Led by Christian McCaffrey, the Stanford offense came back to life in a 34-10 victory over Arizona on Saturday night.
McCaffrey scored three touchdowns and rushed for 169 yards as Stanford's offense showed much improvement after a series of struggles. The Cardinal (5-3 overall, 3-3 in the Pac-12) scored multiple offensive touchdowns – four -- for the first time since Sept. 17 and reached a season-high in points.
McCaffrey, who had 225 all-purpose yards, scored touchdowns on runs of 45 and 6 yards and a reception of 18. An additional score on a punt return was nullified by a penalty. He also became the fifth Stanford rusher to reach the 3,000-yard career milestone.
"It felt great," McCaffrey said. "It feels even better getting a win, especially just getting something going with our offense. We've struggled a bit as the year has gone on, but it felt really good to get back to a little bit of a comfort level."
Quarterback Keller Chryst had an up-and-down performance in his first start. He did have the touchdown pass to McCaffrey and another on a late 5-yard fade to JJ Arcega-Whiteside. However, Chryst also had some accuracy issues and threw an interception a pivotal part of the game on a play that ultimately helped Stanford.
With Stanford holding a 14-7 second-quarter lead on third and long, Chryst forced a pass under heavy pressure that landed in the arms of Arizona's Dane Cruikshank.
As the cornerback turned upfield, he was hit by Stanford guard Nate Herbig and fumbled. Fullback Chris Harrell picked up the ball on the run to allow the Cardinal to regain possession on a series that ended with a 45-yard field goal by Conrad Ukropina.
Chryst completed 14 of 30 passes for 104 yards and was sacked four times. But a 229-yard team rushing performance carried the day, with Bryce Love contributing 78 yards on 12 carries.
McCaffrey now has seven touchdowns, including two each against Kansas State and USC in the season's first two games. His 45-yarder came during a scoreless game early in the second quarter on a trap play that was sprung by right tackle Casey Tucker and left guard Brandon Fanaika and a lead block by Reagan Williams. McCaffrey split the defense on a run up the middle.
Touchdown No. 2 was perfectly set up by an imbalanced line to the left. As the play moved in that direction at the snap, McCaffrey cut to his right and Chryst spun in that direction to find him wide open. A block by tight end Dalton Schultz was all McCaffrey needed to score untouched for a 14-0 lead.
His final score was a brilliant display of shiftiness and quick cuts and he bounced outside and cut behind Herbig for the score. He left the game midway through the fourth quarter.
The Cardinal defense was at its typical best. The Cardinal held Arizona (2-6, 0-5) to 286 yards while picking up five sacks, including 1.5 by Solomon Thomas, and got an interception from Ben Edwards.
What are the Cardinal's goals for the rest of this season, with a home game against Oregon State coming up Saturday?
"Taking it week by week and winning every single game," McCaffrey said. "We're not looking ahead to anything but this next week."