Photo credit: gostanford.com
By Ana Kieu
The Stanford Cardinal record book is filled with accomplished quarterbacks such as Frankie Albert, John Brodie, Dick Norman, Jim Plunkett, Steve Dils, Guy Benjamin, Mike Boryla, John Elway, Steve Stenstrom, Todd Husak, Andrew Luck and Kevin Hogan.
Add Davis Mills to the record book.
On Saturday in Pullman, Wash., Mills achieved something no other Cardinal signal caller had done. In just his fourth college start, the junior from Duluth, Ga., threw for 504 yards against Washington State, breaking the single-game record of 450 set by Husak against Oregon State in 1998.
“You see the potential, you see the ability,” said Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football David Shaw. “This kid has a chance to be very special.”
It was the first 400-yard passing game for Stanford since Luck went for 423 at Arizona in 2009.
Mills was subbing for senior starter K.J. Costello, who has now missed four and a half games this season due to injury. Shaw’s game plan wasn’t to air it out or attempt 50 passes, but when the Cardinal fell behind 19-0 early in the second quarter to the top passing team in college football on its home turf, he had little choice.
“Once we were down three scores, we had to throw the ball,” Shaw said.
Mills, who passed for 6,290 yards and 66 touchdowns at Greater Atlanta Christian High, obliged.
Showing poise, patience and accuracy, Mills connected with 10 different receivers for 33 completions, three producing touchdowns in the 49-22 defeat.
With Mills leading the way, Stanford clawed within three points (23-20) with 4:18 remaining in the third quarter on his 10-yard scoring toss to sophomore Simi Fehoko and fifth-year senior running back Cameron Scarlett’s two-point conversion.
Four Stanford players finished with 80 or more receiving yards, led by junior Connor Wedington with eight catches for 119 and sophomore Michael Wilson with five for 114. Fehoko grabbed three for 92 and junior Colby Parkinson collected five for 80.
“We’ve got outstanding receivers,” Shaw said.
Wedington and Wilson recorded career-highs in receiving yards, each topping 100 for the first time. Wedington has a reception in all 27 games at Stanford, while Fehoko registered his second two-touchdown game and has six scoring grabs in his last five contests.
With junior cornerback Paulson Adebo, the Pac-12 leader in passes defended and No. 5 nationally, and senior captain and free safety Malik Antoine sidelined by injuries, Shaw started true freshmen Jonathan McGill at nickel back and Kyu Blu Kelly at cornerback. The situation became more challenging when senior cornerbacks Obi Eboh and Treyjohn Butler went down.
“Obviously, we were shorthanded,” Shaw said. “We fought hard.”
Unable to mount a pass rush against Cougar quarterback Anthony Gordon, a transfer from San Francisco City College and the nation’s leading passer, Washington State piled up 624 yards — 520 through the air — and never punted.
After two road losses, Stanford (4-6, 3-5 Pac-12) looks to regroup at home on Saturday at 1 p.m. against Cal (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12). The Bears lost to USC 41-17 on Saturday night.
Stanford has won a series-high nine consecutive games against Cal. Shaw has grappled with injuries all season and might not know who is available until late in the week.
“We’ve got the talent to hang with them, but we can’t make a lot of mistakes and we don’t have a large margin of error,” Shaw said. “We might have a lot of young guys out there, but we’ll get them ready to battle.”
Last year’s game in Berkeley was postponed due to poor air quality from the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. It marked the first time in 55 years the game date was moved.
Shaw said there is plenty to play for against Cal and Notre Dame. Stanford needs two wins to become postseason eligible.
“We’re not even thinking about a bowl game right now,” said Shaw. “We’ve got two of our big-time rivals at home in November. We have to craft the best game plan possible.”
A public celebration for former Stanford head coach John Ralston will be held on Monday at 4:30 p.m. at Stanford Memorial Church. Limited parking is available near the Campus Oval, and a shuttle service will run between the Stanford Faculty Club (439 Lagunita Drive) and Memorial Church starting at 4 p.m.
Ralston revived the Stanford football program and led the team to consecutive Rose Bowl victories in 1971 and 1972. Known for his outgoing personality, energy and positive attitude, he coached at Stanford for nine years from 1963-1971 and compiled a 55-36-3 record.
Curtis Robison returned to the lineup and shared game tackling honors with nine. Kendall Williamson and Stuart Head had seven stops … Stanford used nine true freshmen on the kickoff coverage team … Scooter Harrington started at tight end, marking the 37th different player to start for the Cardinal this season … With Bradley Archer, Joshua Pakola and Nicolas Toomer seeing their first game action, Stanford has now used 20 true freshmen this season … Casey Toohill blocked an extra point, the third blocked kick by the Cardinal this season (Eboh on a field goal against Oregon State and Spencer Jorgensen on a blocked punt against UCLA) … Toohill also had a sack, his team-leading seventh of the season, and ranks third in the Pac-12 and 27th nationally … McGill made his first career pass interception to thwart a WSU scoring drive … Alex Gracey punted for the first time as a Cardinal. Two of his three kicks were downed inside the WSU 5-yard line … Jeff Raikes ’80, Chairman of the Stanford University Board of Trustees since 2012 and Co-Founder of the Raikes Foundation, served as Stanford’s honorary captain.
“I like to think it was my tutoring over the summer as he was my intern @CBRE_PaloAlto.” — Husak, the Stanford football radio analyst, on his Twitter account about Mills breaking his passing record.