Inconsistent Stanford squanders a big lead but slips past Oregon State with a 31-28 win

September 30, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 30, 2019

Junior quarterback Davis Mills threw for three touchdowns and caught another as the Stanford football team survived Oregon State’s fourth-quarter rally to claim a 31-28 victory on a damp, cool Saturday evening in Corvallis.

Senior Jet Toner hit a 39-yard field goal with a second remaining to win in regulation after the Cardinal (2-3, 1-2 Pac-12) squandered a 21-point second-half lead and a two-touchdown advantage with 9:31 remaining in the fourth quarter. The kick spared Stanford some of the embarrassment of explaining away a late collapse by the defense, which let the Beavers (1-3, 0-1) score touchdowns on their final four drives.

Sophomore wideout Michael Wilson had three receptions for 87 yards and a score, while junior tight end Colby Parkinson (three catches, 44 yards) both caught and threw a touchdown for the Cardinal. His partner on those scoring plays was Mills (18 for 25 for a career-high 245 yards); he started in place of K.J. Costello, who injured his throwing hand against Oregon. Stanford also got another workmanlike effort from redshirt senior running back Cameron Scarlett (24 carries, 92 yards).

Defensive coordinator Lance Anderson saw his unit produce another Jekyll and Hyde performance, much like in the losses at USC and at UCF. The Beavers gained only 138 yards in the first half but generated 363 yards after intermission.

The Cardinal offense, which rolled up 353 yards on the afternoon, performed a bit more evenly over the course of the game. However, a late three-and-out left the door open for the host Beavers, who went on to score a game-tying touchdown with 1:55 left in the game.

The game began with each team missing a long field-goal try — Toner from 53, Jordan Choukair from 50 — in rainy conditions. Six plays into the Cardinal’s second possession, Mills hit Wilson on a screen pass that the sophomore took for a 26-yard touchdown.

The Beavers’ best chance to score in the first half came with 6:30 to go in the second quarter, when senior cornerback Obi Eboh blocked Choukair’s 38-yard field-goal attempt.

Stanford then took over at its 20 and advanced through the air. On third and 12, Mills connected with Scarlett for an 18-yard gain. On the subsequent third down, with the Cardinal needing 11, Mills threw to Wilson for 39. The two also collaborated on the very next play for a 22-yard gain. The drive ended on Parkinson’s three-yard scoring catch, which gave Mills his first career multiple-TD outing.

The game’s next score came with 6:14 to go in the third quarter. Stanford’s 11-play, 80-yard drive saw only one play longer than five yards, a 45-yard Scarlett dash. Mills threw to sophomore wide receiver Brycen Tremayne for a three-yard touchdown to give the white-uniformed visitors a three-score lead.

That was when the Beavers began gnawing away at the lead. On OSU’s next drive, redshirt senior quarterback Jake Luton (27 for 39, 339 yards) threw an 11-yard score to junior receiver Isaiah Hodgins, who finished the day with 10 catches for 162 yards.

Stanford lost three yards on its ensuing series, a three-and-out, but freshman Ryan Sanborn partially redeemed the offense’s effort with a 68-yard kick. However, the Beavers marched 95 yards with little trouble and scored on a 43-yard run by senior back Artavis Pierce (16 carries, 143 yards).

Stanford answered with a six-play, 72-yard touchdown march of its own that saw Mills throw to Parkinson for a 36-yard gain. The drive flagged at ‪OSU‬ 29, but a personal foul on the Beavers as Toner hit a 46-yard kick gave Stanford a first down.

Two snaps later, Mills pitched left to Scarlett; he in turn tossed the ball to Parkinson, who planted and threw a nice ball to the end zone. A double-covered Mills jumped up to make a tough eight-yard touchdown catch. That restored the Cardinal cushion to two touchdowns, 28-14, with 9:31 remaining in the final period.

The Beavers rallied once more as Luton threw to Hodgins for 15 and Pierce for 11 to start the drive. A 17-yard Pierce rush followed by a 27-yard Champ Flemings catch gave Oregon State goal to go. Redshirt sophomore running back B.J. Baylor capitalized with a one-yard scoring run to make it a one-score game with 7:05 left on the clock.

Stanford ran three times on its next possession and punted with four and a half minutes to go. Pierce rushed five times for 50 yards on the following Oregon State series, including a 36-yard gain on third and one from the Cardinal 37. His one-yard run knotted the score, 28-28, with 1:55 to play.

That challenged the visiting offense to score or go to overtime — if not worse. Fortunately, the Cardinal was up to the task.

Stanford did two things right away to make its goal more attainable. The first helpful action came on the kickoff, which junior receiver Connor Wedington ran back 43 yards to midfield. The second helpful deed was an 18-yard gain on a Mills throw to junior wideout Osiris St. Brown on the first play from scrimmage.

Two plays later, Mills scrambled for 16 yards to the home 14. The drive stalled there, but after Mills spiked the ball on third and 17 at the 21, Toner booted the game-winning field goal with a second left on the clock. ‪‪‪‪

OSU‬‬‬‬ attempted kickoff return in vain, allowing Stanford to escape with a 31-28 win.

The Cardinal now return home to host Washington (4-1, 1-1) in a contest that could go a long way toward determining whether Stanford extends its school-record 10-year bowl streak. It will be interesting to see how the team responds to the challenge, especially given that the coaches may have to decide whether Mills or Costello will get the start.

Helpful links

Stanford-Oregon State team statistics — ESPN
Stanford-Oregon State box score
Stanford-Oregon State play-by-play
Stanford-Oregon State interactive box score —
Stanford-Oregon State statistics (PDF) —
Stanford 2019–20 football roster
Oregon State 2019–20 football roster
Game (and some other) tweets — @memomoment

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