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Oregon State Notebook: The Drive

Dec 9, 2020

AFTER A SURGING Washington team closed to within 31-26 on a field goal with 7:54 left, Stanford sought to stifle the momentum and use up the clock, and that's exactly what the Cardinal did, using every second to salt away a well-earned victory Saturday in Seattle. 

The advantage of perspective makes the 14-play, 79-yard drive even more special. It ended on an Austin Jones fourth-down conversion run to the Husky 9-yard line, allowing the clock to tick to zero.

The last time Stanford closed a victory by using more clock was Sept. 26, 2009, when the Cardinal consumed the last 8:09 of a 34-14 home triumph against Washington. Andrew Luck threw only 14 times in a sub-3-hour game that Toby Gerhart took over with a 200-yard rushing effort. With Gerhart and Tyler Gaffney, Stanford ran on all 13 plays of the drive. 

But closing out a narrow contest is a more pressure-filled task. In this case, at no time this century has Stanford closed out a one-score game by using more clock. Drive charts of Stanford games are available on-line through 2000, so we know Stanford hasn't closed a one-score game with a more time-consuming drive since at least 1999. 

This was textbook game management, with assistant coaches Tavita Pritchard (passing) and Morgan Turner (running) keeping the coaches on the field informed from the booth. Head coach David Shaw added a tweak by moving Simi Fehoko to the 'z' spot, a position Fehoko doesn't play, on a third-and-11 and Fehoko responded with a spectacular 25-yard catch. 

Fehoko also converted on an earlier third-and-10, but it was Jones, behind a young and talented line, who was the workhorse, carrying 11 times on the possession for 43 yards and gaining three first downs. 

 

Toby Gerhart helped put away Washington in 2009. Photo by David Gonzales/Stanford Athletics.
 
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DAVIS MILLS PASSED only twice on the drive, both third-and-long conversions to Fehoko, but they capped a strong 20-for-30 day with 252 yards and a touchdown and no interceptions. He also made a touchdown-saving tackle on a fourth-quarter fumble return that could have allowed Washington to tie the game. 

"I don't think there's anything that happened in that game that he's more proud of than that tackle," said Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. "He would rather talk to you about that tackle than the touchdown pass." 

Mills is a senior academically in his first season as a full-time starter. He has 12 career appearances and nine starts. He's now "in full swing," Shaw said, after an error in COVID-testing protocols forced Mills out of the opener against Oregon and most of the week before Colorado – both losses.

"I told Davis, 'I hope you appreciate the fact that I'm going to have ridiculously high standards for you,' because I want him even better," Shaw said. "I learned from Jon Gruden, when you've got a great player, that's the one you have to push. I believe that wholeheartedly. Davis understands that. He wants to be great and I think there's another level for him."
 
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WITH A BAN on contact sports by Santa Clara County health officials in trying to slow the spread of COVID-19, Stanford is a vagabond team. This season marks the fewest home games for Stanford (one), in a season in which they've played an official football schedule, since 1897, when the "Cardinals" as they were known, didn't play any games on campus. Instead, four of its five were in San Francisco and one in San Jose. 

The Cardinal is practicing at Oregon State all week in preparation for the Beavers on Saturday. Last week, Stanford arrived in Seattle on Tuesday, and squeezed in a practice that night at the University of Washington's Dempsey Indoor facility before training at different Seattle-area high schools the rest of the week. It even conducted a walk-through at a public park. 

Stanford expects to play on Dec. 19 but the opponent and site has yet to be determined by the Pac-12. One thing is for sure, the Cardinal will be on the road again. 

"If nothing else, this jaunt that we're on has really taught our guys to appreciate today and prepare for tomorrow," Shaw said. "Anything after tomorrow is something we don't worry about."
 
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FRESHMAN OFFENSIVE TACKLE Myles Hinton has been a regular part of Stanford's 'jumbo' formations, particularly on the final drive, and Shaw sees a great future for the 6-foot-7, 328-pound son of seven-time NFL Pro Bowler Chris Hinton. 

"I feel comfortable making this comparison right now, but I see Myles the same way I saw Christian McCaffery or Bryce Love," Shaw said. "Early on, you want to spoonfeed him, playing some college football that first year without putting everything on his shoulders, continue to give him a small role and let him get really good at that role. When the time comes to give him more, we'll give him more.

"This has been a great start to his college career. You don't see a lot of freshmen doing the things that he's doing on the field right now. I'm excited for when he gets a full off-season. It's going to fun around here for a while." 

 

Myles Hinton. Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/ISIphotos.com.
 
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OREGON STATE COACH Jonathan Smith said this week there is a chance Jermar Jefferson, who rushed for 226 yards in a Nov. 27 victory over Oregon, could return for Saturday's game. Jefferson has been in quarantine and missed last week's 30-24 loss to Utah. 

"He's been the most explosive back in the conference," Shaw said. "He's a special player. I hope for his sake that he does get to play. All these games are better when our top players play. He's a difference maker."
 
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INJURIES TO MICHAEL Wilson (a team-leading 19 catches this season) and Connor Wedington (15) against Washington ended their seasons. They join Osiris St. Brown on the sidelines.

The losses are a blow to the Cardinal receiving corps, though Shaw said the position remains fairly deep. Fehoko (15 catches) should continue to carry a lot of the weight, and Elijah Higgins, who had five catches against Washington, and Brycen Tremayne also are strong options. 
 
* * * 

THE CARDINAL WAS quite a sight on Thursday, conducting its walk-through before the Washington game at Downtown Park in Bellevue. Passers-by took pictures, some clapped and some even yelled 'Go Dawgs," in homage to the hometown Huskies. 

The team usually conducts its weekly walk-through at Stanford Stadium. Trying to avoid close contacts from yet another bus ride and because the weather was nice, the coaches thought it best to go outside. After being kicked out of a parking garage, the team took a short walk to the park, which included a waterway frequented by ducks, who certainly were not intimidated by the players. 

"Public-service announcement: We should not feed the ducks in public parks," Shaw said. "I think that's what was going on there, because these ducks got very close, thinking that our players were going to feed them. 

"They were not a distraction. They were a welcome addition to our traveling circus."

 

Davis Mills. Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/ISIphotos.com.