K.J. Costello returns to lead Stanford to a 41-31 homecoming victory over Arizona

October 28, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 28, 2019

K.J. Costello threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Stanford football team to a 41-31 win over Arizona on Saturday amid reunion festivities on the Farm.

The Cardinal, who moved to 4-4 overall and 3-3 in the Pac-12, also got outstanding efforts from their most reliable offensive player, redshirt senior running back Cameron Scarlett (two scores and 102 yards on 19 carries), and their emerging star at wide receiver, sophomore Simi Fehoko (two touchdowns and 97 yards on just three catches).

Costello’s 30 completions on 43 throws went to an even dozen players, including himself on a curious play. In all, the offense rolled for 472 yards, a number second this season only to the 482 yards they compiled in their upset victory over Washington.

The Cardinal defense wasn’t quite as solid, surrendering 495 yards, but they harassed the Arizona quarterback duo with three sacks and six hurries while recording four other tackles-for-loss. Junior cornerback Paulson Adebo had two interceptions, one of which sealed the victory; he now has four picks on the season.

The Wildcats (4-4, 2-3) took the opening kickoff and went 64 yards behind senior quarterback Khalil Tate before settling for a 29-yard Lucas Havrisik field goal.

Costello, in his first action in a month, threw on four of Stanford’s first five plays from scrimmage, completing passes to wideouts Osiris St. Brown and Fehoko and tight end Colby Parkinson for combined gains of 61 yards, highlighted by Fehoko’s 39-yard catch. A 10-yard run by junior receiver Connor Wedington set up goal to go at the visitor 3. Two plays later, Scarlett went in from the 1 to notch his fourth rushing touchdown of the year and the 21st of his career.

Arizona took a 10-7 lead on its third possession, which saw Grant Gunnell relieving Tate. The freshman completed all three of his pass attempts for 34 yards, including an eight-yard scoring throw to fellow freshman Jalen Johnson.

Costello threw seven times to seven different targets on Stanford’s ensuing series; five were successful. The 49-yard drive was capped when sophomore receiver Brycen Tremayne made a nifty running one-handed snag in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.

The Cardinal defense quickly forced a punt, which let the offense show off its ground attack. The following drive, which covered 75 yards in nine plays and consumed five minutes and four seconds, saw Scarlett rush four times for 62 yards, including 19- and 22-yard carries. His eight-yard touchdown run with 7:55 left before halftime gave the hosts a 21-10 lead.

Wildcats head coach Kevin Sumlin sent Tate back out to lead the offense, and it paid off in a big way. On the second play of the series, the quarterback dropped back and surveyed the field before pulling the ball down and taking off for a 57-yard touchdown run that showed why Tate was being talked up as a Heisman contender going into the 2018 season.

Stanford responded with another brisk scoring series funneled through Costello’s arm. On second and one at the visitor 44, the senior signal caller threw a long arcing pass that Fehoko reeled in around the 11-yard line and took the rest of the way for his second career touchdown. That put the hosts ahead 28-17 with 4:36 until intermission.

The Wildcats would roar back with a scoring drive of their own, with most of the yardage coming from Tate passes. Redshirt junior running back J.J. Taylor caught balls for gains of 12, 7 and 18 yards, while redshirt freshman receiver Jamarye Joiner had receptions of 7 and 18 yards. The second Joiner catch, a one-handed touchdown grab that he made just before stepping out of bounds while slanting through the near-right corner of the end zone, was an even more impressive athletic feat than Tremayne’s one-hander. More importantly, however, it reduced the Cardinal lead to 28-24 with 1:41 left in the second quarter.

This was the kind of pressure-filled situation in which the Cardinal offense has repeatedly faltered over the past two and a half seasons. Not this time, however. The drive opened with a one-yard Scarlett rush, after which Cardinal head coach David Shaw and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard handed the reins back to Costello.

With four consecutive completions, including back-to-back 13-yard receptions made by sophomore receiver Michael Wilson, the squad moved from the home 26 to the visitor 29. Costello then ran for 12 yards.

The series stalled there, but freshman punter Ryan Sanborn, appearing in lieu of the injured Jet Toner, came on to nail a 33-yarder with two seconds on the clock. Sanborn’s first collegiate field-goal attempt let the Cardinal head to the locker rooms holding a 31-24 lead.

Coming out of the break, the visiting defense forced Stanford to punt on a six-play, five-yard series that was notable mainly for an incident documented this way by the game log:

1st and 10 at STAN37: Costello,K pass complete to Costello,K for loss of 12 yards to the STAN25, PENALTY STAN illegal forward pass (Costello,K) 5 yards to the STAN20.

Having had his own throw deflected back toward him and then catching it, Costello attempted a second forward pass, in contravention of the rules. The five-yard penalty was supplemented by a loss of down, setting up second and 27 at the home 20. A few plays later, Sanborn was sent out to punt for only the second time on the afternoon.

The Wildcats’ first series of the second half was led by Tate, who engineered an eight-play, 73-yard drive. It ended with a nine-yard touchdown throw to redshirt sophomore Drew Dixon that tied the game, 31-31.

On the ensuing series, Costello threw a 14-yard strike that Fehoko corralled in the end zone. That put the Cardinal ahead 38-31 with 5:11 left in the third quarter.

From this point forward, the defenses began asserting themselves. On the second play of the final period, with Arizona facing third and 11 at the Cardinal 22, sophomore defensive end Thomas Booker sacked Gunnell for a 14-yard loss on the second play of the fourth quarter; the Wildcat QB fumbled but recovered the loose ball on what turned out to be his final action of the game.

The Wildcats D then limited Stanford to a three-and-out. The Cardinal defense improved on that, however: Two plays into the following Arizona drive, Adebo intercepted Tate at the Cardinal 35.

Stanford then mounted a 10-play, 60-yard series that took 5:59 off the clock. Scarlett carried six times for 17 yards and caught an 11-yard reception on the drive, which also saw Wedington make back-to-back catches for 21 and 9 yards. Scarlett was dropped for a four-yard loss on third and goal at the 1, however, so Sanborn was sent out for a successful 21-yard kick that made the score 41-31 with 6:18 on the clock.

The Wildcats responded by moving from their 16 to the Cardinal 46, but they would go no further. Senior end Jovan Swann sacked Tate for a loss of three and then the Wildcats slinger fired three incompletions for a turnover on downs.

Three plays later, Scarlett was held to no gain on third and four. Sanborn came out for a defensive 33-yard punt that pinned the visitors at their 12.

Tate and friends came out with 2:43 left to make up two scores — a daunting but not impossible task. The Wildcats had moved up to the home 30 when Adebo got his second pick at the goal line with 12 seconds to play, quashing Arizona’s slim hopes of a rally.

After a bye week, the Farm gridders will take to the road for visits to struggling Colorado (3-5, 1-4) and hit-or-miss Washington State (4-4, 1-4); both teams have vulnerable defenses, but the Cougars have the league’s most explosive offense. If the Cardinal offense can maintain the level they operated at Saturday and their defensive counterparts can improve on their showing against the Huskies, the final month of Stanford’s schedule could prove to be both intriguing and entertaining.

Helpful links

Arizona-Stanford team statistics — ESPN
Arizona-Stanford box score
Arizona-Stanford play-by-play
Arizona-Stanford video highlights
Arizona-Stanford interactive box score — GoStanford.com
Arizona-Stanford statistics (PDF) — GoStanford.com
Stanford 2019–20 football roster
Arizona 2019–20 football roster
@memomoment game tweets

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: