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Football comes up short despite Mills’ career day

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In his fourth career start, junior quarterback Davis Mills broke the all-time single-game record for passing yards with 504 yards, surpassing Todd Husak’s ’00 record of 450 yards set in 1998. Mills, who started in place of injured senior K.J. Costello, finished 33-of-50 with 504 yards, three touchdowns and two late interceptions on Saturday. 

Mills, however, was outdone by the signal-caller on the other sideline. Washington State’s Anthony Gordon came away with a comical 44-of-60 for 520 yards, five touchdowns and a lone interception.

The worst season of the David Shaw ’94 era continued in Pullman with Stanford (4-6, 3-5 Pac-12) falling to Washington State (5-5, 2-4 Pac-12) 49-22 on the road. The Cougars have now won the past four in the contest.

For Gordon, the story of the game was having all day to pass. Outside of coverage sacks by fifth-year outside linebacker Casey Toohill and sophomore defensive end Thomas Booker, Gordon sat back comfortably in the pocket. The Cougars were also lethal on third down, converting their first seven opportunities and finishing 9-of-13.

Washington State failed to score on just two possessions. The first, freshman safety Jonathan McGill snagged his first career interception at the goalline. The second, Wazzu mercifully took a knee in victory formation.

Wazzu scored touchdowns on its opening three possessions, with drives of 75, 96 and 97 yards. Stanford’s offense stalled in plus territory twice, so the Cougars held a 19-0 advantage after a blocked extra point by Toohill and a missed point after attempt.

“Early on, it was tough sledding,” Shaw said. “Once we’re down three scores and we don’t have any points, we’ve got to throw the ball and we had to abandon the run game.”

Stanford clawed its way back into the game, eventually bringing the score to within three after sophomore wide receiver Simi Fehoko’s second receiving touchdown of the game and fifth-year running back Cameron Scarlett’s two-point conversion on the ground. Washington State, however, took the kickoff back 83 yards and scored 24 unanswered points to end the game. 

Sophomore receiver Michael Wilson also hauled in a touchdown on a perfectly thrown back-shoulder 23-yard pass to cap a 99-yard drive on Stanford’s final possession of the first half. Entering halftime, Mills completed 12 of his last 16 for 248 yards and two touchdowns. 

Wilson totaled five receptions for a career-best 114 yards. His reception total was bested only by junior wideout Connor Wedington’s career-high matching eight receptions, which went for a career-best 119 yards. 

Two more Cardinal finished with five receptions, junior tight end Colby Parkinson and freshman running back Austin Jones. Parkinson caught all but one of his six targets for 80 yards, the most since his performance in the second week of the season against USC. 

With the running game held in check for 6 total rushing yards and the situation not conducive to methodical drives, Shaw was determined to keep his running backs involved in the offense. Jones picked up 29 receiving yards, Scarlett added 40 on three catches and freshman Nathaniel Peat made his one target count for 21 yards. 

On Stanford’s first possession out of halftime, down 22-14, freshman Ryan Sanborn, who was relieved of his punting duties amid injury concerns, missed a field goal from 39 yards out. On the other end, Washington State’s Blake Mazza converted, and the Wazzu offense scored on each subsequent possession before the final whistle. 

“Missing that field goal second half was tough,” Shaw said. “Once those guys get rolling it’s hard to stop them.”

Twice Mills was intercepted, first on third down and then again on the next drive at the goal line. Stanford’s quarterback targeted 12 different receivers in the game.

“The big thing for us is we’re shorthanded and became more shorthanded during the course of the game,” Shaw said. “We fought back to make it a game. Down ten points with the guys that we have going against one of the best passing offenses in all of college football, we were good enough to hold them and be close.” 

In his first game back from injury, senior inside linebacker Curtis Robinson totaled a team-high nine tackles. Stanford rotated many freshman into the game, and now 20 Cardinal first-years have made their debut this season.

Stanford will host the final two games of the regular season in Stanford Stadium. Up next is the 122nd Big Game on Saturday at 1 p.m. PST.

“For us, where we are right now, we have a two-game season, two of our big-time rivals at our home in November,” Shaw said. “We have to go home, see who is going to be healthy this week, and craft the best plan possible.”

Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Corrections: This article has been updated to reflect a stat change on a shovel pass to Connor Wedington that was initially ruled a rush attempt.

Daniel Martinez-Krams '22 is a desk editor in the sports section. He is originally from Berkeley, California. Contact him at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.