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Stanford Loses a Heartbreaker in the Palouse, 24-21

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NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Close, but no cigar. Facing slick and snowy weather, Stanford lost in a nail-biter to Washington State, 24-21. Even despite an injured Bryce Love playing on a slippery field, Love was still able to put up an impressive 52-yard touchdown and Bobby Okereke made a pick six. Love also tied a single-season FBS record with his tenth 50-yard run of the season.

First Half:

The game started off slowly, with little more than 3-and-outs for the first quarter of the game. The pace quickly changed in the second quarter, though:

On the very first Stanford play of the second quarter, Love broke through the defense with a 52-yard touchdown run. This was Love’s 10th 50+ yard run of the season, which ties a single-season FBS record set by Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon in 2014. With four or five games remaining in the season (depending on if Stanford appears in the Pac-12 Championship), it’s likely that Love will break the FBS record by the end of the season.

Washington State, however, quickly answered. On the very next drive, Luke Falk put together a methodical, 75-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Tavares Martin Jr.

The very next drive, Stanford ran into trouble as Walker Little exited the game with injury. To add insult to injury, Stanford went three-and-out, which would setup another Washington State touchdown.

Torching Stanford’s defense again, Martin Jr. opened the drive with a 39-yard reception. Five plays later, Falk completed a 27-yard pass to Renard Bell to put Washington State on top 14-7.

Second Half

On the opening drive of the second half, Washington State seemed like it might strike fast as Falk put together another methodical drive to get inside the Stanford 13. Once again proving himself in the clutch, though, Harrison Phillips sacked Falk for a loss of 11 yards that forced a 3rd-and-20. Two plays later, Washington State settled for a field goal, extending its lead 17-7.

Stanford quickly answered, though, courtesy of a bit of David Shaw trickery. Facing a 3rd-and-1 from midfield, the entire stadium expected Shaw to call the dive up the middle from the ogre package that we’ve seen from Stanford so many times before. Instead, Costello dropped back and found an open FB Daniel Marx, who moved the ball 24 yards (a career long for Marx).

A few plays later, Costello attempted a pump fake, fumbled, then picked up the ball and ran it for a 14-yard touchdown. This was Costello’s second rushing touchdown of the season, and his longest career rushing touchdown. Stanford pulls within a field goal, 17-14.

The very next Washington State drive would setup another Stanford touchdown. At first it appeared that Stanford was going to force a three-and-out, but an unforced error gave Washington State a fresh set of downs when Stanford got called for an illegal substitution. What appeared to be a devastating mistake proved to be anything but; facing 4th-and-1, Falk threw an interception returned for a touchdown by Bobby Okereke. Stanford took its only lead of the second half: 21-17.

As the fourth quarter began to wind down, Stanford looked like it might eke out a win, but with about 6 minutes remaining, Washington State once again made a touchdown strike on an 11-yard pass to Jamire Calvin to take the lead 24-21.

Stanford had one last chance when it got the ball back with 35 seconds left of regulation time, but it ended with Costello throwing an interception to Washington State’s Frankie Luvu.

Even after the loss, Stanford could conceivably end up in the Pac-12 Championship. This Friday, Stanford will host Washington at home. Should Stanford upset Washington, Stanford will only need Washington to beat Washington State for Stanford to likely return to the Pac-12 Championship.