After a two-game losing streak, Stanford football (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) rebounded with a 48-17 victory over Oregon State (2-8, 1-6) on Senior Night. With the win, the Cardinal become bowl-eligible for a program-record 10th straight year.
“We got beat, plain and simple, on both sides of the ball,” said Beavers quarterback Jake Luton. “We got outworked, out-executed and just beat in every fashion.”
For junior quarterback KJ Costello, “it was time for us to come out and play the game of football that we’ve wanted to play all year.” That was the message he delivered to his team pregame, with the Cardinal adjusting their pregame routine to spur a faster start.
Costello delivered, completing 23 of 33 pass for 342 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. On his senior night, wide receiver Trent Irwin hauled in six receptions to move into 15th place on Stanford’s all-time career receptions list. All four touchdowns went to a single Cardinal pass catcher, sophomore tight end Colby Parkinson. His four-touchdown outburst tied a school record that has only been achieved two other times. Incidentally, on both other occasions all four scores came in the first half as well.
“This is stuff we’ve been working on for a year and a half now,” said Parkinson. “It’s not something that just happened tonight. It’s not something that is spur of the moment. This is what we do every day in practice.”
“It’s pretty simple; that’s just a product of what you and Colby have done for the past two years now everyday after practice,” Costello recounted his head coach saying midway through the game. “There’s flashes throughout the season,” of the connection clicking, described Costello, “but to have it happen back to back to back [to back], everyone’s attention gravitates towards it.”
Unsurprisingly, Parkinson was also in favor of the new pregame routine. “I think it was just focusing on us really —focusing on us getting excited, getting started fast,” he said, “but I think it was a great change of pace to really get us going early on.”
“I’m really excited about where Colby is,” said Shaw. “And as much as anything, we have a special kinship — wearing 84 — but already in two years he’s made more plays than I made in five. So really excited about where he is right now, and at some point we expect him to be the best tight end in America like [junior tight end] Kaden [Smith] is right now.”
The most impressive Costello-to-Parkinson connection was their third, an audible out of the heavy package that went 75 yards for a touchdown.
“That play is how Stanford offense is supposed to run,” explained Costello. “You fear the run; you fear the pass — what do you want to stop?” He continued, “When you’re playing our style of football that we want to play, that’s the only way to answer: stopping the run. Then we explode out, get mismatches. That’s what we’re preaching all the time.”
Honorary captain, former Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan, also spoke to the team before kickoff. “He gave our guys some great words of wisdom, some great advice on battling, on working together, not pushing each other,” said head coach David Shaw.
The Hogan speech also had an impact on current Cardinal quarterback KJ Costello. “Hogan had an unbelievable pregame speech today, and he named a list of guys going from DeCastro to Luck to Ertz down the line, Huey back in the day. All these guys that set the tradition here, and Bryce [Love] just kind of raised the bar a little bit.”
Senior running back Bryce Love raised the bar once again Saturday night. For just the second time this season, Stanford was able to convert receiving the opening kickoff into six points. Love found the end zone for the fifth time this season on a 28-yard scamper. Love moved into fifth place in school history with his 29th career rushing touchdown. In his last home game, Love finished with 11 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown. Sixty-five of those yards came in the first quarter alone, when Love single-handedly produced the Cardinal’s entire rushing output.
Shaw was extremely impressed with his star running back. “He’s all that’s right with college football. Doesn’t ask for anything. Doesn’t need anything. Just comes and works extremely hard.”
Shaw also said that Love, who has been playing through injuries for most of the year, is physically feeling the best he’s felt in a month. Love was able to come out of the game without re-injuring himself and instead made space for other backs to get touches.
Injuries to numerous Cardinal provided opportunities for other players to step up. Junior kicker Jet Toner, right guard Nate Herbig, senior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, junior offensive tackle Devery Hamilton and sophomore center Drew Dalman were all out of the game.
“I knew I would have a few more targets, and the ball just happened to come my way, and I was able to make a play,” said Parkinson. Parkinson was just one player to exploit the additional playing time. In his second game of the year, Connor Wedington caught three passes for 22 yards. Junior running back Dorian Maddox scored his first career touchdown from one yard out. Junior offensive tackle Henry Hattis rotated in for fifth year tackle AT Hall. Freshman wide receiver Simi Fehoko caught his first pass while seeing the field for the first time this year. True freshman quarterback Jack West threw his first career completion.
After surrendering 17 points to the Beavers in the first half, the Cardinal were able to hold the Beavers scoreless in the third quarter and throughout the second half, continuing a dominant streak in which the team has only allowed 25 points in the third quarter all season.
Defensive coordinator Lance Anderson delivered a halftime message to his defense: “Eliminate the big plays, keep doing what we’re doing, stopping them on the run first down, take care of the run first, and when we have time to get after the pass rush, make sure we finish” were the takeaways for senior linebacker Bobby Okereke.
Overall, Shaw was content with the defensive performance. “I thought we played well,” he said. “Gave up a few plays here and there, but stifled them when we needed to, got some stops when we needed to. We were able to increase our lead and get some other players in the game.”
Whereas in past games the defensive line has been pointed to as an issue, Okereke was convinced by their execution. “We had a great pass rush all night. We brought some of those young guys in like Andres Fox and Thomas Booker and really got after the pass rush.”
On Stanford’s first scoring drive of the second half, the running game came alive. With four straight runs between the two senior running backs, the Cardinal covered 72 yards. Senior running back Cameron Scarlett went 41 yards for the touchdown to put the Cardinal on top 41-17. With this drive, Stanford eclipsed 200 rushing yards for the first time this season, eventually finishing with 244.
However, Costello had the longest run of the night for the Cardinal. With the defensive end not respecting his legs on the option, Costello gashed the Beavers for 45 yards. “We’ve got incredible backs. If I can take one more guy off Bryce and allow him to get up on a safety that much faster, that’s going to help this team,” he said.
Senior safety Frank Buncom, one of the many graduating Cardinal honored before the game, was satisfied with his team’s performance. “We played well enough to get everyone on the field, and that was our goal.” The significance of the night did get to him.“Pretty emotional to go out there knowing it could be the last one for a lot of the guys.”
Buncom also recorded his first interception of the year the play after Okereke’s pick was overturned, although coming on fourth down without a return it put the Cardinal in worse field position. Nevertheless, it was the only turnover generated by the Stanford defense in the game, and the Cardinal have yet to lose when forcing a turnover.
Okereke explained the thoughts from his last walk in Stanford Stadium: “Running out there was crazy — nostalgic just looking at the fans in the stands. It was a great experience”
“We played well in all three phases,” said Shaw. “We played hard, we played physical, we played smart, and we played together. So hopefully we can continue to build on that and take that into the Big Game next week.”
Stanford will travel to Berkeley next Saturday to take on California (6-4, 3-4) in the annual Big Game.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.