Christian McCaffrey and the Stanford offensive line imposed their will on Oregon State’s defense as the No. 21 Cardinal (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12) ran over the Beavers (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) in a 42-24 shootout victory on Friday night in Corvallis, Oregon. The win was Stanford’s sixth straight over Oregon State.
McCaffrey made a personal assault on the record books with his 30 rushes for 206 yards, which made him the seventh 200-yard rusher in Cardinal history and was the fifth-best single-game rushing performance in Stanford football history. The last time Stanford had a 200-yard rusher was in 2009, when Toby Gerhart did it three times.
“Credit to the offensive line, tight ends and fullbacks, guys that go out and block,” McCaffrey said. “When we can run the ball, good things happen. With Hogan beat up a little bit, we knew we had to run the ball this game so we prepared all week and the offensive line stepped up.”
McCaffrey’s titanic performance was more than enough to make up for a plethora of injuries to an already-battered Cardinal squad, which saw senior left tackle Kyle Murphy and defensive ends Brennan Scarlett and Aziz Shittu all suffer undisclosed injuries throughout the game that took them out of action.
Senior running backs Barry Sanders and Remound Wright each scored twice on the ground as Stanford punched into the end zone six times in total, with the highlight of the night coming in the fourth quarter, when Sanders ran free down the sideline after breaking two tackles for a career-long 65-yard rushing touchdown.
In total, Stanford rushed for 325 yards, its highest total since a 2011 victory over Washington in which it rushed for 446.
“The offensive line was unbelievable,” McCaffrey said. “It’s so fun to watch the big guys doing their jobs. Without them, we’re essentially nothing.”
With Stanford imposing its will on the ground, fifth-year senior quarterback Kevin Hogan, playing through a sprained ankle and questionable to play until kickoff, didn’t even need to throw all too often, finishing 9-of-14 for 163 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception.
“I’m out there, the adrenaline was kicking in,” Hogan said. “I felt no limitations.”
It was good for Stanford that Hogan didn’t feel any limitations, because at least in the early going, Oregon State, led by freshman quarterback Seth Collins, was going blow-for-blow with the Cardinal in front of a rabid crowd hoping that Stanford would get caught in a “letdown” after a big win over USC last week.
Stanford opened the game by methodically driving nine plays for 63 yards over five minutes, capped off by Wright’s first touchdown, to take an early lead. However, a Hogan interception off of the hands of freshman wideout Trenton Irwin gave the Beavers a short field to work with, and they capitalized by driving down the field to tie the game.
Although Oregon State’s defense had not allowed any plays of over 25 yards all season heading into the game, Hogan took advantage of play action on the next drive to drop a beautiful 42-yard bomb to Austin Hooper down the seam for a touchdown that put Stanford right back on top.
“The offensive line played great,” Hogan said. “They established the line of scrimmage early, protected me in the pocket and opened holes. We were able to keep it balanced. I think the coaches were trying to kind of limit my mobility, which was good, but I think we came out and besides a couple mistakes, we played a really good game.”
Stanford and Oregon State traded touchdowns again before a Beaver field goal made it 21-17 Stanford heading into the half, although things looked grim for the Cardinal with both Scarlett and Shittu having exited the game.
From there, Stanford’s defense buckled down. The Cardinal outscored the Beavers 21-7 in the second half, and, more importantly, outrushed the Beavers 217-0 after the break to put the game on ice.
“The first couple series, guys were trying to do too much, and we were leaving gaps open,” said senior linebacker Blake Martinez, who had 12 tackles to lead all Stanford players.
Stanford squandered a prime opportunity out of the gate when Oregon State fumbled the ball at the Stanford 19 to set up a Conrad Ukropina missed field goal from 28 yards. However, Hogan soon fired back with a 49-yard deep bomb through double coverage to Michael Rector, who somehow caught the ball while spinning between the two defenders for a touchdown to give Stanford a 28-17 lead.
“I was worried about the safety coming over, so I tried to put it on a line,” Hogan said.
Sanders would go on to score his first touchdown later in the quarter to open up a comfortable lead for the Cardinal, who cruised from then on to the 42-24 win.
Collins, who was Oregon State’s leading passer and rusher coming into the game, actually had a great outing, nearly doubling his season passing output by going 20-of-36 for 275 yards and a touchdown. In his previous three games, he had combined for 296 passing yards altogether.
However, the biggest element missing from Collins’ game was his normally-explosive rushing attack as part of Oregon State’s unique option offense, with the freshman using his legs to extend passing plays but not as much in the running game. Wide receiver Victor Bolden and running back Storm Barrs-Woods each rushed for 35 yards in the loss for the Beavers.
With a short week of practice, classes having started and a potential “trap game” scenario all coming together to present a potential letdown for Stanford, the Cardinal persevered through injuries for another big statement win.
Stanford’s defense has had to carry the team over the last few years, but now, for the first time since Hogan took over, it’s looking like the offense might be able to pick up where the defense leaves off when it needs to.
And after a tough season opener at Northwestern that saw people questioning Stanford’s offense yet again, the Cardinal offense came through with its second consecutive 40-point game (a first in the Kevin Hogan era) that silenced many that were doubting it early on.
“Throughout the course of the year people are going to jump on and off the bandwagon, you can’t ever worry about that,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “All you can do is play your best football.”
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.