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Sundays With Soltau: Road test next at Oregon

Posted September 16, 2018 by in

By Mark Soltau

STANFORD, Calif. – After taking care of business with a 30-10 victory against UC Davis, Stanford (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) faces its first road test of the season Saturday at Oregon (3-0, 0-0).

ESPN College GameDay will be in Eugene for the big Pac-12 North matchup and the contest will be televised nationally on ABC at 5 p.m.

“We had a bunch of road games last year that we either didn’t play really good or a team played us close,” fifth-year senior cornerback Alameen Murphy said. “We know it’s going to be a good game against a team as talented as Oregon. We always rise up to those challenges.”

Stingy defense: Stanford entered the UC Davis game allowing 6.5 points/game – third-fewest in the nation — and hasn’t permitted more than 10 in three games. UC Davis scored its only touchdown on the last play of the game.

It was the first touchdown surrendered by the Cardinal since the first quarter in the season-opener against San Diego State, a string of 10 quarters and span of 167:38.

“I think it’s one of those games where you’re going to look back and be pretty proud of,” said Murphy, who recorded a team-high seven tackles and intercepted the first pass of his career, returning it 32 yards. “We played against a team that was averaging upwards of 30 points a game. Never going to be perfect. As long as we aim for perfection every game, that’s pretty good.”

Burkett back: After missing the first two games due to injury, senior center Jesse Burkett returned to his starting spot at center.

“I thought Jesse played well,” said David Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. “He did a great job making some calls that were some difficult looks.”

Fast starts: Stanford is off to a 3-0 start for the fifth time since 2010, when it began 4-0. Here are the others: 2011 (9-0); 2012 (3-0); 2013 (5-0); 2016 (3-0).

Work in progress: The offensive line paved the way for more than 200 yards rushing. However, Shaw expects the unit to play cleaner and keep improving.

“We’re still growing,” he said. “We have flashes of being very good.”

Stepping up: With senior Bryce Love unavailable, junior running back Trevor Speights picked up the slack by contributing a career-high 87 yards on 11 carries. He ripped off a 38-yarder, topping his previous long of 21 against Oregon last year.

“I thought he ran the ball really well,” said Shaw. “You got to see his speed and power.”

Up to the challenge: Fifth-year senior cornerback Alijah Holder was targeted 16 times and the longest completion he allowed was 14 yards. Holder made six tackles, had three pass breakups and did not allow a touchdown.

“To me he’s been the best corner in the Pac-12 for a long time and I hope people are starting to see that,” Murphy said.

Resilient: Junior quarterback K.J. Costello was intercepted twice in the first quarter but rebounded to complete 17 of 30 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns.

“I never worry about him,” Shaw said. “He’s unshakeable. He misses a couple throws, made a couple bad decisions and he comes back and he’s bouncing on his toes says, ‘Okay coach, what did you want to call next?’ Coach Tavita (Pritchard) does a great job with him, talking him through looks, talking him through decision making, we prep him for the next series, and after the first quarter I think he settled down and did a good job.”

Costello knows the offense is capable of much more.

“We have to be more efficient,” he said. “Too many penalties, playing behind he sticks. With or without Bryce, it’s a similar theme that has to be fixed.”

Unstoppable: Despite being double-team most of the game, senior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside caught two scoring passes and now has five on the season. He is now fifth in school history with 19 touchdown catches.

First pick: Freshman defensive end Thomas Booker collected his first interception on a tipped pass by senior outside linebacker Casey Toohill. The play thwarted a UC Davis scoring threat at the Stanford 13.

Fisk gets frisky: Sophomore tight end Tucker Fisk, a native of Davis, California, did not catch a pass. However, he did make the stat sheet, returning a kickoff for three yards.

Digesting the Ducks: Stanford owns a 48-32-1 series advantage against the Oregon and has won four of the last six meetings. The Cardinal has claimed two of the last three at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, most recently prevailing 52-27 in 2016.

Host Stanford scored its second straight win against Oregon last year, 49-7, as Love ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, while Arcega-Whiteside and tight end Colby Parkinson caught a pair of scoring passes.

First-year head coach Mario Cristobal has continued the Ducks’ no-huddle, hurry-up offense and has talented players across the board, led by sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert.

In 2017, Cristobal served as the team’s co-offensive coordinator, run-game coordinator and offensive line coach.

Cristobal was an offensive line standout at Miami, where he played four years and contributed to the Hurricanes’ national titles in 1995 and 1996. He has more than 20 years of coaching experience, including four at Alabama.

Future foes: Here’s how Stanford’s upcoming opponents fared on Saturday: Notre Dame (3-0) beat Vanderbilt, 22-17; Utah (2-1) lost to Washington (2-1), 21-7; Arizona State (2-1) lost to San Diego State, 28-21; Washington State (3-0) beat Eastern Washington, 59-24; Oregon State (1-2) lost to Nevada, 37-35; Cal (3-0) beat Idaho State, 45-23; and UCLA (0-3) lost to Fresno State, 38-14.

Extra points: Stanford has now won 11 consecutive home games, the fourth-longest active streak in the country … The Cardinal has now collected 21 straight nonconference victories … Four quarterbacks saw action: Costello, sophomore Davis Mills, freshman Jack West and junior Jack Richardson … West is the first true freshman signal caller to play since Todd Husak in 1996 … Sophomore Osiris St. Brown caught a 38-yard pass from Costello, his second career reception, to set up a third-quarter touchdown … Freshman Michael Wilson returned two punts for 37 yards and carted one for 30 … Toohill also blocked a field goal attempt … Sophomore cornerback Paulson Adebo continues to impress and registered three pass breakups … Shaw called the play of safeties Frank Buncom and Ben Edwards “outstanding.” … Tight end Kaden Smith grabbed a team-high six receptions for 68 yards … Former Stanford swimmer Simone Manuel, who won two gold and two silver medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics and received the 2018 Honda Award as the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year, served as honorary captain.

Quotable: “I think we’re getting better each week. I think the most important thing is that we’re crossing off something we didn’t do well the week before.” – Alameen Murphy

— #GoStanford —

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Alforde Joaquin

ALF’s passion for shooting and editing has earned him several awards including an Edward R. Murrow Award in 2006 for Videography. He was also a nominee for the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Videography. A 6-time Emmy recipient for five different categories: Director/Producer, Videography, Editing, Feature Segment and Sound Mixing, Alf has produced over 1,000 video segments and is committed to developing GetSportsFocus as one of the best sports video magazine on the web.