By Alex Bhatt
In the second of their back-to-back Pac-12 road games, the No. 18 Stanford Cardinal fell short at No. 25 Washington State on Saturday by a final score of 24-21.
The Cardinal came into the day looking for a conference win in their journey towards a Pac-12 Title. The game would also be Stanford’s first game played in the snow since a 1936 loss at Columbia. In terms of personnel, there was a change at quarterback as head coach David Shaw had named K.J. Costello to take the place of Keller Chryst earlier in the week.
Moreover, Saturday’s game saw the return of junior running back Bryce Love after he suffered an ankle injury from the Oct. 14 home win against Oregon. Last week’s Love’s absence was palpable as the Card barely escaped Corvallis with a win in a narrow 15-14 victory against the Oregon State Beavers. Though exploding for a 52-yard touchdown run in the first minute of the second quarter to give Stanford a 7-0 lead, the Heisman candidate had a quiet game and finished the game with 16 carries for 69 yards — his worst performance of the season.
On their next possession, Washington State responded by marching down the field and capping off the 75-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Luke Falk over the middle to a wide open Tavares Martin Jr. to even the score at 7-7.
Washington State would continue to pound the Stanford defense through the air as Falk completed another touchdown pass to give the Cougars a 14-7 lead going into the half. Prior to Saturday, both teams were undefeated when going into the half with the lead.
To begin the second half, the Cougars scored a 41-yard field goal on their first possession to make the score 17-7 Washington State.
The Cardinal persisted, however, and on the next drive, Costello recovered his own fumble and ran 13 yards untouched into the end zone to make it 17-14 Washington State. Costello would finish the game nine for 20 for 105 yards and one interception.
With the offense starting to find a rhythm, the defense did the same. On Washington State’s next possession, Stanford senior inside linebacker Bobby Okereke jumped a short pass from Falk and returned the interception 52 yards for a Cardinal touchdown. Stanford now led 21-17 with 2:37 remaining in the third quarter.
Nevertheless, the Cardinal continued to struggle to stop Luke Falk. After Washington State completed a pivotal third and 14 from their own 14-yard line, the Cougars had no problem moving the chains. Falk was eventually able to find Jamire Calvin in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown, giving Washington State a 24-21 lead over Stanford.
Falk finished the night 34 for 48 with 337 yards and one interception. Now with 13,806 total passing yards in his career, Falk surpassed former Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion’s Pac-12 record of 13,600. The senior quarterback is also one touchdown shy of tying former USC quarterback Matt Barkley’s conference record of 116 touchdowns.
The next two drives for both teams would end in three-and-out’s, and a Costello interception with 20 seconds to play sealed Stanford’s third loss of the season and Washington State’s first 7-0 home record in program history.
The Top 25 match-up was Stanford’s last away game of the year, and the team will now face Washington, California Berkeley and Notre Dame to close off the season. The next game will be this Saturday at 7:30 PT at home against the No. 12 Washington Huskies and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
Contact Alex Bhatt at abhatt21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.