Karty Party: Five field goals help Cardinal edge Sun Devils

Oct. 23, 2022, 9:58 p.m.

Stanford football (3-4, 1-4 Pac-12) won its second straight game on Saturday in nail-biting fashion, gutting out a 15-14 victory over Arizona State. The Cardinal defense continued its strong run of late as junior kicker Josh Karty’s five field goals led the Cardinal to victory despite the offense not scoring a touchdown.

On the opening drive, the Stanford defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense put together a solid drive to set up Karty for a field goal attempt. The reigning Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week delivered with a 44-yarder to hand the Cardinal an early lead.

But the Sun Devils responded quickly with a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a 15-yard run from running back Xazavian Vallady. The Cardinal offense moved the ball again on their following drive, but once again stalled in opposing territory. Karty knocked through his second kick of the quarter, this time from 36 yards, to cut the Sun Devils’ advantage to 7-6.

“Josh Karty, we talked about during recruiting, we watched his film thinking is that right?” said head coach David Shaw. “We kept watching and thinking at some point this kid is going to be the best kicker in America. We may be there.”

The Arizona State offense continued to roll, punishing Stanford for not converting in the red zone. Quarterback Emory Jones found wide receiver Elijhah Badger for a 39-yard connection to cap another sub-four minute touchdown drive. The next drive was more of the same from the Stanford offense — junior quarterback Tanner McKee led his side into opposing territory, but the drive fizzled out on a drop on 4th-and-5, leaving the Cardinal empty-handed.

football quarterback looks to throw the ball
Junior quarterback Tanner McKee in Saturday’s game. He posted another 300+ yard outing. (Photo: THOMAS YIM/The Stanford Daily)

The two sides traded punts, and then the Cardinal defense came up with a big play when senior linebacker Levani Damuni made a sliding interception near midfield. But the Arizona State defense would not be outdone, as safety Jordan Clark jumped a route to make a sliding interception of his own and give the ball back to the Sun Devils with under five minutes to go in the first half. 

Stanford was able to hold the Sun Devils to a 42-yard field goal attempt, and kicker Carter Brown was not able to get good contact, with the kick falling short. The Cardinal were unable to make something happen with under a minute to go in the half, and Stanford went into the locker room trailing 14-6.

A running back runs the football between his offensive linemen
Casey Filkins finds the gap on Saturday. The junior running back amassed 48 rushing yards before exiting the game early due to injury. (Photo: THOMAS YIM/The Stanford Daily)

The sides traded punts to start the half, but Stanford moved the ball on their second possession. McKee found senior wide receiver Elijah Higgins for a score on a fourth and two at the Arizona State 16-yard line, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty. Stanford settled for a field goal and Karty knocked through another 44-yarder. 

A similar sequence repeated itself twice more  —  the Stanford defense got a stop, the offense moved the ball, and Karty got sent out for a field goal. The first was a 36-yard attempt and the second was from 47 to give Stanford a 15-14 lead with under seven minutes to play. The kick tied the Stanford single-game record for made field goals.

Karty exuded confidence and belief postgame: “of course I believe I am the best kicker in America. I kind of have to.”

Both teams got stops, and the Sun Devils got the ball back down one point with 1:28 to go from their own 32-yard line. Jones found wide receiver Bryan Thompson on fourth and six to keep his side alive, but a sack by senior EDGE Stephen Herron put the Sun Devils on the brink once more.

Facing a 4th-and-19 at Stanford’s 43-yard line with seconds to go, Jones aired it down the sideline to Badger, who made a spectacular effort to reel in the ball at the Stanford one-yard line. It was ruled a catch on the field, but replay reversed the call, resulting in a turnover on downs to seal the game 15-14 in Stanford’s favor.

For the third straight week, the Cardinal defense impressed. This was the second straight affair they gave up just 14 points to the opposition.

“A lot of credit goes to our defense,” Shaw said. “That whole group is playing better and better, even with the injuries.

McKee went 33-for-57 with 320 yards, good for his third career 300-plus yard game. Those 57 pass attempts allowed some of his targets to notch career highs, with junior tight end Benjamin Yurosek and junior wide receiver John Humphreys both recording highs in receptions with 10 and eight, respectively.

A player extends his arms out to try and catch the football
John Humphreys extends in an attempt to bring down a catch. The wide receiver set a career-high mark for receptions on Saturday. (Photo: THOMAS YIM/The Stanford Daily)

The Cardinal won their first game without scoring a touchdown since 1996, moved to 3-4 on the season and will look to build on this momentum.

“I think it just shows us that we can be really good when we play up to our standard and our expectations, at least from an offensive perspective,” McKee said. “I feel like no way was this game up to our standard or our expectations. There’s a ton we can grow on, a ton that we can improve on.”

Stanford faces a stern road test next week at the Rose Bowl, as they attempt to take down the No. 12 UCLA Bruins (6-1, 3-1) at 7:30 p.m. PT.

Jibriel Taha is a senior staff writer for the sports section. He is from Los Angeles and studies economics. Contact him at jtaha ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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