Pac-12 Football: Stanford Is Stanford Again, But Oregon State Looks Different

Stanford running back Cameron Scarlett rushed for 151 yards against WashingtonPhoto by Darren Yamashita - USA TODAY Sports

Jake Curtis

Stanford is Stanford again.

Despite playing most of the fourth quarter with its third-string quarterback, Stanford dominated No. 15 Washington 23-13 on Saturday in the most surprising result of the weekend.

And Stanford did it the way it did a few years ago when it was the Pac-12’s physical monster, using a running game that overpowers opponents and shortens the game and a stiff defense that allows nothing easy.

Stanford outgained Washington 482-369, had 24 first downs to Washington’s 16, and had the ball for 39 minutes compared with Washington’s 21. Time of possession is usually a worthless statistic, but it is significant when it applies to Stanford, which loves to grind down opposing defenses, but had been unable to do that in its first five games.

Cameron Scarlett had 33 carries for a career-high 151 yards, and he was the ball carrier for all nine plays in a fourth-quarter possession that covered just 23 yards but ate up five minutes of the clock, leaving the Huskies with less than a minute left on the clock and a 10-point deficit.

That was when Jack West was Stanford’s quarterback, as the Cardinal played the final 11 minutes without injured Davis Mills.

Is it possible that Stanford is better with Mills at quarterback rather than K.J. Costello? Probably not, but it’s a question that deserves to be asked after Mills went 21-for-30 for 293 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions against a Washington team that has led the Pac-12 in defense each of the past three seasons.

Mills is better than Costello in every statistical category. He has a better completion percentage (64.6 to 56.4), more touchdown passes (5 to 2), fewer interceptions (1 to 2), a better passer rating (145.69 to 101.24) and a better record as a starter (2-1 with a win over the only ranked team Mills faced against 1-1 and a loss to the only ranked team Costello faced).

We don’t know what to make of Washington, which has lost to both Cal and Stanford when the Huskies were significant favorites. Quarterback Jacob Eason struggled in both those losses. He was 18-for-30 for a modest 162 yards, no touchdown, an interception and three sacks against Cal, and he was 16-of-36 for 206 yards, one interception, one touchdown pass and two sacks against the Cardinal.

Quarterback Surprises

Raise your hand if you thought Oregon state quarterback Jake Luton would have the best performance by a Pac-12 quarterback this weekend.

Step forward if you guessed that Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate would be the hero of a road win over Colorado despite rushing for just 23 yards.

Call out if you thought Stanford’s Davis Mills would be the better quarterback in his personal duel with Washington Jacob Eason.

Put you hand down now, get back in line and shut up because I know you’re lying.

We already discussed Mills, so lets go on to Luton.

Luton is a sixth-year senior who began his career at Idaho, had mediocre freshman and sophomore seasons there, spent a year at junior college, then came to Oregon State and started no more than five games each of the past two seasons.

But he went wild against UCLA. Granted, the Bruins are feeble on defense, ranking 129th of 130 FBS schools in passing yardage allowed and passer rating defense.

Luton made an impression anyway, throwing five touchdown passes and running for a sixth, and he led the Beavers to a 21-0 lead in the first 6:01 of the game in Pasadena.

He was named the national player of the week by College Football Performance Awards, and has had as good a season as Oregon’s Justin Herbert, who was less than stellar in the Ducks’ win over Cal.

Luton has 14 touchdown passes and no interceptions this season, and his streak of 166 consecutive passes without an interception dating back to 2018 became the nation’s longest active streak after Herbert had a pass picked off Saturday.

The Beavers are 1-1 in the conference and host preseason conference favorite Utah on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Arizona went into Boulder, Colo., as the Pac-12’s leading rushing team, and left with no Wildcats player gaining more than 27 yards on the ground. But they also left with a 35-30 win, primarily because Tate, a rushing phenom two years ago when he rushed for 1,411 yards as a sophomore, became a top-flight passer on Saturday. 

He passed for a career-high 404 yards and three touchdowns and an interception, and he was particularly effective in the second half when Arizona virtually abandoned its running game.

Arizona threw passes on its first eight plays of the second half, and Tate went 23-for-27 for 233 yards and a touchdown after halftime. He ran just four times in the game for 23 yards, but his 7-yard run on a third-and-6 play in the final minute of the game iced the victory.

Arizona now sits atop the Pac-12 South standings at 2-0, one of just two teams with unbeaten Pac-12 records, the other being Oregon.