a chip shot field goal wide.
Stanford opened a 10-0 first quarter lead, with a 56 yard break through and away scoring run by Bryce Love, above, the highlight.
Oregon State managed only a couple of big plays offensively all afternoon, and a couple of other really significant ones, but one of them came early in the second quarter when McMaryion perfectly led Victor Bolden on an out and up route right in front of the Stanford sideline, above, and Bolden sprinted away from the Cardinal secondary for a 75 yard touchdown that pulled the Beavers back within 10-7.
The Beavers wouldn’t get back to the end zone again until the first play of the 4th quarter though, a 3 yard McMaryion keeper, above, that followed up a 52 yard run by Ryan Nall (lead photo). Coupled with a 2 point conversion pass to Ricky Ortiz, below, it made it a 1 possession game as Oregon State pulled back within 23-15.
But the 52 yard run was the last play of the game for Nall, who hobbled off, but then paced back and forth in front of the Oregon State sideline for the rest of the afternoon, hoping to get back in, and showing no sign of lasting ill effects.
But Coach Gary Andersen seems to have a quota for plays Nall must miss when he comes out, running the game more like a high school all-star game than a game the Beavers need to win and actually can.
Everyone understands the need to protect Nall’s health, but the number of times the Beavers’ wrecking ball isn’t on the field when the team needs his production the most is troublingly large.
Stanford used good clock management to collect a Conrad Ukropina field goal and take a 13-7 halftime lead, and extended it to 16-7 on another Ukropina field goal early in the third quarter, capitalizing on a gift possession deep in Oregon State territory after Kevin Palma picked off a McMaryion pass to stop the first drive of the second half by the Beavers.
The final points of the game came on Ukropina’s 4th field goal (out of 5 attempts), capping a drive that only covered 43 yards, but also consumed over 5 minutes of the 4th quarter, and was highlighted by McCaffrey’s 23 yard run.
It was at once one of the high points of the game and season, yet also one of the best indicators of the problem with the Beavers that they were able to make a goal line stand that stopped McCaffrey from 1 yard out on 4th down, above, as the Cardinal attempted to administer the kill shot late in the 4th quarter.
It’s more than noteworthy whenever anyone stops the big red alignment of road graders cold, but when your game highlights are holding McCaffrey to 199 rushing yards, and just 1 touchdown instead of 2, then you have bigger issues.
Such as McMaryion missing Bolden on both 3rd & 3 and 4th & 3 as the Beavers tried to mount a miracle rally, only to hand the ball over to the Cardinal to run the clock out.
Forcing Stanford into 4 field goal attempts, a couple of them in the Oregon State red zone, was an accomplishment for the Beaver defense, but needing to make red zone stops time after time was not.
Oregon State players dominated all the defensive stat totals, but then the Beavers had to make twice the number of tackles that the Cardinal defense had to. Because Stanford had the ball less than a minute shy of having it twice as much of the time.
“Offensively we were inadequate except for some big plays, the sustained drives were non-existent, and Stanford controlled time of possession by almost 20 minutes,” Andersen said. “We won’t win in those situations. Those things have to change for us to have a chance to win.”
McCaffrey and Love were both healthy at the same time for the first time all season, and it resulted in 241 yards of total offense for McCaffrey, above, despite a punting strategy that produced limited yards, but no returned punts all evening by the Cardinal, and 89 more rushing yards by Love, as Stanford ran all over the Oregon State defense for 365 yards, even after the 11 yards given back in the process of running out the clock instead of running up the stats at the end.
“You got a glimpse of how we thought we were going to play this year,” Shaw said. “The combination of Bryce (Love) and Christian (McCaffrey), it’s so special.”
It certainly allowed Stanford to get away with get by with just 60 passing yards, as Chryst himself ran for 83.
Bolden was the game’s leading receiver, with 109 yards on just 4 catches, but had more non-catch targets than that, several of which were more a product of less accurate throws than they should have been.
Nall rolled up 77 yards on just 10 carries, and though Artavius Pierce again had some solid caries, finishing with 31 yards on 7 carries, why Nall only had 12 touches, including 2 short passes, was perplexing. (McCaffrey had 32 carries + 2 catches.)
The loss that leaves the Beavers sitting at 2-7 for the season, and 1-5 in the Pac-12, was their 7th loss in a row against Stanford, and the 5th time in a row Oregon State has lost in Palo Alto.
Oregon State continues their only multi game road stretch of the season next Saturday, with a trip to the Rose Bowl to take on a reeling 3-6 UCLA team that lost their 4th game in a row Thursday night in Boulder, falling to 1-5 in conference after falling 20-10 to the Buffs.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)