STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — K.J. Costello threw a 2-yard touchdown pass before getting knocked out of the season opener on a late hit and No. 25 Stanford went on to beat Northwestern 17-7 on Saturday.
Costello completed 16 of 20 passes for 152 yards and the TD pass to Michael Wilson that capped a 90-yard drive in the second quarter for the Cardinal (1-0). But his day ended early when he was hit with a forearm to the facemask while sliding on a scramble by Earnest Brown IV with just 2 seconds remaining in the first half.
Brown was called for a late hit that set up Jet Toner’s 51-yard field goal but wasn’t ejected for targeting. Costello stayed down on the turf for a few minutes before being helped to the locker room. He didn’t return to the game and there was no immediate word on his condition.
Northwestern also lost a quarterback with TJ Green leaving with a leg injury in the third quarter after being sacked and losing a fumble on a play in the red zone. Green had replaced the ineffective former Clemson five-star recruit Hunter Johnson late in the first half.
Johnson came back in to finish and went 6 for 17 for 55 yards and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble that Stanford’s Jordan Fox recovered in the end zone for a touchdown that sealed the game with 20 seconds remaining.
Things were so bad for the Wildcats that they failed to score after Stanford backup quarterback Davis Mills lost a fumble that Gavin Newsome returned to the 21. Northwestern gained 1 yard on three plays before Charlie Kuhbander missed wide right on a 38-yard field goal try.
The Wildcats finally got on the board on a 1-yard run by John Moten IV midway through the fourth quarter.
Northwestern: Coach Pat Fitzgerald kept the starting quarterback secret until just before game time, not that it helped much. Johnson threw an incompletion on his first pass, was intercepted on a ricochet on his second throw and was 1 for 4 for 3 yards and an interception on his first three drives. Green entered on the fourth drive and led the Wildcats into Stanford field position for the first time before that stalled with an incompletion on fourth-and-6 from the 34. It only got slightly better in the second half but Northwestern also lost running back Isaiah Bowers to an apparent knee injury.
Stanford: The Cardinal came into the season relying heavily on Costello to lead the offense and when he went down things stalled a bit. An interception in Northwestern territory by Paulson Adebo led to no points when Toner hit the upright on a 29-yard attempt and Mills missed several open receivers and lost two fumbles. He finished 7 for 14 for 81 yards. The Cardinal also lost star tackle Walker Little to an apparent leg injury late in the game.
Northwestern: Hosts UNLV on Sept. 14.
Stanford: Visits Southern California next Saturday.