Playing without former Heisman Trophy frontrunner Bryce Love, whom the Cardinal couldn’t get ready for a made for national television opportunity to showcase after he suffered a twisted ankle 12 days ago in their win over Oregon, 20th ranked Stanford was effectively ineffective until the end of the game Thursday night at Reser Stadium.
While that had a lot to do with Love’s absence, combined with Stanford’s offensive line’s inability to generate any push, Cardinal quarterback Keller Chryst mostly showcasing his limitations (Chryst completed only 16 of 33 passes, for only 141 yards), and questionable play calling, it also had a lot to do with an energetic effort by the Oregon State defense.
Stanford played their worst game in several years, and Oregon State played their best game of the season defensively. Bright Ugwoegbu had the best game of his career, and Jonathan Willis was all over the field, and even recorded a sack of Cryst, the only one the Cardinal has allowed in their last 5 games, among his co-game high 10 tackles.
Landry Payne had a game high 7 solo tackles on his way to matching Willis’ 10 total, and Omar Hicks-Onu snared an interception, just the 4th one the Cardinal have collectively chucked up this season.
Stanford was held to just 81 yards rushing, and no one could readily recall the last sub-100 yard ground game by the Cardinal, because it virtually never happens. Their 222 total yards was about half their season average.
And though they lacked any downfield ability to stretch the field, the Beaver offense mounted a ground game that produced 2 touchdowns, and a time of possession advantage of over 5 ½ minutes, another almost unheard of stat when dealing with Stanford.
Ryan Nall ran for a game high 84 yards, and frequently ran the offense out of the wildcat formation, including handing off to Thomas Tyner for an 18 yard touchdown run that put Oregon State up 14-6 on the opening drive of the second half.
Darell Garretson was even less effective throwing than Chryst, connecting on only 13 of 21 tosses, for just 126 yards, and an interception, but he had arguably his best ball handling game, effectively keeping the Stanford defense guessing with fakes.
It produced the game’s first touchdown, when the Beavers went up 7-3 with just under 6 minutes to go in the first half when Garretson sold the handoff to Nall and bounced through a hole on the right side of the line for a 3 yard touchdown that capped a 12 play, 75 yard drive.
He even threw a ball to tackle Fred Lauina for a key gain to set up the score.
But in the end, Oregon State failed in all 3 phases of the game, and Stanford got away with a 15-14 loss.
The Beavers survived a 6 yard punt by Nick Porebski on their first possession of the game when the Cardinal’s Jet Toner hooked a 34 yard field goal, but the game was a close as it was (and it was a 1 possession game throughout) because Jordan Choukair’s 52 yard field goal attempt in the second quarter was just barely short, just as was his 52 yard kick that would have forced overtime in Oregon State’s last game, the 36-33 loss to Colorado. Choukair’s range has been established as 50 yards, and not an inch more.
Still, Oregon State had a 14-9 lead when they took over at their own 36 with only 3:16 left. Nall and Tyner combined for a first down, and forced the Cardinal to take a time out as the clock wound down to 2:36 to go to another epic Oregon State Thursday night upset of a ranked visitor.
But Nall suffered his second fumble of the night on the next play, forced by Stanford’s Peter Kalambayi and recovered by Harrison Phillips. Subsequently, the Oregon State secondary finally broke down.
Playing down 7 players who have been regulars at some point this season, including 4 corner backs, Stanford finally overcame the out-sized and overmatched Oregon State back line.
After 3 incompletions, Chryst kept the drive to decide the game alive with a 25 yard 4th down completion to 6’5” 250 lb. tight end Kaden Smith.
And with 20 seconds left, and no time outs remaining, Chryst connected with 6’3”, 222 lb. JJ Arcega-Whiteside for a 3 yard score on an isolation play in the right corner of the end zone to pull out the 15-14 win.
“We knew when they got down there they were going to throw fades,” Oregon State Interim coach Cory Hall said. “We understood there is a size difference. There was going to be a matchup issue.”
The Beavers had no one to play in the secondary taller than 6’1”, and only 1 bigger than 205 lbs.
Oregon State would fight on, but Garretson’s hail mary pass as time ran out resulted in that one interception he threw on the night by Stanford’s Brandon Simmons.
Stanford celebrated, and got out of Reser with their 8th consecutive win over the Beavers, albeit their closest one in the sequence, a 6-2 record, and a 5-1 record in conference, putting them in first place in the Pac-12 North.
Oregon State dropped to 0-5 in the conference, and 1-7 overall, ensuring the Beavers of their 4th consecutive losing season, and 6th in the last 8 years, further frustrating the fans who did turn out in a half full stadium, but at least did see their Beavers in the game until the end of the last play for the second game in a row.
The announced ticket and credential distribution of 30,912 greatly exaggerated an actual turnout that may have topped 20,000, but never reached 25 thousand despite a strong student turnout, which was only as large as it was because of the expectation to see Love, whose’ scratch wasn’t announced until about 2 hours before game time. A move that couldn’t have made conference commissioner Larry Scott, who was in attendance, happy. It was the lowest turnout at least since the makeup of the Nicholls State game, quite disappointing given the opponent was a top 20 teams, and tickets were widely available that had been discounted to just $6, with some costing as little as $2.
Absent Love, the competitive but offensively sloppy and choppy game couldn’t have held the ESPN audience nearly as well as it held the few hardy Beaver backers and mere handful of Stanford fans that were a party to why week night games, especially ones not on a Friday night, are frequently a disaster.
Oregon State will now hit the road for a pair of road games, at California next Saturday, and Arizona on Veterans Day, before returning home for their final home game against Arizona State.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)