Harrison Phillips (9 tackles / 2 TFL / 2 QB hurries / 2 fumbles recovered) is a bad man on the football field, one of the baddest I have ever seen wear a Stanford uniform, in fact. Yet, when his helmet comes off, he is equally a humble, kind, and articulate young man. After watching his offensive teammates struggle mightily throughout the ugly 15-14 Stanford (6-2 / 5-1 PAC-12) win in Corvallis, Oregon on Thursday night, the senior captain and unquestioned leader of this defense found a way to snatch victory from the arms of defeat.
With only 2:30 left in the contest, and Oregon State (1-7 / 0-5 PAC-12) one first down away from a shocking win, senior outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi made an athletic play to strip OSU running back Ryan Nall of the football. In no time at all, a wild dogpile ensued, smothering the rock under a heap of bodies. By sheer will alone it seemed, Harrison Phillips was able to win the ball amidst the melee, and in turn the game.
Stanford senior quarterback Keller Chryst (16 for 33 passing / 141 yards / 1 TD / 1 INT / 25.5 QBR) likely had the worst performance of his college career, and the offense as a whole struggled mightily in the absence of injured Heisman frontrunner Bryce Love. In the end however, Chryst managed to make two big plays that helped seal the victory for his side.
Even after Phillips’ “immaculate recovery”, the ailing Cardinal offense failed to advance the ball on three straight pass plays. On a 4th and 10, when absolutely nothing had worked all night, Chryst threw a rope down the middle in to tight coverage. Somehow sophomore tight end Kaden Smith (6’6” / 255 lbs. / Flower Mound, TX) was able to make an incredible grab, which was only his second catch of the game, and just like that the dream was still alive with a Stanford first down.
Several plays later, Chryst connected with JJ Arcega-Whiteside (3 receptions / 30 yards / 1 game-winning TD) on a jump ball to the corner of the end zone, which put the Cardinal up by one point with only 20 seconds left to play. It was the only touchdown Stanford was able to score the whole night, and a testament to the resiliency of this team.
The Cardinal quarterback controversy, which has been heated over the past couple weeks, was officially elevated to DEFCON-1 after the game. Coach Shaw has gone out of his way to show loyalty to his redshirt junior QB, but Chryst's poor play against Oregon State rocketed that conversation back to the top of the fanbase's mind.
The one positive Stanford can take away from this win lies in the overall defensive toughness displayed, which up to this point has been inconsistent by everyone not named Harrison Phillips. All-American candidates Justin Reid (6 tackles / 2 PD’s), Quenton Meeks (8 tackles / 2 PD’s), and Alijah Holder (1 tackle / 1 PD) all played up to their capabilities in the secondary, and were physical in helping to stop the run. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, Holder looked to suffer a serious leg/knee injury in the second half and never returned to the game. Senior cornerback Alameen Murphy (5 tackles / 1 PD) also had a strong night on the back end.
Stanford outside linebackers Jordan Perez (7 tackles / 1 sack / 1 TFL) and Bobby Okereke (6 tackles / 1 QB hurry) both set the edge nicely all evening, and defensive end Eric Cotton (5 tackles / 1 sack / 1 TFL) finally offered ‘Captain Phillips’ some much needed help in the trenches with his gutty play.
A win is a win in The PAC-12, especially on the road on a Thursday night, but the task at hand will be much more difficult for #20 Stanford as they play at #15 Washington State next week. Likewise, OSU will take their momentum from this effort south to Berkeley for a showdown with the Bears.