I was wrong about the Stanford vs Washington game, but so were most of you. We didn’t predict the offense to be as efficient as it was. Or believe the defense could keep Washington to only 13 points. This was not the same Stanford team that we saw play Oregon two weeks ago.
Who can we point towards for the team’s success? Cameron Scarlett certainly played a role with his 157 yards rushing. Davis Mills was efficient and smooth in his best performance of the year. The defense bent but never broke, and David Shaw outcoached Chris Peterson.
In my opinion, the primary reason for the win was Mills. He was accurate and mobile. He had chemistry with his receivers. More importantly, he represented Stanford in the post-Bryce Love world.
In an offense filled with new faces, Mills is one of them. Mills was in the same recruiting class as Connor Wedington, Osiris St. Brown, and Colby Parkinson. His other main targets, Michael Wilson and Simi Fehoko arrived to the Farm the next year. While KJ Costello had his fun with Bryce Love and company, Mills and this group must have their own fun during second team reps because their chemistry showed on Saturday night.
Furthermore, Shaw showed his trust in Mills and coached to his quarterback’s strengths. The Stanford coach has preached that his playbook doesn’t change if it’s Costello or Mills behind center. I’d argue that his playbook has adapted for the better with Mills starting. For example, Mills can throw on the run, so Shaw called plays where the third-year quarterback could roll out and make a throw out of the pocket. With a shortage of offensive linemen, keeping Mills protected was a major question mark ahead of the game, and certainly the ability to throw on the run helped keep him off the ground.
Shaw also knew that time of possession would win the game—it almost always decides the game for Stanford—and Mills’s short, crisp passes kept the clock from stopping. As a result, the defense stayed off the field and stayed rested. Mills and the Cardinal held the ball for almost 40 minutes, and in this case, their best defense was their offense.
Yes, Scarlett’s fantastic game played a role in keeping drives alive. But until the fourth quarter, Stanford had run the ball just 26 times becaue they were relying on Mills to extend drives. Through three quarters, Mills threw the ball 28 times for 284 yards. Shaw called passing plays, like screens and other quick passes, and Mills found his targets.
Now, with the upcoming bye week, David Shaw has a dilemma on his hands. Will he make Davis Mills the official QB1? Or will Costello still be the team’s leader?
KJ Costello represents the past. He’s the established, older quarterback, and he’s the team’s leader. Davis Mills represents the future. Shaw has always been hesitant to bench older quarterbacks, and if it was hard for him to bench Keller Chryst, imagine how hard it will be to bench Costello. I imagine he won’t do it.
Costello hasn’t been bad. He’s been hurt, and with the upcoming bye week, he should be ready for UCLA. If healthy, he deserves to finish the year as the starter.
The Pac-12 title appears to be out of hand anyway. At best, the team goes 8-4, and more likely, they finish 6-6. Whether it’s KJ Costello or Davis Mills starting, the team’s record likely won’t change. Some might say it’s better to start Mills so that he gets reps before next year, but with only six healthy linemen, it might be better to protect our future—he already got banged up versus Washington.
But what if KJ Costello doesn’t turn pro as we all expected before the season started?Then, Shaw might have a real dilemma on his hands.
Who would you take between Costello and Mills? Maybe Costello will make the decision for him and transfer. I hear Oklahoma is a pretty good spot for those…