The Stanford football team used its 1-2 punch of Christian McCaffrey and Conrad Ukropina to subdue Oregon State, 26-15, at Stanford Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
McCaffrey rushed for a season-high 199 yards and scored a touchdown, and Ukropina kicked a career-high four field goals to boost Stanford to the Pac-12 North victory and its third triumph in the past four games.
Keller Chryst improved to 2-0 as a starter despite a rough outing by the passing game. Stanford's 60 passing yards were the fewest in a victory since a total of 53 in a 2003 victory over BYU.
However, the Cardinal punished the Beavers for 365 rushing yards. Bryce Love had 89 yards on nine carries and scored on a 56-yard run, and Chryst equaled Love's total, on 11 carries. Stanford did not pass at all in the fourth quarter and concluded the game with 29 runs, covering the game's final 20 minutes.
"You got a glimpse of how we thought we were going to play this year," said David Shaw, Stanford's Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. "The combination of Bryce and Christian McCaffrey, it's so special."
Stanford (6-3 overall, 5-3 Pac-12) became bowl eligible for the eighth consecutive season, though Shaw does not count six victories as an achievement.
"I can never allow us to have that as a goal," he said. "That's the bare minimum. We don't believe in bare minimums. Those sights are too low for us."
Stanford also extended its winning streak in the series to eight. Oregon State (2-7, 1-5) suffered its fourth consecutive loss.
Oregon State drew within one score, at 23-15, on a touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter, a three-yard run by quarterback Marcus McMaryion and a successful two-point conversion pass.
But Stanford countered with an Ukropina field goal, this one from 36 yards, and the Cardinal held the Beavers without a first down the rest of the way. Ukropina had field goals of 52, 20, 30, and 36, and missed a 42-yarder.
A 10-yard fourth-down run by McCaffrey from Stanford's own 47 extended a drive that didn't result in points, but kept the Beavers off the field for 6:11 of the final quarter – all on runs.
"That was a very conscious decision," Shaw said. "You have an offensive line that's feeling good, creating creases, giving guys a chance to run. Got two running backs that are getting better and better, stronger and stronger, an athletic quarterback. You got a two-score lead. Let's ground this thing, let's end the game. That's what our guys did."
Said Oregon State coach Gary Andersen, "That's what Stanford wants to do, they want to get you to the point where they wear you out, and they make plays."
McCaffrey had 241 all-purpose yards, surpassing 6,000 for his career, and gained his 199 rushing yards on 32 carries. He had runs of 51 and 23 yards, and scored from the 1 to build a 23-7 Stanford lead.
"I go where the O-line goes," McCaffrey said. "They did a fantastic job of opening up holes and allowing our guys to find creases."
Chryst was 10-of-17 passing for 60 yards, and lost two fumbles on mishandled snaps. About his progress, Shaw said, "I'm not going to treat him like a fourth-year veteran. It was start No. 2. There are going to be some growing pains."
In the first half, Stanford followed a recent pattern – a big defensive performance combined with enough offense to get by. The offense, in this case, was a product of Love and McCaffrey, with help from Ukropina.
Stanford built a 10-0 lead on consecutive first-quarter possessions, with Ukropina tying a career-long with a 52-yarder.
On its next play from scrimmage, Love followed pulling left guard Nate Herbig through the line, bounced to the right and found a seam in the Beavers' defense for a 56-yard scoring run. Francis Owusu had a key block and got his helmet pulled off for his work.
"He's such a playmaker," McCaffrey said. "Whenever you can get the ball in his hands in space, he can do a lot of really special things with it."
Oregon State, which otherwise was held in check, produced one big play to climb within 10-7. With linebacker Joey Alfieri providing a heavy rush, McMaryion lofted a pass down right sideline to Victor Bolden Jr., just over cornerback Quenton Meeks. Safety Dallas Lloyd missed a tackle at the 40-yard line and Bolden coasted in from there to complete a 75-yard play.
Ukropina proved to be a huge factor. With Chyrst struggling in his first home start and second overall, the Cardinal put a lot on the shoulders of their fifth-year senior kicker. Ukropina hit a 20-yarder to allow Stanford to salvage to reward a 51-yard run by McCaffrey on a drive that died at the Oregon State 5.
Early in the third quarter, Ukropina hit from 30 yards for a 16-7 lead after the first career interception by linebacker Kevin Palma gave Stanford the ball at the 38, and a McCaffrey tackle-breaking run of 17 yard helped the Cardinal advance to the 12.
Chryst had repeated problems with the snap, fumbling a shotgun snap on the game's third play and being fortunate the Beavers missed a 26-yard field goal try.
On the fumble, left guard Brandon Fanaika was injured and Johnny Caspers, who was questionable because of injury, entered and played the rest of the game. Right tackle Casey Tucker also left the game with an injury. A line that's been in flux all season continues that trend.
A high and wide snap on a second-quarter third-and-2 play was knocked down by Chryst, and Oregon State recovered. And in the third quarter, a fumbled exchange on third and short ended another drive. This time, Ukropina could not rescue the Cardinal, missing a 47-yard field goal try.
"We've got to do a better job of helping our defense out and putting the ball in the box," McCaffrey said.
However, Stanford built its lead to 23-7 when McCaffrey scored from one yard out with 2:38 left in the third quarter. An interception by Mustafa Branch off a deflection by tackle Harrison Phillips gave Stanford the ball at its own 41. This time, Chryst provided the big play with a 44-yard run that began as a scramble and ended at the Oregon State 4.
Oregon State countered with its first sustained drive of the game, moving 76 yards in five plays, with McMaryion scoring from three yards on the first play of the fourth quarter. A two-point conversion pass from McMaryion to H-back Ricky Ortiz brought the Beavers within one score, 26-15.
Stanford is improving. The Cardinal has scored 60 over the past two games, its highest two-game total of the season, and McCaffrey has gained 368 rushing yards in that same span, including a 34-10 victory at Arizona last week.
"We're getting better," Shaw said. "We're close. We're just not quite there yet."