Toby Gerhart ran for a career-high 147 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries in his first game back from a knee injury and Stanford took advantage of two bizarre fumbles in the south end zone to beat Oregon State 36-28 in the season opener Thursday night.
The first fumble gave the Cardinal the lead for good on a safety late in the third quarter. The second came with just 47 seconds remaining, when Darrell Catchings tried to stretch the ball over the goal line before Taylor Skaufel knocked it loose and the ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.
Gerhart made a strong return from the injury that forced him to miss all but one game a year ago. With Gerhart on the sidelines, the Cardinal often struggled to run the ball, especially in a 23-6 loss at Oregon State when they were held to negative 8 yards on the ground.
But a healthy backfield made all the difference. Gerhart showed the same form he had in his one game last year when he ran for 140 yards against San Jose State. With the power to run through tackles and the speed to get to the outside, Gerhart ran for two touchdowns in the first half and converted a couple of third-and-longs to sustain drives in the second half.
That helped the Cardinal win this rare conference game on college football's opening weekend. The only other one on the schedule among teams in the BCS conferences is also in the Pac-10, when Washington visits Oregon on Saturday.
Quarterback Lyle Moevao and the Beavers effectively attacked Stanford's defense on the perimeter for much of the game with short passes and end arounds. But it was on one of those plays that the momentum in the game changed late in the third quarter.
On a second-and-16 from the Oregon State 9, Moevao attempted to throw a swing pass to Ryan McCants against a blitz. Moevao was on the 2 when he threw the ball and it landed on the 1 before rolling out of the side of the end zone. The official immediately signaled the play was a lateral and ruled it a safety, giving Stanford a 22-20 lead.
Stanford took the ensuing free kick and scored again on the first play of the fourth quarter when Anthony Kimble took a dumpoff from Tavita Pritchard and ran it in for a 15-yard TD that put the Cardinal up by nine.
Pritchard, who won a three-man race for the starting quarterback job, completed 10 of 17 passes for 91 yards and the touchdown in the turnover-free performance.
Moevao was done in by turnovers in the second half. After the safety, he threw an interception on a tipped pass that thwarted a drive deep in Stanford territory. On the next drive, Moevao was intercepted again and Bo McNally took it back 34 yards for a score that made it 36-20. Moevao finished 33-for-53 for 388 yards and three touchdowns.
Sammie Stroughter, back after missing most of last season with a kidney injury, had 13 catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns, including a 55-yard score in the first half for Oregon State. Shane Morales added 13 catches for 151 yards and a TD.
The Beavers had won eight straight games in the Bay Area, including a victory last season over Maryland in the Emerald Bowl. They must recover from this loss quickly with a road game at Penn State next weekend. Oregon State is the only team from a BCS conference to open the season with consecutive road games.
After Gerhart gave Stanford a 17-10 lead with a 46-yard run late in the second quarter, Moevao answered with an efficient 2-minute drill. He completed seven of nine passes for 75 yards on a drive that was capped by Morales' 5-yard TD catch with 14 seconds remaining to tie it at 17.
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