Chryst is unbeaten as Stanford's starting quarterback


Before turning attention to the 119th Big Game against Cal on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Berkeley, it's Appreciation Day.

After losing three of four, Stanford (7-3 overall, 5-3 Pac-12) has regrouped to win three straight games and reasserted itself as one of the top teams in the highly-competitive Pac-12.

Harrison Phillips

Keller Chryst
The difficult early-season schedule contributed, and the second-week bye was little help. Injuries and growing pains were big factors, especially on offense.

After the crushing 10-5 defeat to Colorado, the Cardinal has gotten healthier, the offensive line has stabilized, and Christian McCaffrey has found rhythm and running room. The junior has churned for 523 yards and six touchdowns in his last three outings -- an average of 168 per contest -- and was a spectator in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 52-27 thumping of Oregon (3-7, 1-6).

McCaffrey's 135-yard performance at Autzen Stadium in Eugene pushed him over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season (1,115). He now ranks 10th nationally at 123.9 yards/game, and second in all-purpose yards at 193.22, trailing Joe Mixon of Oklahoma (193.89).

Junior quarterback Keller Chryst is 3-0 as a starter and played his best game against the Ducks. Looking composed and confident, he threw for a career-high 258 yards and three scores. Arm strength has never been a question, but Chryst showed accuracy and touch, and for the first time all season, the offense did not commit a turnover.

"He's such a great player, such a great leader," said McCaffrey. "Watching him develop, and seeing him continue to go out there and show what he has is something special."

Sophomore strong safety Justin Reid is becoming a force. Smart, aggressive and athletic, he amassed a game-high 11 tackles -- 10 solo -- against the Ducks. Reid made three stops behind the line of scrimmage and snuffed a two-point conversion.

"He was all over the place," said David Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football.

Junior defensive lineman Solomon Thomas is having a monster season and is only scratching the surface. He departed with an ankle injury, but could have returned, and should be ready for Cal.

Junior defensive tackle Harrison Philips collected two sacks and has at least one in five of the past six games. He and Thomas share the team lead with seven.

The kicking game remains stout with Conrad Ukropina and Jake Bailey. Ukropina nailed a 43-yard field goal at Oregon and is 15 of 19 on the season. He made all six extra points to extend his school record to 96 in a row.

Bailey handles kickoff and punt duties. Six of his nine kickoffs went for touchbacks at Oregon, a feat he has accomplished 29 of 49 times in 2016.

Oregon natives Joey Alfieri and Cameron Scarlett made the most of their homecomings. Alfieri, an outside linebacker, intercepted two passes. His last pick came during his junior year of high school in Portland.

The other came off a tipped pass by strong safety Dallas Lloyd.

"Dallas made a great play and it came right to me," said Alifieri.

Scarlett, a backup to McCaffrey and Bryce Love, entered with 14 carries for 32 yards. Against Oregon, he ran 14 times for 68 yards and tallied his first career touchdown on a 13-yard run in the third quarter.

"There's no better place to do it, with all my family here," said Scarlett, who attended Central Catholic High in Portland.

Stanford received 16 votes in the AP poll on Sunday. Washington (7), Utah (11), Colorado (12), USC (15) and Washington State (20) are ranked in the top 20.

Defensive backs coach Duane Akina has long been regarded as one of the best in college football. Now in his 36th season overall and third on The Farm, Cardinal players feed off his knowledge, teaching and enthusiasm.

Even with the loss of sophomore cornerback Alijah Holder to injury, his secondary has sparkled and helped Stanford intercept 12 passes this season, tied for 21st nationally. Last year, the team finished with eight picks.

Cal (4-6, 2-5) dropped its third consecutive game on Saturday night, falling 56-21 to Washington State in Pullman. The Bears have struggled on defense and rank last in the FBS in scoring, allowing 45.6 points/game, and second-to-last against the run (283.4).

Stanford extended its winning streak to six straight against the Bears last year with a 35-22 victory at Stanford Stadium. McCaffrey rushed for 192 yards, returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score, and accumulated a school-record 389 all-purpose yards.

Extra Points ... The offense was bolstered by the return of starting fullback Daniel Marx, sidelined since the third game of the season against UCLA … Stanford has held all 10 opponents under their season scoring average. The unit ranks 14th nationally in scoring defense (19.4) and is tied for 11th in sacks with 32 … Wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside has 16 receptions and five have resulted in touchdowns … Defensive back Zach Hoffpauir, wide receiver Francis Owusu and offensive linemen Casey Tucker and Brandon Fanaika were held out of the Oregon game with injuries … Seniors walk-ons Ryan Gaertner and Treyvion Foster made their college debuts against the Ducks … Former standout linebacker Chase Thomas '12, now working for STRIVR Labs, Inc., served as honorary captain.

Quotable ... "I spend a lot of time taking on 300-pound lineman, but I enjoy covering receivers." – Joey Alfieri

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