Ben Gulbranson ran down the field with his arms in the air, headed to the end zone to celebrate with Tre’Shaun Harrison and the rest of his Oregon State teammates, seemingly in disbelief about what had just happened.
Gulbranson had connected with Harrison on a 56-yard touchdown pass, and the Beavers had taken a 28-27 lead at Stanford with 13 seconds left. The lead held up, and the Beavers edged the Cardinal for a one-point comeback victory Saturday night at sparsely attended Stanford Stadium in Stanford, California.
The Beavers’ game-winning play was as improbable as it was thrilling. Harrison had gotten behind the Cardinal defense. He made the catch at the Stanford 36, then turned and raced untouched the rest of the way to the end zone.
With their long snapper Dylan Black injured, the Beavers had been forced to go for two-point conversions on each of their touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Beavers had missed their two previous two-point tries, which had left them trailing 24-22 before Stanford tacked on a field goal to go up 27-22.
But after Harrison’s go-ahead score, Gulbranson simply kneeled it on the conversion try, the Beavers not wanting to risk a turnover and return by Stanford that could have given the Cardinal two points of their own.
On the next play from scrimmage, the Beavers’ Ryan Cooper Jr. intercepted Tanner McKee’s pass, and that sealed it for the Beavers.
Oregon State (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) scored 18 points in the fourth quarter, including two touchdowns in the final 5:45 of the game to claw back from a 24-10 deficit.
Gulbranson, making his first OSU start, was inconsistent but came through with the game on the line. He finished 20 of 28 for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Harrison, his favorite target, caught seven passes for 104 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
Damien Martinez ran for 83 yards and a touchdown, while Jam Griffin added 75 yards rushing.
Stanford (1-4, 0-4) saw its conference losing streak hit 10 games in stunning fashion.
Oregon State played its worst first half of the season as Stanford roared to a 17-7 halftime lead. The only thing that went right was a 99-yard scoring drive that produced the Beavers’ lone first-half touchdown.
Oregon State won the toss and elected to receive, a rare move by coach Jonathan Smith. Perhaps it was done to give Gulbranson some confidence in his first start. The Beavers did some damage on their opening drive, but it ended when Atticus Sappington missed a 40-yard field goal.
Stanford’s offense ran over OSU’s defense for most of the first half. The Cardinal produced touchdown drives of 78 and 61 yards, and took advantage of two 15-yard penalties to add a field goal.
Statistically, Gulbranson had a decent first half, completing 9 of 13 passes for 100 yards. But outside of the Beavers’ touchdown drive, Gulbranson wasn’t effective.
Oregon State tied the game at 7-7 when Jack Colletto bulled into the end zone from a yard out early in the second quarter. The draw didn’t last long, as Stanford scored twice during the final nine minutes of the half to take a 10-point lead.
The early stages of the third quarter went in Oregon State’s favor. The Beavers defense had a three-and-out, and OSU’s first crack on offense resulted in a 40-yard field goal by Sappington.
The momentum didn’t last. Late in the third quarter, McKee hit Michael Wilson for 28 yards on third and 10. That set up the game’s second McKee-to-Brycen Tremayne touchdown play, a 37-yarder that gave the Cardinal a 24-10 lead.
OSU, showing some urgency, responded with a scoring drive of its own to cut the deficit to 24-16. The touchdown was a beauty, a 21-yarder from Gulbranson to Silas Bolden 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Later in the fourth, Martinez took a handoff 43 yards for a touchdown to narrow the gap to 24-22 with 5:45 to play.
Stanford answered with an 11-play drive that chewed up 4:38 and extended the Cardinal’s lead to 27-22 on Joshua Karty’s 46-yard field goal.
Although it looked like the Beavers were in trouble, down five points with 58 seconds left, Gulbranson fired three consecutive completions — to Harrison, Gould and Harrison — as OSU marched 76 yards in 45 seconds to complete the comeback.
Briefly: OSU kicker Everett Hayes made the trip but didn’t play for a second consecutive week. Nolan did not travel to the Bay Area. … The last time Oregon State won a coin toss and elected to receive was Washington in 2019. … The 15-play, 99-yard scoring drive early in the second quarter was Oregon State was the most for plays this season. The last time OSU had a 99-yard drive was 2019 against Washington State.
— Nick Daschel reported from Stanford, California.