By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 10, 2016
Stanford’s feature backs ran wild over Oregon State in a 26-15 home win Saturday afternoon.
The Cardinal’s new first-string quarterback, Keller Chryst, has led the team to wins in both of his starts. But the squad still has plenty of rough edges, and Chryst’s effort as a passer left some things to be desired. The Cardinal converted just four of 15 third downs and Chryst completed 10 of 17 throws for just 60 yards. Those kinds of performances are unlikely to cut it against Stanford’s last two Pac-12 opponents, Oregon and Cal, both of which are about as porous as OSU on defense but more more potent on offense.
The Cardinal began the game on an ignominious note, as Chryst and center Jesse Burkett lost the ball on the third snap of the game. Oregon State recovered at the Cardinal 33-line but came away without points when Garrett Owens missed a 26-yard kick.
After that, however, the Cardinal offense found a bit of a groove. Chryst led an 11-play, 45-yard drive that Conrad Ukropina capped with a 52-yard field goal, tying the kicker’s career long.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, the offense electrified the Stanford Stadium spectators with a single play.
Freshman Nate Herbig, who started the game at right guard, positioned himself on the left side of the line. Chryst was set back with Bryce Love to his left. On the snap, Chryst motioned as if handing off to Love and ran a keeper to the left. Herbig pulled to the right with Love — who actually had the ball — trailing in his wake. Love sidestepped a would-be tackler who broke through the line, followed Herbig as the guard plunged ahead and then sidestepped another defender.
Love took a moment to center his body. He then zipped through a lane that was cleared by receivers Trenton Irwin and Francis Owusu, who did an excellent job of maintaining blocks against defensive backs. By the time Love got to the OSU 45-yard line, there was nothing but green in front of him. He dashed to the end zone with four defenders pursuing him fruitlessly.
The 56-yard touchdown was the sophomore’s longest rushing score at the collegiate level. More importantly, the one-play touchdown drive gave Stanford a 10-0 lead in the opening period. The Cardinal had only scored 16 first-quarter points in its first eight games of the season.
After an exchange of punts, the Beavers answered with a long touchdown of their own when Marcus McMaryion dropped back from the 25. His target was Victor Bolden Jr., who had eluded cornerback Quenton Meeks. Bolden gathered in McMaryion’s pass while he sped past midfield. He eluded the Cardinal safety and was able to stroll into the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown that narrowed the score to 10-7.
The rest of the half was highlighted by a 51-yard Christian McCaffrey run that set up first and goal for the Cardinal at the Beaver 9-yard line. Unfortunately, the Cardinal couldn’t advance beyond the 3, and the team had to settle for a 20-yard Ukropina field goal that put the hosts ahead, 13-7.
Three plays into the third quarter, McMaryion tossed a pick to senior inside linebacker Kevin Palma. A short drive that kicked off with McCaffrey runs of 17 and 9 yards led to a 30-yard Ukropina kick.
After OSU went three and out, the Cardinal mounted an eight-play, 27-yard drive that culminated in a Ukropina miss from 47. (He was wide right, for the record.)
McMaryion connected with Bolden again for a 24-yard gain on the ensuing drive, but then the quarterback had the misfortune of attempting a short pass while Harrison Phillips was waving his arms nearby. The junior defensive lineman deflected the ball, which was then picked off by sophomore Mustafa Branch. The linebacker was assigned to contain OSU’s Artavis Pierce; when the running back released, Branch was hurrying to close with him when Phillips happened to bat the oblate spheroid in his direction.
The ensuing possession was highlighted by a Hoganesque run by Chryst, who pulled the ball down and rambled through a field of Beavers for 44 yards. Two plays later, McCaffrey punched it in from the 1-yard line for his sixth rushing and eighth overall touchdown of the year.
Oregon State’s Ryan Nall responded with a 52-yard run of his own, but the Stanford defense was about to force either a field goal or a fourth-down conversion attempt when sophomore linebacker Casey Toohill roughed McMaryion. The Beaver quarterback ran for a three-yard touchdown on the opening play of the final period, and a successful two-point try made the score 23-15.
Stanford answered with Ukropina’s third field goal of the afternoon, a 36-yarder that gave the hosts an 11-point lead. The Cardinal defense answered with a three-and-out that was aided by a personal foul penalty against the Beavers. McCaffrey’s fair catch gave the hosts the ball at their own 38-yard line with eight and a half minutes remaining in the game.
A welcome demonstration of Stanford’s character and cruelty followed as the Cardinal mounted a bruising 11-play, 61-yard drive that consumed more than six minutes. Every play was a rush, although head coach David Shaw and offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren employed some trickeration: Michael Rector ran for five yards on a reverse to start the series, and Chryst later carried for 15 on a play in which the ball was actually snapped to McCaffrey.
The only blemish on the drive came at the end. With Stanford facing fourth and goal at the 1, and with McCaffrey having accumulated 199 yards, the junior super-athlete got the rock but failed to get the ball across the goal line.
Still, the Cardinal had a 26-15 lead at that point, and OSU had just two minutes and 17 seconds to attempt to erase the deficit. Pierce ran to the 8-yard line to give his club some breathing room, but that was all the Beavers would accomplish. McMaryion threw three incompletions, and Stanford got the ball back on downs with about two minutes still on the clock.
I wondered if the Cardinal would give the rock to McCaffrey to get him over 200 yards rushing, but that wasn’t in the cards. The team assumed the victory formation, kneeled three times and let time run out. The Cardinal (6-3, 4-3 in league) became bowl-eligible for a school-record eighth time in a row while Oregon State slumped to 2-7 and 1-5.
The Cardinal’s performance was hardly perfect. But the running game was incredibly potent, as Stanford finished the game with 58 rushes for 365 yards — something the team would be well-advised to keep up if they’re to extend their winning streak.
And now the Farm’s gridders turn their attention to their trip to Eugene, where they’ll face the ailing Oregon Ducks…