PALO ALTO, CALIF. - Stanford has been wondering whether Alex Loukas would ever live up to his incredible potential. The junior finally did it against Arizona when the Cardinal were down to their third quarterback and their last chance.
Toby Gerhart dived across the goal line for a 1-yard score with 25 seconds left, capping an improbable last-minute drive led by Loukas in Stanford’s 24-23 victory over the Wildcats on Saturday.
Aaron Zagory’s extra point provided the decisive margin for the Cardinal (4-3, 3-1 Pac-10), who got their third victory in four games with a comeback led by Loukas, a remarkable athlete who ran and passed with equal aplomb during his high school career in Illinois. He struggled to earn playing time as a quarterback at Stanford, going 1-for-7 this year in brief action, and the Cardinal even lined him up as a receiver several times.
But Loukas was outstanding for 12 snaps against Arizona after replacing injured starter Tavita Pritchard and ineffective backup Jason Forcier in the fourth quarter. Loukas threw just one pass, but his 39 yards rushing finished the Wildcats in highly unlikely fashion.
“We have three good QBs,” Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Alex got in there and called a couple of formations wrong, but he is a gifted athlete and a determined runner.”
Loukas ran for 32 yards on four key plays during Stanford’s 65-yard winning drive, which began with 5:42 to play after Jason Bondzio’s second field goal of the fourth quarter for Arizona (4-2, 2-1).
After throwing a 21-yard pass to Ryan Whalen and making a key 16-yard run, Loukas gained 7 yards up the middle for a key first down at the Arizona 2 with about 90 seconds left. Gerhart scored two plays later.
“The whole game was back and forth, and it came down to that last drive,” said Gerhart, who finished with 116 yards rushing. “We were moving the ball and believing we were going to finish it.”
Terrell Turner set career highs with 10 catches for 175 yards for Arizona, which made two strong fourth-quarter drives that stalled inside the Stanford 5.
Willie Tuitama went 22-for-34 for 259 yards, but couldn’t get the Wildcats into the end zone late — and Loukas somehow capitalized.
“We ended up kicking field goals instead of getting touchdowns, and that’s something we haven’t done all season long,” said Tuitama.