Momentum carries No. 14 Stanford to victory
Published: Monday, November 12, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 12, 2012 02:11
STANFORD, Calif. — It’s those small moments in a football game that change everything when the momentum switches as fast as a heart beats.
Saturday was a game of runs. No. 14 Stanford led 14-0 in the first quarter. No. 11 Oregon State came back with 23 unanswered points, and then the Cardinal owned the final 16 minutes, eventually winning 27-23.
“When you feel that momentum is [shifting], you’ve got to keep playing hard,” said senior cornerback Jordan Poyer. “That’s exactly what I was telling guys, don’t get too high because just like that they can be back in the game. And that’s exactly what happened.”
For two whole quarters, Oregon State (7-2, 5-2 Pac-12) shutout Stanford (8-2, 6-1), taking a 23-14 lead right before the third quarter came to a close. The Beavers’ defense made adjustments and was containing Stanford’s offense, which tallied 194 yards of offense in the first quarter alone.
At the end of the third quarter, when sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan — making his first collegiate start — was in the midst of being sacked, he tossed the ball to senior running back Stepfan Taylor, who turned a broken play into a 40-yard touchdown to narrow the lead to only two points.
“That was a great play he made, getting the ball to Taylor late on a check-down,” said head coach Mike Riley. “Probably the play of the game. It really changed the momentum at the time.”
From that moment on, the game was Stanford’s to lose.
“We had opportunities but we just didn’t play well enough in the fourth quarter today,” Riley said.
“We dug ourselves in that early hole and couldn’t get out of it in the end,” added senior wide receiver Markus Wheaton, who caught seven passes for 91 yards and a touchdown.
The Cardinal took the lead with just more than five minutes remaining on a 13-yard pass from Hogan to Stanford’s leading receiver, senior tight end Zach Ertz.
There was still a chance for the Beavers to orchestrate a game-winning drive, but too many mistakes kept a come-from-behind win from happening.
“We ended up with 3:56 on the clock,” Riley said. “We killed ourselves. We jump offsides on second-and-1, we don’t execute a route, get sacked and lose the game.”
Similar to the loss to Washington on Oct. 27, the Beavers felt they lost the game for themselves, rather than their opponent playing better than them.
“I definitely feel like we beat ourselves again,” said redshirt freshman running back Storm Woods, who rushed for 94 yards on 15 carries against the nation’s top run defense.
“Little mistakes,” Woods added. “False starts, giving up sacks, missed reads. We had more [mistakes] than them so they were able to come away with the win.”
The biggest mishap of the game came in the fourth quarter with nine minutes remaining. Junior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds intercepted Hogan’s pass. In less than a minute, junior quarterback Cody Vaz let the football slip right through his fingers, much like the Beavers felt they did for this game, and Stanford recovered the fumble.
“That turnover I had was huge and it came back to bite us in the butt,” Vaz said.
The turnover led to Stanford’s eventual game-winning touchdown.
“I feel like I let my teammates down,” Vaz said. “It was a tough game and we knew it was going to be that way, but give credit to them, they were a great team.”
Saturday’s loss was OSU’s second of the season, eliminating the likelihood of going to the Rose Bowl or another Bowl Championship Series bowl.
The Beavers exceeded many expectations this year, but the significance of the loss still stings for the team.
“We want to get to the best bowl we can,” Woods said. “Of course this one hurts, but we can’t let it affect us.”
“We knew this [was] a big game, probably our biggest game so far,” Vaz added. “And to be that close and come up short, it hurts.”
Vaz injured his ankle on the Beavers’ second-to-last offensive play of the game. His initial X-Ray was negative, but he came out of the locker room after the game with his ankle iced and wrapped.
Right guard Grant Enger also suffered an ankle injury. Sophomore linebacker D.J. Alexander has a rib contusion. Both of their statuses will be clearer today at practice.
The Beavers return home for their final three games of the season. Next week, they face Cal before taking on Oregon – now ranked No. 2 in the BCS.
OSU has been following the mindset of having an 0-0 record going into every week. The Beavers know they can’t forget that following this loss.
“What’s going to be important for us now is to not let this game beat us again,” Riley said.
Warner Strausbaugh, sports editor