Sports


Stanford gets out of Oregon with a crucial win

 

Andrew Luck may not be returning to Corvallis any time soon. Stanford's quarterback has had a rough time in each of his two visits there.

At least this time the Cardinal got a victory out of it, beating the Beavers, 38-13, Saturday on a cold, rainy day. The triumph moved Stanford to No. 3 in this week's Associated Press Top 20 poll, following No. 1 LSU's 9-6 win over No. 2 Alabama on Saturday.

Stanford also moved up to No. 4 in the BCS standings -- trailing LSU, Oklahoma State and Alabama. The Cardinal can clinch home-field advantage for the Pac-12 playoffs with a win over visiting and No. 6 Oregon this Saturday. It's the first time two Top 10 football teams have played at Stanford.

This past Saturday, Luck threw an early interception, misfired on seven of his first 11 passes and was staring at a 17-13 score on the big screen at Reser Stadium midway through the third quarter.

Stanford's first possession of the second half was a disaster, as penalties put the Cardinal in a first-and-35 situation. After David Green pinned the Beavers inside their own 10 with a 49-yard punt, the Cardinal defense stiffened.

And Luck went to work, guiding Stanford 82 yards in eight plays with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Stepfan Taylor the culmination.

On Oregon State's next series, Chase Thomas caused a fumble while sacking Sean Mannion, with Matt Masafilo recovering. Three plays later Luck connected with Coby Fleener on a 14-yard touchdown pass and Stanford was back in control.

Another sloppy first half on the road turned into a compelling second half recovery. Luck had 76 passing yards at the half and ended with 206. Stanford compiled 507 total offensive yards, 267 of it in the second half.

"We understood it could be a trap game sandwiched between two great teams," Luck said, "but I think our football team is mature enough to understand that if we don't win this game the rest of the games don't matter."

Stanford extended the nation's longest winning streak to 17 games. The Cardinal opened 9-0 for the first time since 1952.

In many ways, it was a typical sluggish start on the road for Stanford, and another fast finish. Stanford coach David Shaw addressed just that point earlier in the week, saying the team was working toward starting stronger. At least the Cardinal (7-0, 9-0) got it right in the end.

Stanford's hopes and dreams for the season will be on the line next Saturday when mighty Oregon, ranked sixth, comes to visit in a battle of top 10 teams. The winner will surely reach the Pac-12 championship game and would be in line for the national championship game.

Not everything turned out well for the Cardinal. Chris Owusu took yet another blow to the head and had to leave the game via ambulance. He was in the locker room afterward, looking chipper.

It was described as a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet collision with Beavers cornerback Jordan Poyer. That was later changed to a strained shoulder.

Owusu, who was also hit hard last weekend in Stanford's triple-overtime victory over USC, was prone on the field for several minutes after the hit midway through the second quarter. He gave a thumbs-up after he was loaded on to a stretcher and placed into the ambulance.

He was conscious and had a full range of motion in his extremities when he left the field. He was taken to the hospital for X-rays, but later returned and was in the locker room with his teammates after the game.

"It's scary, especially when it happens to a guy it's happened to before," said Luck.

Poyer hit Owusu on the run after he caught a pass from Luck. The hit knocked the ball out of Owusu's hands, and Poyer scooped it up and ran into the end zone. Poyer was charged with a personal foul and the touchdown was called back.

Poyer said he thought the hit was shoulder to helmet, but understood why the call was made.

"It was a bang-bang play," he said. "The ref saw helmet-to-helmet contact. He's going to make that call every time."

USC safety T.J. McDonald leveled Owusu with a hit to the head last week, drawing a personal foul penalty late in regulation. The Pac-12 suspended McDonald for the first half of Friday's night game at Colorado for the late hit.

Owusu also suffered a minor concussion in a win at Washington State in mid-October after taking what Shaw said was the hardest hit he's ever seen.

Luck, who finally got a win in the state of Oregon in his third attempt, completed 20 of 30 passes with one interception. He upped his touchdown pass total to 26, six shy of his own school record set last year, by spreading it around and connecting for scores with Fleener, Taylor and Whalen.

"I though we left a lot of plays out there," Luck said. "Credit to Oregon State, which played tough. It was a tough atmosphere out there."

The Cardinal opened with a 2-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Stewart before Luck found Whalen with a 17-yard scoring pass to make it 14-0.

The Beavers responded but Erik Whitaker added a 31-yard field goal for Stanford before halftime to make it 17-7.

The Beavers narrowed it early in the second half on freshman Malcolm Agnew's 2-yard scoring dive. It appeared that they had momentum, but on their next series the Beavers were hurt by a holding penalty on Markus Wheaton on a play that would have been good for a first down in Stanford territory.

Tyler Gaffney ran 10 yards for Stanford's final score.

Overall, the Cardinal rushed for 300 yards, compared to just 33 rushing yards for the Beavers. Stanford had 507 yards in total offense, while Oregon State had 285.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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