Photo credit: gostanford.com
By Ana Kieu
According to Mark Soltau, Colby Parkinson didn’t see it coming.
Last November on Senior Day against Oregon State, Parkinson — a junior tight end — tied a school record by catching four touchdown passes from then junior quarterback K.J. Costello — all in the first half — in Stanford’s 48-17 win. Coming into the contest, Parkinson had 17 receptions and no touchdowns, but finished with six grabs for 166 yards.
Parkinson scored on a variety of routes, finding pay dirt from 5, 9, 28 and 75 yards.
“It was a great game and fun to be part of,” Parkinson said. “I don’t think I caught a ball twice on the same person.”
Leading into the game, junior tight end Kaden Smith and senior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside had been Costello’s favorite targets. But Arcega-Whiteside didn’t play after sustaining an injury the week before at Washington.
“It’s just kind of how it evolved,” Parkinson said of his first half. “We always put in different plans for different people in certain games and we have matchups that we like. The ball was coming my way.”
After playing in Smith’s shadow, Parkinson showed he was a threat.
“We did some things to get him singled up,” said David Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. “I don’t know that he was enough of a name to have specialty coverage for. That game really proved how special he can be.”
The contest had special meaning for Parkinson, who grew in Simi Valley, Calif. That week, the devastating Camp Fire in Butte County and Woolsey Fire west of Los Angeles were raging in Northern and Southern California. Additionally, a shooting near his hometown in Thousand Oaks, took the lives of 12 people.
“It was almost sentimental,” Parkinson said. “It was pretty cool to hopefully give some of my friends and family back home something to watch.”
This season, the 6-foot-7, 251-pound Parkinson ranks second on the squad with 17 receptions for 178 yards, but has yet to score. With Arcega-Whiteside and Smith now playing in the NFL, opposing defenses have made stopping Parkinson a priority, often jamming him at the line of scrimmage and double-teaming him.
“You’ve seen it in the first four games – I’m not getting the same looks I was getting last year,” said Parkinson, who will try to help Stanford (1-3, 0-2 Pac-12) snap a three-game losing streak at Oregon State (1-2, 0-0 Pac-12) at 4 p.m. on Saturday. “It seems like they’re game-planning for me, which is definitely a compliment.”
The coaching staff is working hard to find ways to free him up.
“It’s incumbent on us to move him around and show his versatility,” Shaw said. “At the same time, if they want to take him away, other guys have to make plays.”
All Parkinson cares about is winning.
“I’m happy not to catch a single pass if that means other people are getting open,” Parkinson said. “It’s absolutely a team sport, especially in that way.”
Plagued by penalties and near misses, the Cardinal offense has only produced four touchdowns.
Parkinson is confident the offense is close to clicking.
“Absolutely,” Parkinson said. “I feel great at practice this week. I’ve kind of changed my attitude. It was easier for me last year having those established vertical threats like JJ and Kaden. We have great talent on this team. It’s been tough, but I’m excited about where we’re going.”
SLOW START: Stanford’s losses have come against No. 22 UCF, No. 21 USC and No. 13 Oregon, who are a combined 9-3. Although many consider the Cardinal’s first four games the toughest stretch in the country, Shaw offered no excuses.
“We haven’t been up to our standards,” Shaw said. “Injuries aren’t the reason for our record.”
Eliminating mistakes, better execution and making plays are the Cardinal’s keys going forward.
“I trust the mentality of this football team,” said Shaw. “I think we all are a little frustrated, which I think is a positive, because we should be frustrated. We’re not going to press and scrap a lot of things. We need to tweak some things and improve the things we’re doing.”
HANGING TOUGH: Costello is questionable for Oregon State. He injured his throwing thumb early in the game after hitting an Oregon helmet with his follow through on a pass.
“He fought through it the whole game and made some great throws late in the game,” Shaw said. “It’s hard to say how much it affected him.”
Asked if he considered inserting junior backup Davis Mills, Shaw said, “Honestly, I think there were only two errant throws the entire game. He put the ball on the money a couple times with guys in his face. It wasn’t like he couldn’t do the job.”
INJURY UPDATE: Junior offensive tackle Foster Sarell is probable and senior offensive tackle Devery Hamilton is doubtful.
Sophomore cornerback Ethan Bonner, senior cornerback Treyjohn Butler and junior strong safety Stuart Head could return to practice and might be available Saturday.
DEFENSIVE FORCE: Fifth-year senior outside linebacker Casey Toohill is first in the Pac-12 in sacks with four and second in tackles for loss with six. He leads the team with 28 tackles and has one forced fumble and two hurries.
“I thought we came out with more fire,” Toohill said of last week’s 21-6 defeat to Oregon. “That really should be our standard. I think we really need to bring the same juice every game.”
ALL OUT: Sophomore wide receiver Michael Wilson likes being physical and goes hard until he hears a whistle on every play. He developed that mentality in youth football.
“I just have the desire to out-work my opponent,” Wilson said. “Coach Shaw really wants that to be the theme of the Stanford football team. It has been in the past. I like to bring professional brutality. If you keep attacking over and over again, a lot of guys aren’t going to like that.”
Asked about the team’s offensive struggles, Wilson said, “People love to see big plays made and we want to make big plays. That’s why we put in all this work throughout the offseason.”
The danger is trying to force things.
“In a way, you kind of have to let the game come to you,” Wilson said. “I think when you try too hard to make a play, that’s oftentimes when you don’t. You have to have this calm way about it. We’ve got guys across the board that can make plays. Hopefully, it starts this game.”
BACK TO CLASS: Autumn quarter classes began Monday.
“It’s definitely gotten more hectic, but we’re Stanford men, and this is what we signed up for,” Wilson said. “I love it. School is a big part of why I came here. I love the challenge.”
SCOUTING THE BEAVERS: Toohill is impressed with Oregon State’s offense and knows stopping it will be a challenge.
“Great running backs and receivers,” Toohill said. “Like any Pac-12 offense, they can put up a lot of points. I don’t think their record reflects how good they are. There are no easy weeks in the Pac-12, so you always have to be on your game.”
Quarterback Jake Luton, now in his sixth year of college football, has thrown for eight touchdowns and hasn’t been intercepted. Running back Jermar Jefferson has rushed for 270 yards and averages 5.7 yards per carry, while wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins has snared five scoring passes and averages 15.1 yards per catch.
NOTES: Shaw typically watches film of the last game at least three times by Sunday night … Shaw on playing at Reser Stadium: “Every time I think of Corvallis, I think of that third down chainsaw (played over the PA system). It’s unnaturally loud. It’s a great atmosphere, it’s loud and those guys are going to be fired up.” … Junior tight end Tucker Fisk and sophomore fullback Jay Symonds made their first collegiate catches against Oregon … Fifth-year senior running back Cameron Scarlett ranks fourth in the Pac-12 with 321 yards and has caught 10 passes for 88 yards.
QUOTE: “I’ve never seen a guy that has so much natural wiggle. He’s like a magician with his body.” — Michael Wilson on freshman running back Austin Jones