Stanford narrowly escaped Corvallis with a 15-14 win, thanks to a touchdown catch by JJ Arcega-Whiteside with only 20 seconds remaining in regulation time. But if Stanford wants to prove to Heisman voters just how valuable Bryce Love really is, perhaps the greatest evidence is just how messy this game was without Love.
With Love, Stanford was the 4th-best offense in the nation at 7.5 yards/play. Take away Love, and Stanford could only muster up 3.7 yards/play... against one of the worst defenses in the Pac-12.
With Love, Stanford had seven consecutive games with runs of at least 52 yards. Take away Love, and Stanford’s longest run of the night was only 12 yards.
Love rushed 10.3 yards/carry (put the ball in his hands, and he averaged more than a first down!). Without Love, Cameron Scarlett and Trevor Speights could combine for only 3.7 yards/carry.
Put it together, and you have the recipe for Stanford’s worst win of the season.
Early in the game, Oregon State gifted Stanford on a punt that only went 6 yards before going out of bounds. As a result, Stanford started at the Oregon State 28. Unfortunately, Stanford could only move the ball 11 yards before facing 4th down.
Jet Toner came out for only a 34-yard field goal, and... missed! This was the second time this season that Toner missed a field goal (both times inside the 34).
On the very next drive, Stanford put together a 7:18, 62-yarder that gave Toner a second chance at a field goal, this time from the 40. Toner hit the field goal, and even though he’s missed twice inside the 34, Toner is a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals of 40+ yards. Stanford takes the lead 3-0.
Oregon State quickly answered, though, on the next drive. QB Ryan Nall put in a massive effort that brought the ball into the red zone, as he made seven rushes all by himself for 47 yards that ended with the ball on the 4-yard line. From there, Darell Garretson took it in for the touchdown and the lead, 7-3.
With Oregon State possessing the ball with 51 seconds remaining in the half, it looked like Stanford would enter halftime down by four or more points. But then Oregon State once again gifted Stanford with a short field, as Garretson fumbled the ball and let Stanford take over on the Oregon State 16.
Despite the very favorable field position, Stanford once again could not convert in the red zone. Three plays later, Stanford failed to move any closer than where it started on the Oregon State 16. Toner was once again called in and hit the field goal, as Oregon State entered halftime with a lead 7-6. This was the first time since 2009 that Oregon State led over Stanford at the half.
If things were ugly in the first half, they got even uglier in the second. On the opening drive, Stanford successfully held Oregon State to 4th down on the Oregon State 34. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Ben Edwards gifted Oregon State a fresh set of downs from midfield. Stanford even followed up with a sack on Nall, pushing Oregon State back to the 44.
But then it all hit the fan; Alijah Holder exited the game with what looked like a potentially season-ending knee injury. To make matters worse, Joey Alfieri was called for multiple penalties: roughing the passer and targeting. Alfieri was ejected from the game and will have to sit out the first half of the game against Washington State. Since the ball was also caught, the penalty was added to the catch, and suddenly Oregon State had moved from the Oregon State 44 all the way to Stanford 18. One play later, Thomas Tyner took it into the end zone as Oregon State extended its lead, 14-6.
The next drive, it looked like Stanford might start something, as the offense was able to get it down to the Oregon State 37. The drive ended prematurely, though, on a Keller Chryst interception by Omar Hicks-Onu.
On Stanford’s next drive, it looked again like something might come together, but for the fourth time of the game, Stanford sputtered in the red zone and turned to Toner who hit another field goal from 40 yards out; Toner is now a perfect 4-for-4 on attempts of 40+ yards. Oregon State leads 14-9.
That score held until 2:30 when Stanford made one final push to win the game. With Oregon State only needing one or so first downs to run out the clock, Harrison Phillips got into the backfield and forced a fumble on Nall. Phillips fell on top of the ball, and Stanford got to start at the Oregon State 40.
On the heels of a 25-yard pass to Kaden Smith, Stanford once again got into the red zone at the Oregon State 15. For the first time all game, Stanford finally converted in the red zone for a touchdown as JJ Arcega-Whiteside caught a pass from Chryst on the end zone fade. Stanford failed to make the 2-point conversion, but took the lead, 15-14.
Oregon State attempted a Hail Mary on the final play, but it was intercepted by Brandon Simmons. Stanford narrowly escaped Corvallis with a 15-14 win.
Despite the win, there are still questions about how this Stanford team might perform without Bryce Love. It’s also unclear how the Washington State game will unfold without Alijah Holder or Joey Alfieri starting.