Sundays With Soltau | Cardinal keeping the faith
Sundays With Soltau
Cardinal keeping the faith
By Mark Soltau
STANFORD, Calif. – Believe.
That’s a theme for the Stanford football team this season and players took it to heart Saturday night. The No. 7 Cardinal survived its first road test by overcoming a 17-point halftime deficit to shock No. 20 Oregon in overtime, 38-31, stunning 58,453 mostly green-clad fans at raucous Autzen Stadium.
ESPN College GameDay was in Eugene and the contest was shown nationally on ABC. Viewers tuned in, as it drew the highest rating of any Pac-12 Conference game on ESPN/ABC since 2014.
Once again, Portland product Joey Alfieri played a big role.
Late in the third quarter with the Ducks (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) poised to pad their 24-7 lead, he changed the game. On third and goal from the Cardinal 5, the fifth-year senior outside linebacker scooped up a fumble by Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert after a bad snap and raced 80 yards for a touchdown.
Alfieri has four career takeaways, all in his home state (one at Oregon State in 2015). He was a two-way star at Jesuit, rushing for 1,700 yards and 22 touchdowns and recording 60 tackles as a senior.
“That was the first time running the ball in about five years,” said Alfieri. “It felt good. It made me kind of miss the tailback days.”
The inspired turnaround kept Stanford unblemished (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) and set the stage for next Saturday night’s visit to No. 8 and unbeaten Notre Dame (4-0). The kickoff is 4:30 p.m. PT and can be watched on NBC.
“You have a win like this where you come back, it just shows the type of people you have on this team,” senior running back Bryce Love said. “It comes back to our training and it’s a testament to the guys.”
Cool hand: Fiery junior quarterback K.J. Costello didn’t receive as much pre-game pub as Herbert, who didn’t disappoint, completing 25 of 27 passes in regulation. But Costello was clutch, connecting on 19 of 26 throws for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
He was at his best at the end, lofting a perfectly-placed 15-yard scoring toss to senior JJ Arcega-Whiteside with 3:10 remaining to pull Stanford within three points.
With 51 seconds left, backup sophomore safety Noah Williams alertly poked the ball loose from Oregon running back CJ Verdell, and senior inside linebacker Sean Barton recovered at the Cardinal 40-yard-line.
Displaying poise and confidence, Costello quickly moved Stanford to the Duck 14 with three straight completions, where junior placekicker Jet Toner split the uprights with a 32-yard field goal to tie the game as time expired.
In overtime, Costello gunned a 23-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Colby Parkinson for what proved to be the game winner.
“As an offense, we love being in the red zone,” said Costello. “We pride ourselves in finishing with touchdowns not field goals and we ended up executing.”
David Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football, had high praise for Costello.
“Our young quarterback … he’s pretty special, too,” Shaw said.
The catch: Parkinson is 6-7 and spends free time playing sand volleyball. It showed on his catch, as he nonchalantly used his right hand to tip the ball to himself with a defender in his face.
O-line shuffle: Due to injuries, the Cardinal did some switching on the offensive line. Sophomore left tackle Walker Little was the only member of the group to start in the same spot as he did in the opener against San Diego State. Fifth-year senior Brandon Fanaika manned left guard; senior Jesse Burkett made his second straight start at center; sophomore Drew Dalman, who started the first two games at center, switched to right guard; and junior Nate Herbig moved to right tackle.
Defensive gems: Junior outside linebacker Jordan Fox made the most of his first career start by collecting a game-high nine tackles, including two for loss. Barton and fifth-year inside linebacker Bobby Okereke had eight stops.
Stanford recorded four sacks.
The secondary came up big in overtime. Sophomore cornerback Paulson Adebo produced three of his four pass breakups, while fifth-year senior cornerback Alijah Holder sealed the victory by tipping away Herbert’s fourth-down pass, resulting in an end zone interception by fifth-year senior safety Alameen Murphy.
Cashing in: The Cardinal did not commit a turnover and forced three, cashing in for 17 points.
That proved pivotal given the disparity in statistics. Oregon out-gained Stanford, 524-398, ran 32 more plays, had 10 more first downs and finished with a 13-minute time of possession advantage.
Welcome back: Love returned to the starting lineup after missing the UC Davis game and grinded for 89 yards on 19 carries, contributing a 22-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
The 2017 Doak Walker Award winner is not concerned about stats or personal awards. He’s about one thing: winning.
Asked how Stanford turned things around in the second half against the Ducks, outscoring them 31-7, Love said, “Just being us. We had to lock in. At the end of the day, this is what we do. We compete and came out with a W.”
Scouting the Irish: Notre Dame downed host Wake Forest, 56-27. Making his first start, junior quarterback Ian Book passed for two touchdowns and ran for three as the Fighting Irish amassed 566 total yards.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series against Stanford, 19-13, but the Cardinal has claimed the last three meetings. Stanford won at home last season, 38-20, and beat Notre Dame in South Bend in 2016, 17-10.
The last time Stanford (7-0-1) and Notre Dame (9-0) played when each was undefeated was in the 1925 Rose Bowl.
Next home game: Following Notre Dame, Stanford returns home to host Utah on Oct. 6, start time to be determined. The contest will serve as the Breast Cancer Awareness Pink Game and the Sexual and Relationship Violence Awareness Game.
Honorary captain: Former women’s basketball standout Sonja Henning was Stanford’s honorary captain. She is now Senior Director of Business Affairs for North American Sports Marketing at Nike.
“It’s an incredible honor that I’m humbled by and thrilled to support the team in this way,” said Henning. “I consider myself a representative of the women’s basketball program that has always been a huge supporter of the football program and Coach (David) Shaw.”
Extra points: Junior tight end Kaden Smith finished with a team-best six receptions for 95 yards, while Arcega-Whiteside added four for 84 and two scores. Arcega-Whiteside now has seven receiving touchdowns this season … Senior Jake Bailey continued his impressive season by averaging 45.0 on four punts, downing two inside the 20, and boomed all five kickoffs for touchbacks … For the second consecutive week, sophomore wide receiver Osiris St. Brown hauled in a deep throw from Costello, this one covering 49 yards.
Quotable: “I don’t think I’ve ever won a game like this before.” – JJ Arcega-Whiteside
— #GoStanford —