Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello watched as his overtime pass tumble in midair for an agonizing moment after it was tipped by tight end Colby Parkinson.
“I saw the ball go in the air, held my breath, and then for Colby to come down with it was pretty awesome,” said Costello, who threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
It was the last scoring pass, the 23-yarder that Parkinson tipped to himself in the end zone, that completed No. 7 Stanford’s 38-31 comeback victory over No. 20 Oregon on Saturday night.
After Costello’s TD pass to Parkinson, Stanford’s Alameen Murphy intercepted Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert’s pass in the end zone for the victory.
Bryce Love returned after sitting out last week against UC Davis to rest minor injuries. He ran for 89 yards and a touchdown as Stanford remained undefeated with another tough test against No. 8 Notre Dame looming next week.
Costello said the turning point for the Cardinal came in the third quarter, when Oregon had a touchdown overturned that would have pushed the Ducks’ lead to 30-7, and Stanford linebacker Joey Alfieri scooped up a fumble that he ran back 80 yards for a touchdown.
“This game was pretty awesome. It was one of the coolest games I’ve been a part of in terms of highs and lows, and really just staying steady throughout the entire night,” Costello said.
Love’s 22-yard scoring run late in the third quarter cut Oregon’s lead to 24-21, but Cyrus Habibi-Likio scored on a 1-yard run for the Ducks with 4:39 left.
In the final minutes of regulation, Stanford answered with Costello’s 15-yard TD pass to JJ Arcega-Whiteside to narrow it again before Sean Barton recovered CJ Verdell’s fumble on the Stanford 40 with 51 seconds left. Jet Toner hit a 32-yard field to tie it and send the game into overtime.
Herbert threw for 346 yards and a touchdown while receiver Dillon Mitchell caught 14 passes for 239 yards in Oregon’s first real challenge of the season after nonconference wins over Bowling Green, Portland State and San Jose State.
“Unfortunately we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times and we did everything we could to just give Stanford the game,” Herbert said.
Oregon came out with a collective tenacity that it hadn’t really shown this season. The Ducks’ first series was capped by Tony Brooks-James’ 7-yard touchdown run. Herbert got Oregon downfield with a 53-yard pass to Mitchell.
The Ducks went up 14-0 on Herbert’s 7-yard pass to Jacob Breeland to open the second quarter.
Arcega-Whiteside scored on a 13-yard pass from Costello for his sixth TD reception of the season. He was tied at third nationally for touchdown catches going into the game.
Oregon answered on the next drive with Verdell’s 48-yard scoring run to go up 21-7. The Ducks added a 38-yard field goal from Adam Stack and ran off the field for halftime celebrating the dominant performance by dancing and waving towels.
The momentum shifted late in the third quarter on Alfieri’s fumble return after Jaylon Redd’s 16-yard touchdown run for Oregon was overturned. Replays, however, appeared to show that Redd remained inbounds.
“We do this drill every Monday in fundamental rotation, the scoop and score drill,” Alfieri said. “We practice it every week. So I was just putting the drill to the field and it worked out pretty well.”
The Pac-12 North is crowded right now with three ranked teams. Joining Stanford and Oregon is No. 10 Washington. Looking ahead, Oregon has Washington at Autzen on Oct. 13, while the Huskies host the Cardinal on Nov. 3.
Stanford also won the last two meetings with the Ducks, including last year’s 49-7 victory in Palo Alto. Love, who was a Heisman finalist, ran for a pair of touchdowns within the first five minutes of the last meeting and finished with 147 yards. But Oregon was missing Herbert, who had a broken collarbone.
“We had an opportunity against the No. 7 team in the country and had some really, really good moments, we just have to be more consistent,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said.
Stanford: Arcega-Whiteside became the fifth Stanford player with 20 career touchdown catches. He’s tied for fourth on Stanford’s career list. … Stanford’s defense went into the game allowing an average of just 7.7 points a game, tops in the nation.
Oregon: It was Dillon Mitchell’s third career game with more than 100 receiving yards. … Former Ducks LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner were among the former players at the game. Former basketball players Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell were also in the crowd, with current Oregon coach Dana Altman.
BEST EVER? Stanford coach David Shaw was asked if the game was the best of his career.
“It’s hard to say, because my career’s not over, unless you’ve heard something I haven’t heard,” Shaw laughed. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m looking forward to next week. I’ll be honest with you: It didn’t surprise me because in the second half we played like we’re capable of playing.”
DECISION: Afterward, Cristobal was asked why Oregon elected to run on second-and-2 in the final minute of regulation rather than taking a knee on consecutive plays. Verdell fumbled, which set up Stanford’s game-tying drive.
“We felt pretty good about the run game,” he said. “We just needed one more to get a first down and close out the game.”
It doesn’t get any easier for Stanford, which visits No, 8 Notre Dame next weekend. The Fighting Irish defeated Wake Forest 56-27 on Saturday
The Ducks play at California next weekend, their first road trip of the season after opening with four straight games at Autzen.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP—Top25