STANFORD — Stanford coach David Shaw fought back tears. Running back Stepfan Taylor's voice trembled. Linebacker Alex Debniak's eye black smeared all over his face.
In the home locker room at Stanford Stadium late Saturday afternoon, these were not the looks of the losers. Instead, they were the emotions from surviving Senior Day and the possibility of an intriguing opportunity ahead: a chance to host one more game this season.
And they can thank a redshirt freshman and a fortunate fumble for the chance.
Kevin Hogan threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns in his first collegiate start, and No. 16 Stanford overcame four turnovers to rally past No. 13 Oregon State 27-23 on Saturday and stay in control of its Pac-12 title hopes.
"They came back and made some plays to help us win the game," Shaw said. "Almost Shakespearean, to a certain degree."
Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz fumbled late in the fourth quarter to give the Cardinal (8-2, 6-1) the ball at the Beavers 29. The only Oregon State (7-2, 5-2) turnover turned out to be the difference.
Hogan audibled out of a run and called the play "Special," which Stanford also ran to convert a fourth-and-9 in an overtime win against Arizona earlier this season, and hit tight end Zach Ertz for a 13-yard touchdown to make it 27-23 with 5:07 left and Stanford stopped the Beavers twice more.
Now the Cardinal will head to second-ranked Oregon next in what could be a North Division final — if Stanford also beats UCLA in its season finale — for a spot in the conference championship game. Oregon has beaten Stanford the last two seasons.
"We've got to realize what's at stake," said Taylor, who ran for 114 yards and a touchdown, eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing for the third straight season. "I think everybody on this
team knows that and everybody is coming together for that one goal
that we all want."
Oregon State won the turnover margin 4-1 but only converted three points out of them — and the one mistake cost the Beavers badly.
Vaz fumbled while shifting the ball during a scramble and Josh Mauro recovered. After Ertz caught the go-ahead touchdown, Oregon State got the ball back and Debniak sacked Vaz on third down.
The quarterback left with an ankle injury, and Sean Mannion — the former starter — threw incomplete on fourth-and-16 from the Oregon State 37 with 1:52 left.
Hogan, who took over the starting role from inconsistent Josh Nunes, completed 22 of 29 passes with two interceptions. He also ran for 49 yards on 11 carries.
Vaz finished 23-of-38 passing for 226 yards and a touchdown and Storm Woods ran for 94 yards in a deflating loss for Oregon State, which rallied from a 14-0 deficit to score 23
straight points and controlled the pace for most of the game.
The Beavers, who haven't played in the Rose Bowl since 1965, had their BCS and Pac-12 title hopes severely damaged.
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here