After getting off to a disappointing 1-2 start this season, Stanford has rallied in the next three games. After a gritty 15-13 win over Arizona State yesterday, they sit at 4-2 and still have a chance of topping the PAC-12 North.
The Cardinal finished a disappointing 53rd overall last year, and this was widely tipped to be a resurgence year under a new head coach. They had a good recruiting season, picking up some stellar talent. Four freshmen are holding down starting roster slots: FB Robert West (20-79 rushing), SS Christobel Weaver, P Lloyd Rosario (Avg 41.7) and DT Robert Mason (5 tackles, 4 sacks). With only six seniors out of 25 starters in their depth chart, the 2016-vintage Cardinal looked to be an improving outfit this year, with a strong chance of honors in 2017.
But this optimism going into the season was quickly brought down to earth. A close win at home to Kansas State in week 1 was followed by a 17-7 beating by the South Carolina Gamecocks, then a heartbreaking 10-9 loss to Oregon State in the first conference game of the season.
But the spirit of the tree was strong, and the Cardinal rallied. Wins over Washington and Utah were followed up by a gritty 15-13 win over 20th-ranked Arizona State.
The half-time score was 7-6, with a grinding TD drive from the Sun Devils at the end of the half matched by two Jacinto Moreno field goals. In the third quarter the teams exchanged field goals, before a 55-yard streak from QB Greg Holcombe to FL Lawrence Cote set up Stanford’s Jr RB William Black for his fifth TD rush of the season, leaving Stanford ahead 15-10. The Sun Devils fought back in the fourth quarter, but had their scoring drive stopped at the Stanford 23. They were second and ten, when two successive sacks of ASU QB Donald Wilkins by Stanford freshman DT Robert Mason put Arizona State back to fourth and 18 at the 31 yard line. The Sun Devils got the field goal, but never got back in scoring position. Mason was deservedly MVP for this game-changing passage of play.
The win leaves Stanford 3-1 in the PAC-12, second in the Northern division behind the 3-0 Oregon Ducks (#6). The two meet in week 10 in a game that might well decide who finishes on top and progresses to the conference title game.