The season finale: Will the Cardinal conquer?

Nov. 24, 2022, 8:36 p.m.

For their final game of the season, Stanford football (3-8, 1-8 Pac-12) will return home to face Brigham Young (6-5, 0-0). Stanford will also celebrate its seniors this weekend on football’s senior night. This game is the Cardinal’s last chance at a win for its seniors. A win would allow the team to surpass last season’s record of 3-9, as well as prevent another season ending in several weeks of cascading losses.

The Cardinal enter this matchup following a loss to the Cal Golden Bears (4-7, 2-8 Pac-12) in the 125th Big Game. A steady offensive performance kept the Cardinal in the lead for the first three quarters. The fourth quarter, however, saw a complete turnaround, as the Cal lineup kept Stanford out of the endzone while putting up an impressive 21 points, more than the Cardinal scored the entire game. 

Head coach David Shaw describes the performance of his defense as adequate this season. 

“We’ve improved,” Shaw said. “They gained a lot of experience, even through some tough situations. Their play would be more enhanced over the last month if the inside linebackers were healthy, because they all play together, with gap responsibility and taking on double teams so a linebacker can make the play.” 

Injuries have impacted Stanford heavily this year. Both sides of the ball saw games without primary starters, and despite some formerly injured players returning to the field against Cal — safeties Kendall Williamson and Patrick Fields, and inside linebacker Jacob Mangum-Farrar — little play time was cranked out, as players felt they were not at their healthiest.

Brigham Young enters this matchup after a home victory against Utah Tech on their senior night. The Cougars came out slow, putting up no points in the first quarter after giving up an early touchdown to Utah State. But like Cal, Brigham Young was late to an impressive performance, as the team outscored Utah Tech 52-20 in the remaining quarters. This game highlighted the offensive strength of BYU, with 220 rushing yards – 80 more than Utah State – and 456 passing yards — 116 more than Utah State – for a win by 26 points.

Stanford beat No. 13 Notre Dame last month, one week after the Fighting Irish beat Brigham Young. The Cardinal lineup can score and prevent points, as seen against Cal and Notre Dame. Therefore, Stanford should be capable of clinching a season-ending victory. What stands in their way: inconsistency. The team will need to maintain  consistent aggression – until the clock hits 00:00 in the fourth quarter – come Saturday to send the Cougars home in defeat.

Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Saturday at Stanford Stadium.

Hawe is a contributing writer for the sports section.

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