Stanford’s offense isn’t much without Bryce Love, apparently.
On Thursday night, the 20th-ranked Cardinal took on one-win Oregon State in Corvallis without Love, the Heisman candidate who is nursing an ankle injury, and narrowly escaped with a 15-14 victory.
Entering the game, Oregon State was No. 116 nationally in total defense, allowing an average of 478.3 yards per game. Stanford, coming off a bye week, could manage only 222 yards of offense. By himself, Love, the nation’s leading rusher, averages 200.86 all-purpose yards per game, and his team looked totally lost without him.
It was a really ugly performance by the Cardinal and it would have been an ugly loss if Oregon State hadn’t fumbled when trying to run out the clock.
The Beavers, leading 14-9, regained possession with 3:14 to go and quickly picked up a first down. With a few more of those, OSU would finish off the upset. However, things went horribly wrong. Ryan Nall, who led all rushers with 84 yards, fumbled to give Stanford another chance at the OSU 40.
The Cardinal took advantage, but needed a fourth-and-10 conversion to do so.
Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst has split snaps with K.J. Costello for much of the year. Chryst had a miserable performance on Thursday, but Shaw stuck with him and it paid off. Before that fourth down play, 13 of Chryst’s previous 17 passes fell incomplete. This one, to tight end Kaden Smith, wasn’t. In fact, it was his best throw of the night and went for 25 yards and a first down.
Four plays later, with 20 seconds left on the clock. Chryst threw the winning touchdown to 6-foot-3 J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on a fade route, allowing Stanford to avoid what would have been an embarrassing upset.
Stanford looked sluggish from the jump, allowing Oregon State to jump out to a 7-6 halftime lead (thanks in part to a trick play to an offensive lineman).
Oregon State extended the lead to 14-6 when Thomas Tyner scored on an 18-yard run early in the third. Stanford’s offense stalled throughout the second half, but the Cardinal were able to tack on a third Jet Toner field goal late in the third, cutting the deficit to 14-9, after an Oregon State missed field goal presented a short field.
Stanford’s offense sputtered, going three-and-out on its next two possessions before Nall’s fumble — his second of the game — gave the Cardinal life.
Improbably, Stanford (6-2, 5-1 Pac-12) has won five games in a row and is sitting in a prime position in the Pac-12 North. Stanford faces its top two contenders in the North, No. 15 Washington State and No. 12 Washington, in its next two games.
The Cardinal showed Thursday night how much they’ll need Bryce Love to get through those games.
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