Stanford’s passing attack had its best performance of the season against Oregon on Saturday, amassing over 250 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Cardinal passing defense was just as effective, holding Oregon to 33 yards on a less than 40 percent completion rate.
Cardinal junior receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was a big part of the passing proficiency. He had the best game of his career, with career highs in catches (6), yards (112) and touchdowns (2).
The first of Arcega-Whiteside’s touchdowns came on a fade route thrown by senior quarterback Keller Chryst. The pass floated into the corner of the end zone, and Arcega-Whiteside leaped over the defender to snag the ball out of the air.
“I knew I had to fight him (the Oregon defender) for the ball cause it was gonna be a 50-50 ball,” Arcega-Whiteside said of his touchdown catch. “It just so happened the ball ended up in my hands.”
The Stanford passing attack once again succeeded with two different quarterbacks at the helm. Chryst played the majority of the game, but sophomore K.J. Costello also received meaningful snaps. Chryst ended up with 181 yards and three touchdowns and one interception on 15-of-21 passing, while Costello had 59 yards and a touchdown on 5-of-6 passing.
When asked if he noticed a major difference between the two quarterbacks, Arcega-Whiteside said, “Very minor differences. One throws the ball harder, one throws the ball further. But we know they’re gonna put the ball where it needs to be.”
The remarkable success of junior running back Bryce Love this season has taken a lot of the defensive attention away from the quarterbacks and wide receivers. “It makes people worry about the run threat,” Arcega-Whiteside said of playing with the Heisman contender. “I get a lot of man coverage, which makes things a lot more fun for me.”
The offense has improved tremendously since the Week 3 loss to San Diego State thanks to the dual threat of Love’s running ability and the resurgence of the passing game. During the bye week, both offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren and Arcega-Whiteside stressed the need to get healthy in order to continue that success.
“It’s such a great week to have a bye week,” Bloomgren said. “We’re getting healthy. That’s our biggest focus.”
Stanford’s pass defense had another big day, accumulating two interceptions and generally shutting down the Ducks passing attack. Preseason All-America junior cornerback Quenton Meeks was a major part of that effort.
“[Cardinal defensive backs] Coach [Duane] Akina had a great gameplan,” Meeks said. “We rose to the occasion and put in a pretty complete game as far as the passing game this week.”
Meeks came up with another interception in the game, his second on the season and seventh of his career. His most recent takeaway was a heroic effort, as he came flying in to make the pick and then managed to get a foot inbounds while running almost full speed.
“When the ball was thrown, I just reacted to it,” Meeks said. “I caught it, and I knew the sideline was coming close. I knew I had to stretch for it.”
Meeks and junior safety Justin Reid are locked in a career interceptions battle. At the start of the season, Meeks had five and Reid had one. Over the course of the first six games, Reid went on a spree of takeaways to tie his teammate. Since then, they’ve gone back and forth. Meeks’ interception on Saturday gave him the lead, for now.
“He’s been pushing me because he’s been making plays on the ball,” Meeks said. “I want to be the best cornerback in the nation, he wants to be the best safety in the nation. As a group, we want to be the best secondary in the nation.”
Meeks and Reid have both already earned reputations as some of the best defensive backs in the country. As a result, both have seen quarterbacks throw in their direction less and less often.
“At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t getting targeted that much. I just had to stay patient,” Meeks said. “I’ve always been told it’s not about how many great plays you make, it’s about how many big plays you don’t give up.”
In order to continue their solid play, Meeks emphasized the need to rest. “The season’s a grind. People don’t realize, after every game your body’s just not feeling like a normal human body should feel.”
Stanford has plenty of time to get that rest and regain its health. Its next game is Thursday, Oct. 26 on the road against Oregon State.
Contact King Jemison at kingj ‘at’ stanford.edu.