By Mark Soltau
Stanford senior All-American outside linebacker and tri-captain Chase Thomas had a message for his defense at the beginning of the fourth quarter. With his 16th-ranked team trailing No. 13 Oregon State, 23-21, he challenged teammates to make plays and leave it all on the field Saturday at chilly Stanford Stadium.
"I asked them how they wanted to look back on the season," he said afterward in the jubilant Cardinal locker room. "I told them whoever wants it more is going to come out with that `W'. We know we want it more and have a lot more to play for. We know there's something special about this team and we're not going to let them down. I just told everyone to do their job, trust the guy next to them and play fast, and we'll be fine. And that's what they did."
Victimized by the OSU offense in the second and third quarters on the ground and through the air, the unit dug deep the final 15 minutes. The Beavers had four offensive possessions, and failed to score. The Cardinal forced two punts, recovered a fumble and preserved the 27-23 victory by stopping them on fourth down with just under two minutes remaining.
"Chase rallied them up," said defensive coordinator Derek Mason. "He said, `If not us, who? I don't know when we'll get another opportunity.'
"The guys came out and knew what they had to do, and they stepped up. That's the way it's been for most of the year. We beat a good football team today. At the end of the day, there are no easy wins. They took us the distance, but we stood up when we needed to."
As has been the case most of the season, everyone contributed. Thomas batted down a pass near the goal line in the third quarter that forced OSU to settle for a field goal; defensive end Josh Mauro recovered a fourth quarter fumble by quarterback Cody Vaz -- the lone turnover on the afternoon by the Beavers -- and it led to the winning touchdown; and outside linebacker Alex Debniak sacked Vaz on third and four late in the game, forcing him to leave the contest.
"They all made plays," Mason said. "Coming into this game, I know they (Beavers) talked about their running back (Storm Woods) and their two wideouts (Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks), but 11 beats three every time you count it up."
The statistics backed him up. Six Stanford players were in on the eight tackles for losses, led by nose guard Terrence Stephens and outside linebacker Trent Murphy with two each. Three Stanford players recorded sacks.
"During the middle of the game, there were a few leaks in our defense up front," said defensive end Ben Gardner. "The problem was we were letting them run the ball up the middle, which we typically don't do. When that happens, it opens up other things for the offense.
"All we really had to do was get back to playing our game. We were kind of thrown off by their screen game, which got in our heads a little bit and caused us to overplay that. But Chase and Shayne (Skov) did a great job of rallying everybody together and just saying, `Just do what we do, and make a stand at the end of the game.' We were able to do it."
Cardinal players expected a 60-minute battle from Oregon State, and that's exactly what they got. Despite jumping out to a quick 14-0 lead, they knew the Beavers would claw back.
"We knew it was going to be a fight all week," Gardner said. "Watching these guys on film, they're very sound. They don't turn the ball over and they don't beat themselves. We knew we were going to have to come in and play our best football. It was a fun game."
Only after the game did Thomas allow himself to realize it was his last regular-season game at Stanford Stadium.
"It didn't hit me until now," he said. "I didn't think about it until the game was over. It was definitely bittersweet, but it's been great playing here."
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Prior to the game, Stanford recognized 17 seniors who were playing their final regular-season home game. They were: Thomas, defensive back Harold Bernard, inside linebacker Brent Etiz, long snapper Jacob Gowan, wide receiver Sam Knapp, strong safety Cason Kynes, wide receiver Jamal-Rashad Patterson, quarterback Robbie Picazo, tight end Jemari Roberts, strong safety Brent Seals, center Sam Schwartzstein, running back Andrew Stutz, wide receiver Drew Terrell, punter Daniel Zychlinski plus Debniak, Stephens and Taylor.
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At halftime, eight inductees into the 2012 Stanford Athletic Hall were introduced to the crowd. All were honored on Friday night. They were: Ellen Estes '02 (women's water polo), Ron George '92 (football), Larissa Fontaine `00 (women's gymnastics), Dan Hanan '90 (men's volleyball), Brad Hauser '00 (men's cross country/track and field), Misty Hyman '01 (women's swimming), Meredith McGrath '93 (women's tennis), and Jessica Mendoza '02 (softball).