Beavers fall flat
STANFORD, Calif. — Oregon State entered Saturday's game at Stanford still in control of its destiny in the Pac-12's North Division. It left looking like a team that better worry about just becoming bowl eligible.
Sean Mannion threw for a career-low 122 yards as the Beavers were beaten 38-14 by a rejuvenated Stanford team that dominated in almost every area.
"It was one of the worst days of football that we have had in a long, long time," Beavers coach Mike Riley said.
Oregon State (4-3, 1-3) is all but out of the race to make the conference championship game now. Sean Mannion and the Beavers struggled to move the ball against the league's top-ranked defense, scoring one TD after an interception and another against second-stringers with the game decided.
The Cardinal outgained Oregon State 438 to 221 yards.
"It was bad football all the way around," Riley said.
The Cardinal (5-3, 3-2 Pac-12) controlled the game from start to finish, showing more diverse looks that they have all season — just like coach David Shaw had promised after a perplexing 26-10 loss at Arizona State last week took Stanford out of The Associated Press poll for the first time in four years.
Kevin Hogan threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and Ty Montgomery returned a punt for a score as Stanford's sporadic offense busted out of a season-long slump. The victory sets up a date with No. 6 Oregon for first place in the Pac-12's North Division.
"I told our players, 'The last time our constituents were nervous about us and not sure what we were going to do, we won three straight games and went to the Rose Bowl,'" Shaw said, recalling last season's improbable run. "The year before, when the world was crashing down around us once again, we won eight straight and went to the Rose Bowl. It's a long season. There are a lot of things that happen."
Stanford still had its share of mistakes, though, showing the turnaround is not quite complete. Hogan tossed two interceptions, Ben Rhyne had a punt blocked and Jordan Williamson made one of two short field goals.
But for most of the game, the Cardinal cleaned up their act.
Hogan completed 18 of 28 passes for 277 yards. Stanford's running-back-by-committee approach racked up 151 yards rushing, including a 1-yard TD run by fullback Patrick Skov.
Mannion also was threw sacked six times. Oregon State had 12 yards rushing.
"They are tough up front. That's Stanford every year," Mannion said.
The Cardinal's captivating performance brings a lot more intrigue into Eugene, where Heisman Trophy hopeful Marcus Mariota appears healthier than in last season's game on The Farm. Stanford has beaten Oregon the past two years on the way to Pac-12 titles and Rose Bowl berths, but the Cardinal had hardly looked like those juggernauts of the past for most of this season.
Shaw shouldered the blame for his offense's season-long struggles last week and said he'd take strong measures to get the problems fixed. He did just that, practically abandoning Stanford's smashmouth style and mixing in a no-huddle offense, read-option runs and spread-style passing attack to get the team's best playmakers more involved.
Hogan threw touchdowns of 42 yards to freshman Christian McCaffrey and 37 yards to Jordan Pratt in the first half. He also kept a read-option and ran 37 yards for a touchdown, stiffing-arming a defender to the ground to finish the longest and arguably most impressive run of his career.
"I think it's good recognizing this team's different personnel-wise. You got to adapt to your personnel," said Hogan, who still provided some head-scratching moments.
The redshirt junior's second interception was thrown into a crowd of defenders, picked off by Michael Doctor and returned to the Stanford 5 to set up Chris Brown's TD run.
The Cardinal overcame those mistakes to carry a 28-7 lead into the half and put the game away early in the third quarter behind Montgomery's latest highlight.
The All-American kickoff returner patiently waited for blocks and zig-zagged through a wall of defenders for a 50-yard punt return — his second this season — to give Stanford a 35-7 lead.