Though the Cardinal allowed a 21-point advantage to evaporate, senior kicker Jet Toner nailed a 39-yard field goal with one second remaining on the clock to send Stanford home with a 31-28 victory on Saturday in Corvallis.
Stanford (2-3, 1-2 Pac-12) staved off a furious comeback from Oregon State (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12) to claim its first conference win of the season on the road. The Cardinal were coming off their first three-game losing streak in Shaw’s nine-year tenure.
“The last three weeks have been tough,” said head coach David Shaw ’94. “They’ve been really tough. We played against really good teams two of them on the road in very difficult environments.”
Oregon State tied the game at 28 with under two minutes to play, but junior wide receiver Connor Wedington returned the resulting kickoff 43 yards to midfield. With no remaining timeouts, junior quarterback Davis Mills managed the clock, connecting with junior wide receiver Osiris St. Brown for 18 yards, and rushing for another 16. On third down, Mills spiked the ball to stop the clock and allow Toner to win the game.
“Tonight you saw [Mills] play calm and collected under pressure and under fire,” Shaw said. “He stood in the pocket, made some huge plays with his legs, made some really smart decisions and threw some really nice, catchable balls.”
Mills received his second career start, replacing injured senior captain K.J. Costello.
After the first-ever weather delay for an Oregon State home game at Reser Stadium, Stanford received the kickoff 15 minutes after the scheduled time. The Cardinal methodically drove to the Oregon State 33 yard line, but a 10-yard sack of Mills put Stanford at third-and-17.
Playing conservatively, Mills connected on a five-yard curl with junior tight end Parkinson to set up a 53-yard field goal attempt. Senior kicker Jet Toner, however, was unable to connect, and Stanford was unable to come away with points on the opening drive. On a rainy day, kicking is always difficult, and Oregon State’s Jordan Choukair missed his own 50-yard try on the ensuing drive.
Freshman left guard Barrett Miller became the 13th first-time starter and fifth true freshman to start a game for the Cardinal this season. To his left at tackle was fellow freshman Walter Rouse.
Stanford’s first touchdown capped a six-play, 68-yard drive that took just under three and a half minutes. Mills sold the play fake, and junior right tackle Foster Sarell pulled to block for a streaking Michael Wilson, who raced in for a 26-yard score. The play was set up by three preceding chunk-play runs for fifth-year running back Cameron Scarlett.
“Cam Scarlett the last three games really has played so well and probably has been our offensive MVP,” Shaw said. “He’s run so hard, broken so many tackles, even when it’s not pretty, he has been able to get us some positive yards.”
The first quarter was Mills’ best, as he finished 6-7 for 86 yards.
After pinning the Beavers within the five yard line on a punt, Stanford surrendered three straight plays of over 10 yards. Oregon State had a first down at the 22 yard line and crossed into the red zone, but the Cardinal defense tightened up to force a field goal. Senior cornerback Obi Eboh blocked Choukair’s second field goal attempt, this one from 38 yards out.
On the ensuing drive, Stanford used a clutch 17-yard third down conversion on a screen to Scarlett and a pair of breakaway plays by Wilson to set up for a first-and-goal at the Beavers four yard line. On third down, off of an Oregon State timeout, Mills found Colby Parkinson from three yards out for the touchdown, Parkinson’s first of the season.
In last year’s 48-17 romp of the Beavers, Parkinson caught four first-half touchdowns but was limited to three catches for 44 yards.
“You see such a difference between this year and last year,” Shaw said. “The speed and athleticism of quarterback play. Defensively they’ve got size and speed, and they’re tough up front.”
Oregon State had an opportunity to answer before halftime with a first down at the 25 yard line, but sophomore defensive end Thomas Booker sacked quarterback Jake Luton to take the Beavers out of field goal range. On the final play of the half, junior outside linebacker Gabe Reid dropped the Oregon State quarterback for the fourth time in the opening 30 minutes.
Up 14-0 at the end of the half, Stanford outgained Oregon State 194-153. Shaw called a balanced offense with 15 pass and 14 rush plays in the first half, though the Cardinal averaged just 0.9 yards per rush. That number was depressed by a pair of sacks, and Scarlett was actually able to pick up 31 yards on 11 carries.
After consecutive weeks of senior quarterback K.J. Costello hovering around a 50% completion rate, Mills was an efficient 13-15 in the first half replacing the injured captain. The Cardinal converted 5-7 third downs despite averaging nine yards to gain, buoyed by Mills’ being a perfect 5-5 through the air.
Oregon State received the kickoff in the second half, but the drive was shut down by the Stanford defense. The Beavers punted for the only time in the half, as they would go on to score in each of their next four drives.
The Cardinal offense moved the ball to midfield, where it faced a third down. Shaw brought in a goal-line package, and Scarlett broke away for a 45-yard run to the five yard line. On third down, after two runs, Mills escaped a defender to extend the play and found sophomore receiver Brycen Tremayne in the back of the end zone for his first-career touchdown reception.
In the week before the season opener against Northwestern, Tremayne, a walk on, was awarded a scholarship. His touchdown grab highlighted a 10-play, 80-yard drive.
Oregon State finally broke through the Stanford defense as Luton tossed for 5-6 on the scoring drive. The final completion, an underthrown ball to Hodgins, was tipped by the receiver for a spectacular catch.
Following a three-and-out, freshman Ryan Sanborn was sent out to punt, and knocked the ball a career-high 68 yards down to the five yard line with 14:44 to pay in the fourth quarter and Stanford holding a 21-7 lead. Jake Luton was 4-7 to start the drive before a 43-yard touchdown run from Artavis Pierce changed the complexion of the game in the fourth quarter, tallying another seven Beaver points with the extra point.
With running back Jermar Jefferson limited coming off injury for the Beavers, Pierce received the bulk of the workload, rushing for 141 yards on 16 carries, an 8.8 average.
A 36-yard pass to Parkinson on the second play of the drive put Stanford in positive territory, but the tight end would make noise on the drive for another reason. The drive stalled, and Toner sent a field goal through the uprights, but Shaw opted to accept a personal foul penalty and vie for a touchdown.
Shaw dialed up the Stanford Special, with a succession of tosses between Mills and Scarlett before the ball ended up with Parkinson coming around on the sweep. Instead, the junior dropped a pass between two defenders to hit Mills in the end zone, and the quarterback-turned-receiver adjusted to make the catch, a career first for both Cardinal.
“I’m still wondering how he hung up in the air to catch that touchdown,” Shaw said.
The response was swift from the Beavers, who converted four consecutive first downs on four plays to the Stanford five yard line, during which Luton was 3-3 for 53 yards. On the sixth play of the drive, from the one yard line, B.J. Baylor rushed for a touchdown to bring the game back to within one score.
Stanford ran the ball three times, forcing the Beavers to use one timeout, before punting the ball back to Oregon State.
During the drive, Luton elongated his streak to nine consecutive completions, and even converted a third-and-one on the ground. After an incompletion, Oregon State handed the ball off to Pierce three consecutive times for a combined 46 yards and a touchdown.
“Every time the offense didn’t do well the defense stepped up, every time the defense let something happen the offense came back, and special teams put us in a position to win,” Shaw said.
From there, Wedington, who received a scare on the prior kickoff return with the Oregon State special teams unit claiming a turnover, would take the kickoff to the 50 yard line, where Mills would lead his first career game-winning drive. The junior finished 18-25 for 245 yards, and four total scores. The yards were the most for a Stanford quarterback since Costello’s 344 against UCLA last season.
“Just saw tonight what we saw in the recruiting process,” Shaw said. “[Mills has] been hurt on and off since his senior in high school. It’s not just that he’s healthy now, he was healthy at different points last year, but he wasn’t back to being himself and this year he’s back to being himself.”
On the other side, Luton was 27-39 for 337 yards and a touchdown. His favorite target, Hodgins, had 10 catches on 14 targets for 162 yards.
Though the pressure was minimized by the potentiality of overtime, Toner was “calm, cool, and collected” kicking the game winner.
“He’s got that cool Hawaiian breeze going through his blood,” Shaw said. “With the game on the line, nobody on our sideline was worried.”
With one second remaining on the clock, Stanford did have to go through with the kickoff, which Toner squibbed. There were no theatrics, and the Cardinal escaped Corvallis relatively unscathed.
Eight different Stanford receivers caught passes, paced by Wedington’s five receptions and Wilson’s career-high 87 yards. On the ground, Scarlett rushed for 92 yards.
Freshman safety Jonathan McGill, in his second career start, recorded a game-high 11 tackles for a new career best. Sophomore defensive end Thomas Booker tallied eight tackles, including a career-high two sacks.
In the second half, Oregon State was 6-7 on third downs, which allowed them to keep the Stanford offense off the field and win time of possession. More than doubling Stanford’s second-half yardage output, the Beavers outgained the Cardinal 501-353 for the game, at a breakneck seven yards per play pace.
Stanford begins a three-game homestand next Saturday against No. 17 Washington (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12).
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.