Cardinal outlasts ‪ASU‬, 20-13, on Thursday night

October 25, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 25, 2018

Stanford scored two third-quarter touchdowns and did just enough in the fourth quarter to get past a scrappy Arizona State team last Thursday night in Tempe.

Fans hoping to see the Cardinal put together a consistently solid 60 minutes of play probably came away disappointed from the nationally televised matchup; still, the conference road victory broke a two-game losing streak for coach David Shaw’s club. Stanford, now 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Pac-12, has a chance to seize control of the conference’s Northern Division with consecutive games against Washington State (6-1, 3-1 in league) and Washington (6-2, 4-1) staring this weekend.

To get to that point, however, Stanford had to erase a first-quarter deficit — its sixth in seven games this year — and survive a shaky string of offensive series over the final 17 minutes of its bout with ‪ASU‬ (3-4, 1-3).

The Cardinal, which has scored just two touchdowns and allowed 41 points in the first quarter this season, punted on its first four possessions and began the game with consecutive three-and-out drives.

The Sun Devils offense got some traction on their third possession when wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk burned cornerback Alijah Holder for a 51-yard reception from Manny Wilkins. That set up a 34-yard Brandon Ruiz field goal, marking the first points of the contest.

But shortly after ASU crossed midfield in the second quarter, fifth-year senior linebacker Bobby Okereke punched the ball out of Wilkins’s arms on a seven-yard run and freshman defensive end Thomas Booker dove on it.

Junior slinger K.J. Costello, who sustained a cut on his throwing hand earlier in the game, completed a 16-yard throw to senior wideout J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and then drew pass-interference flags on the following two plays. The Cardinal was unable to capitalize after setting up goal to go from the 10, so junior Jet Toner was summoned to kick a game-tying 21-yard field goal on fourth and three.

On the ensuing drive, the Sun Devils crossed into Stanford territory with running back Eno Benjamin’s 29-yard reception. The next play was a reverse that saw Benjamin hand the pigskin to wideout N’Keal Harry. The latter player then attempted a pass that senior inside linebacker Sean Barton anticipated and intercepted with 2:05 remaining in the first half.

The Cardinal steadily marched the opposite way until, on second and two from the ‪ASU‬ 13, Shaw sent Toner back out for a go-ahead kick. Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards called a pair of timeouts in an attempt to unnerve Toner, but he hit the 31-yard field goal on all three attempts as time expired. The final boot in the sequence gave the Cardinal a 6-3 lead at intermission.

‪ASU‬ tied the game early in the third when a 24-yard Ruiz kick capped an eight-play, 59-yard series that consumed a little more than three minutes coming out of the locker room.

Stanford responded with an efficient eight-play, 75-yard drive that ate up 4:03. It culminated in Costello throwing a pass that Arcega-Whiteside was able to catch in stride at the 3; he continued into the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown, his ninth this season and the 23rd of his career.

The Sun Devils attempted to answer by moving quickly to the Stanford 40. But after Wilkins missed on three straight pass attempts, the hosts had to punt.

The Cardinal began the following drive with senior Cameron Scarlett cutting outside for what became a 25-yard run. Costello pass completions of 14 yards to Trevor Speights and 22 yards to Trenton Irwin soon followed. Scarlett also finished the seven-play, 80-yard march with a one-yard touchdown run that put Stanford ahead by two scores, 20-6. Excepting the UC Davis game, it was the largest lead the team had held since beating USC 17-3 in the second game of the season.

The Cardinal defense forced a quick Sun Devils punt, but the Stanford offense couldn’t sustain its momentum and punted early in the fourth quarter. Sophomore cornerback Paulson Adebo then intercepted Wilkins, but that opportunity was squandered by another Cardinal three-and-out. Instead of putting away the game, Stanford was leaving the door open for Arizona State with more than nine minutes left on the clock.

Wilkins came out throwing, and this time he completed long passes to Ryan Jenkins and Frank Darby. The redshirt senior quarterback finished off a six-play, 64-yard possession with a 10-yard touchdown run to make the score 20-13 with 7:50 to go.

The squads exchanged punts, which presented the Stanford offense with yet another opening to salt away a victory with a little more than four minutes remaining. Costello completed a 13-yarder to Arcega-Whiteside and got a first down with an eight-yard run, which thanks to an ‪ASU‬ face-mask advanced the ball to the Cardinal 46. The unit wasn’t able to get to midfield, let alone gain another first down, but ‪ASU‬ was forced to use all three of its timeouts following a trio of short Speights runs.

‪‪‪ASU‬‬‬’s offense came back out with 2:20 to go and 85 yards standing between them and a game-tying touchdown. Wilkins threw five straight completions, including a 28-yarder to Harry to move into Stanford territory.

The Sun Devils converted fourth and one at the 25 with a five-yard Trelon Smith rush. With precious seconds dribbling away, however, Wilkins had to freeze the clock by spiking the ball.

Wilkins then threw to Benjamin for a short gain, but time expired before the Sun Devils could snap the ball on what would have been third and eight at the 18. That finalized a nerve-wracking 20-13 Cardinal victory that had been in doubt until nearly the very last second.

This wasn’t a resounding win for Stanford, but it was a win, and it came in league play and on the road. If the Cardinal can string together consecutive Ws, it will have an excellent chance of representing the Northern Division in the Pac-12 championship game.


Helpful links

Stanford-‪ASU‬ team statistics — ESPN
Stanford-ASU box score
Stanford-ASU play-by-play
Stanford-ASU interactive box score —
Stanford-ASU static box score —
Stanford 2018–19 football roster
Arizona State 2018–19 football roster
Game (and some other) tweets — @memomoment
Highlight video — Victors Valiant

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