Oregon State played well, especially considering they were short handed going into the game, and then got beat up some more. But with the game tied just past the mid-way point in the 4th quarter, Stanford did what Stanford does. The Cardinal ate up nearly 5 ½ minutes, kicked the go ahead field goal, fought a rear guard action to bleed away most of the rest of the game, and then forced a fumble, the only one of the game the Beavers suffered. It was the only turnover by either team in their last 2 meetings.
As a result, the Cardinal got out of Reser Stadium with a 27-24 win, and Oregon State continued to have a “Stanford problem”.
The Cardinal spent the week in the hotel across the street from Reser Stadium, after being exiled by Santa Clara county Covid restrictions that force the game to be moved from Palo Alto to Corvallis. Stanford Coach David Shaw even declared his team residents of Corvallis. As such, they made themselves comfortable enough to win their 3rd close game in 4 years in Reser.
Chance Nolan, in his second start for Oregon State in place of the injured Tristan Gebbia, who suffered a hamstring injury late in the win over Oregon, and had season ending surgery this week, improved markedly over his first start.
Playing with Jermar Jefferson in the backfield for the first time, after Jefferson missed last week’s loss at Utah due to Covid contact tracing, Nolan capped a 75 yard opening drive the Jefferson mostly sparked with an 18 yard touchdown toss to Tyjon Lindsey, below.
Stanford answered with their own 77 yard opening salvo, capped by Davis Mills’ 12 yard touchdown toss to Tucker Fisk, but a bad snap doomed the Cardinal’s conversion attempt, and left Oregon State with a 7-6 lead.
The Beavers were without starting receivers Trevon Bradford and Champ Flemmings, as well as Jesiah Irish, but it didn’t hamper them on their first drive of the 2nd quarter. Nolan hooked up with transfer Tre’Sahun Harrison, who was playing his first game for Oregon State, having become eligible after fall term ended, for a 61 yard completion, the longest play of the game by either team, to start the drive. After a Lindsey sweep, Nolan made a laser throw to Zeriah Beeson in the corner of the end zone for an 8 yard touchdown that opened a 14-6 lead.
But after what had looked like the beginning of a shootout, both defenses adjusted, and 5 of the remaining 6 drives in the first half ended in punts, the one exception being the one that led to a Stanford field goal that pulled the Cardinal within 14-9 at the break.
Stanford marched the length of the field after receiving the 2nd half kickoff, with Mills’ 57 yard pass to Simi Fehoko to the Oregon State 1 yard line doing most of the damage. Mills muscled his way in behind over a ton of his closest friends to take the first lead of the game for the Cardinal, going up 16-14.
Oregon State promptly answered. The Beavers twice used the Jack Colletto package to pick up first downs, something they ran 4 times on the night.
“We’ve got confidence in that package,” Oregon State Coach Jonathan Smith said. “We’ll use that some more.”
After the 2nd one in the series, Nolan connected with Lindsey again, this time for a 30 yard touchdown. Everett Hayes’ extra point put the Beavers back up 21-16.
Jefferson would limp off just before the touchdown throw, but he would return.
After an exchange of punts, Stanford began to assert themselves. With just over 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Cardinal embarked on a 90 yard drive that would chew up over 6 minutes. Along the way, Oregon State lost linebacker Avery Roberts to a right arm injury.
“I’ll know more about Avery Robers the first of the week,” Smith said, “but obviously he couldn’t return.”
Mills capped the drive with a 6 yard run, and after a penalty on the Beavers on the first 2 point conversion attempt, threw another pass out of the familiar Stanford heavy run look, to take a 24-21 lead not quite 2 minutes into the 4th quarter.
Jefferson returned for the ensuing drive, but not for long, again limping off with an apparent right ankle sprain, giving way to BJ Baylor.
“I don’t think its major,” Smith said of Jefferson’s injury, “but we’ll get more updates this coming week.”
Oregon State drove all the way to the Stanford 3 yard line, but a costly delay of game while the Beavers were lining up on a 4th and 2 at the Cardinal 3 yard line forced Oregon State to settle for a game tieing Hayes field goal.
Stanford answered with what would turn into the game winning 5 minute and 24 second drive. The game swinging play came on a 30 yard Mills completion to Humphreys, where the pass was initially broken up, but bounced off Humphreys’ knee up in the air, and landed on Humphreys’ chest while he was laying on his back.
A false start on 3rd and 1 at the Oregon State 16 forced Stanford to settle for a Jet Toner field goal, and the lead, but Oregon State still had 1:48 left, and all 3 of their time outs. And after the ensuing Cardinal kickoff sailed out of bounds, the Beavers only needed 30-35 yards to get into range for a Hayes field goal to force overtime.
An 11 yard Nolan scramble got the Beavers to the edge of field goal range, but the game then got away on another Nolan run, where he was tackled from behind by Gabe Reid, who knocked the ball out. The Cardinal’s Curtis Robinson recovered the ball, and Stanford had their 11th consecutive win over Oregon State, this one exactly matching the odds-makers prediction, as Stanford was a 3 point favorite. Three of them have been sealed by late 4th quarter Oregon State fumbles.
Nolan, above, completed 17 of 30 passes, for 221 yards and 3 scores, and also ran 8 times for 50 yards. His completion percentage suffered from a 3 of 8 stretch in the third quarter.
Mills, above, was overall more efficient, completing 21 of 29 passes, for 292 yards, and 1 score.
Jefferson, above, led Oregon State on the ground, with 80 yards on 18 carries before having to step out.
But it was Stanford’s Austin Jones, the latest in a seemingly endless run of workhorse Cardinal running backs, who was the star, as well as the backbone of Stanford’s running game. Jones rolled up 126 yards on 22 carries, and added 22 more on 3 catches, including a crucial screen pass for a first down on the game winning drive.
Harrison had 5 catches for 91 yards in his Oregon State debut, and Lindsey had 62 yards, and 2 touchdowns, on 3 catches. Harrison gave every indication that he could become the Beavers’ best receiving threat, especially down field, going forward.
Fehoko, above, led Stanford, with a game high 6 catches for a game high 110 yards.
Oregon State had a 50 yard advantage, 458-408, and first downs were identical, 22 apiece.
“Credit to Stanford”, Smith said. “That was a well played game. I’m proud of our effort, but we weren’t able to finish. (Now) we have one more game to get ready for. We don’t know who we will play, or where, or when.”
The Pac-12 will announce next weel’s schedule on Sunday morning.
What we do know is Oregon State was competitive, as they have been in every game this year, but still lost their second game in a row, dropped to 2-4 for the season, and is guaranteed of a 7th consecutive losing season, and their 9th in 11 years. The loss eliminated the Beavers from bowl consideration (again) regardless of what happens in next week’s season finale, due to the Pac-12’s requirement of at least a .500 record to be eligible for post-season play.
Oregon State’s losses have all come against unranked opponents, who are a combined 5-7 in the remainder of their games.
Stanford improved to 3-2, and ensured themselves of post-season eligibility. The Cardinal have won 3 in a row, after a missed game due to Covid issues with Washington State.
(Getty Images Photos)