STANFORD, CA–Until someone figures out Jarek Broussard and the Colorado run game, the good times could hang around Boulder for a while.
And Stanford? The physical, hard-nosed bunch always hanging around their football facility for the last decade might not be currently enrolled in school.
Stanford survived a rough first half in which they couldn’t finish anything offensively while the visiting Buffs cleaned up with their quick-hitting run game. But somehow quarterback Davis Mills and kicker Jet Toner kept the Cardinal within range, down five, 14-9.
The appearance of competitiveness disappeared quickly to start the third quarter, as Colorado struck for two touchdowns on their way to a 35-32 win at Stanford Stadium.
“Everybody’s buying in,” fifth-year senior quarterback Sam Noyer said. “Guys are having fun out there. It’s good to see that again. I haven’t seen that in a couple years.”
Noyer ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw for two more, including a 34-yard pass play to Jerry Rice’s son, Brenden that put the Buffs up 28-9 just six minutes into the second half.
Mills did his best to rally Stanford, throwing for 327 yards and a touchdown, but the senior misfired on 25 pass attempts and failed to convert 11 of 16 third down opportunities. Mills’ uneven performance was indicative of his lack of practice and game reps due to COVID testing procedures that the Pac-12 admitted this week contained errors and should not have forced the Cardinal to hold out Mills and three others that missed the opener at Oregon.
“He was in isolation essentially from Saturday afternoon until Thursday night,” coach David Shaw said of Mills. “He was able to come in and get one practice and it showed. There’s not much we could have done about it, but to say that it didn’t affect his performance I think would be inaccurate.”
Mills one-yard touchdown pass to Scooter Harrington cut the Colorado lead from as many as 19 to three with 2:45 remaining. But the Buffs salted away the remainder of the clock, allowing Stanford just 10 seconds and the final play of the game which resulted in a fumble.
The Buffs got 121 yards rushing from Broussard, and 177 yards total on 45 carries. That didn’t include a swing pass that turned into a 55-yard touchdown by Dimitry Stanley, one of several big plays where the Stanford defense was caught uncharacteristically napping.
The Stanford run game underperformed, managing just 70 yards on 21 carries, in part due to Mills needing to throw on nearly every down when their deficit grew to three scores. Still Austin Jones paltry production stood out as the sophomore followed up a 100-yard performance at Oregon with nine yards on nine carries.
The Cardinal fell to 0-2 after finishing last season 4-8, by far the worst stretch of results in the last decade under Shaw. Stanford also dropped their home opener for the first time after 12 consecutive wins.
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.
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.
sfgate.com photo: Southern California running back Stephen Carr (7) scores a rushing touchdown against Stanford during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Los Angeles
By Pearl Allison Lo
LOS ANGELES — In the 99th matchup between these California rivals, No. 23 Stanford was shut out in the second half as the teams kicked off the Pac-12 season at United Airlines Field Saturday.
Quarterbacks Kedon Slovis (USC) and Davis Mills (Cardinal) also had their first starts of their college careers 99th meeting first Saturday
USC tweeted, “Slovis is the first true freshman in USC history to throw for 2 touchdowns in his first career start.” He went 28 of 33 for 377 yards and three scores.
Mills went 22 of 36 with 237 yards for one score and one interception.
Neither quarterback had a fumble but each were sacked at least once.
Stanford’s leaders were for rushing Cameron Scarlett, 82 yards, 1 TD and receiving Colby Parkinson for 89 yards.
For the Trojans, their leaders for rushing was Vavae Malepeai, 42 yards, 2 TDs and receiving Amon-Ra St. Brown 97 yards, 2 TDs.
The Cardinal started with the momentum even though the Trojans scored first. Stanford scored on every drive, including on a fumble recovery, until 2:21 left to go in the first half. USC’s first touchdown came with 11:29 left in the second and they halted the Cardinal defensively in the end zone after 14:56 left in the second.
In the second half, we saw the first sacks and interception.
Both teams scored on their opening drive.
The Trojans’ first drive was highlighted by a 45-yard pass to Drake London, but Stanford was able to cut them off from a touchdown. The closest USC got was the two yard line, ending the drive with two incomplete passes before Chase McGrath made it 3-0 with a 23-yard field goal.
Connor Wedington was the highlight of the Cardinal’s first drive. He gave them good field advantage with a 60-yard return and two plays after the Trojans were stalled by a holding penalty, he took a 15-yard pass into the end zone, the second pass of the drive.
Both teams combined for 34 points in the second quarter.
Stanford was helped down the field with an illegal use of hands call. A 21-yard pass to Parkinson at the four was then ruled out of bounds before it was called good after review. Scarlett then had two runs in the first and second quarter to make it a 14-3 lead.
With 14:43 left in the half, the Cardinal then forced a fumble off Velus Jones Jr.’s 21-yard return, which was recovered by Stanf Tobe Umerah. Stanford went down the field four straight plays to fourth down and Jet Toner converted a 32-yard field goal to extend the Cardinal’s lead to 17-3.
The Trojans found themselves on third down with 12:54 left, but that was followed by three double-digit plays, the last a 39-yard pass to one of the St. Brown brothers, Amon-Ra, in the end zone for both USC and Slovis’s first touchdown.
One of Stanford’s drives was filled with penalties, two from USC (personal foul and pass interference) and one from the Cardinal (holding). The Cardinal continued scoring with a 37-yard field goal by Toner to double their lead to 20-10.
The Trojans got to within three (20-17) with their second touchdown in a row. The longest plays were a 25-yard return by Jones Jr., a 29-yard pass to Tyler Vaughns and a 25-yard touchdown run to the left by Stephen Carr.
Then Stanford was forced to punt for the first time with 2:21 left.
USC kept rolling with their third straight touchdown that gave them their first lead (24-20) since their opening drive. They had a holding penalty but Vaughns caught a 31-yard pass and the Cardinal had two straight defensive offside penalties. It was their fastest drive, 1 minute and 50 seconds, as the Tronjans went 70 yards.
USC nearly duplicated their first half total in the second half.
The first quarterback sack came with 12:09 left in the third on Mills by Connor Murphy. It was Murphy’s first career sack. Mills was also sacked by Jay Tufele on the same drive. Toner missed his first and longest field goal of the night, 39 yards, in the second half’s opening drive. It was the longest drive of the night in terms of plays (14) and time (7:09).
Slovis was sacked the following drive by Casey Toohill with 7:08 left. It was the shortest drive in terms of plays (three) and yards (one).
Toner then attempted a 47-yard field goal, but he was blocked by Austin Jackson with 3:21 left.
The Trojans made it 31-20 with 44 seconds left in the third. Michael Pittman Jr. accounted for the bulk of the yardage with a total of 61 yards through three plays. Malepeai ran four yards into the end zone to complete the drive.
Mills took the game’s first interception too as he was caught by Greg Johnson with 13:21 left in the game. USC was able to turn it into a touchdown when Malepeai ran six yards for his second score three minutes later. It was the game’s biggest lead at 38-20.
Things continued to look grim as they turned over the ball on downs with 8:21 left. This also went the opposite way as Vaughns had 30 yards, 16 on the scoring reception to make it 45-20. He ended up with the most total yardage in the game with 106.
Up Next: Next Saturday, the Trojans will face BYU at 1:30 pm and Stanford will take on UCF at 12:30 pm