"The Report Card-inal": Stanford 68, Wake 24

It should come as no surprise that Dave Fowkes struggled to find fault with the Cardinal's epic display of execution and efficiency in demonizing the visiting Wake Forest Deacons on an unforgettable Saturday night. Dozens of Cardinal players were able to see the field and come away with report cards glowing.

"The Report Card-inal": Stanford 68, Wake Forest 24

Editor's Note: The following commentary offers the author's personal views of the on-field performances of some of Stanford University's exceptional student-athletes. In no way should constructively-intended criticism be deemed as a lack of respect or admiration for our players' obvious desire, dedication, sacrifice and commitment. The views expressed below do not reflect necessarily those of Bootleg management, Major Upset Productions, the Scout Network, Fox Sports, News Corp or Coach Harbaugh.     

Last week it was difficult to find fault in a 35-0 conference win on the road, this week may be even tougher to find fault in a complete 68-24 shellacking of Wake Forest at home. When a team scores 10 touchdowns in 11 drives, it is called Dominance with a capital "D". When a starting defense only gives up 10 points in a wide-open first half against a complicated offense, it is pretty darn good.

 

That is your Stanford football update. The Cardinal just dominated Wake Forest in a game like Stanford fans have not seen in years, try 42 years. How does one grade an effort like that? I am thinking there may be a few A-pluses to go around.

 

RUNNING GAME:  A+

 

Yes, maybe it is back to running back by committee. After Stepfan Taylor (#33) lead the way with 20 carries against UCLA, the touches were again spread out for the Cardinal running backs against Wake Forest. Taylor had eight carries, Tyler Gaffney (#25)  had seven, Anthony Wilkerson (#32) had six and Usua Amanam (#15) had four.

 

No matter where the carries went, success was found. Stanford rushed for 303 yards. Gaffney led all with 76 yards followed by Andrew Luck (#12) at 69 and Taylor with 60 yards. Normally, you don't want your all-everything quarterback running that much, but when his first scamper goes 52-yards for a touchdown, that is acceptable.

 

Gaffney looked like the best runner on Saturday night although everyone looked good. He showed a nice combination of toughness in the middle and speed to the outside. It was certainly a surprise to see the true freshman Wilkerson as the primary backup early on. He will be a heck of a player, but initially it looked like he was struggling with his field vision. He will get better with increased playing time.

 

When a team rushes for 303 yards, game balls need to be passed out to the entire offensive line. The line was dominant. Wake Forest has some size on defense, but next to the Cardinal offensive line they looked small and slow. Anytime the Cardinal was locked in one-on-one battles, the defender had no hope. In watching the replay of the game, David DeCastro (#52) stuck out. He was a force for which Wake Forest simply had no answers. DeCastro was knocking players five yards off the ball. His seal blocking was outstanding, opening up huge holes. There was no coincidence that of the few short yardage plays there were on Saturday, most went right behind the outstanding right guard.

 

PASSING GAME:  A

 

Do you think Chris Owusu (#81) was dying to play a real game? Two receptions for two touchdowns is not a bad way to start your season. Plus he had a great third-down conversion on the slant pattern where he made a diving catch to continue the drive. Owusu caught everything thrown to him which in itself is a huge boost for the Cardinal.

 

Then there is that Luck guy. He was sub-.500 against UCLA, obviously out of synch. He was close to perfect against Wake Forest. His passes were right on the mark, his decision-making was again flawless, he was the steady team leader that all expected he would be. Statistically he was 17-23 for 207 yards and three touchdowns. He had a couple of dropped passes to hurt his percentage. He would have had more yards had there been a "need" to throw or if #12 had stayed in past the first drive of the second half.

 

Again the offensive line gets huge props here for not allowing a defender near Luck for most of the night.

 

Losing Ryan Whalen (#8), apparently to an elbow dislocation, will hurt Stanford. He is a go-to possession receiver especially in close, crunch games. Hopefully his injury will not have him out for too long. Griff Whalen (#17, no relation) did a nice job in a relief role, hauling in three receptions.

 

RUN DEFENSE:   B

 

We must find fault somewhere. Stanford's second unit struggled in the third quarter against the Wake Forest starters. Really that was the only "struggle" to the play on Saturday. The second unit had difficulty with the quarterback run off the option. Wake Forest plays a difficult offensive scheme that is tough to prepare for in a week, so to see the second unit struggle against the starters is not surprising.

 

The starters did a very good job for the most part. There were a few runs here and there but Wake Forest never established any real offensive consistency in the first half when it was "starters against starters".

 

Inside linebacker Shayne Skov (#11), back from a knee infection, showed no rust at all. He was all over the place in his 2010 debut. He showed speed to the outside when needed, and had some huge run blitzes right up the middle to shake up plays.

 

Senior Owen Marecic (#48) had his best game at middle linebacker. He made a few nice tackles and of course pressured Wake QB Tanner Price into a costly intentional grounding penalty.

 

Safeties Michael Thomas (#3) and Delano Howell (#26) again played huge roles in covering the run. They both have showed great speed to get to the ball and toughness in making the tackles when they arrive. Thomas led the team with seven tackles, two of them for losses.

 

In the end Wake Forest rushed for over 200 yards, but the Demon Deacons could not do much in the first half when the game may have been in doubt.

 

PASS DEFENSE:  A

 

It may help play pass defense when you play against a true freshman quarterback, but the reality is that the Stanford pass defense has shown vast improvement in 2010. The unit is #1 in the country in pass defense. Stanford? Really?

 

Chase Thomas (#44) and Thomas Keiser (#94) continue to provide consistent pass rush from their new outside linebacker positions. Sione Fua got his second sack of the year and was very strong securing the middle of the defensive line.

 

Fifth-year senior CB Richard Sherman (#9) did not allow a catch. Junior corner Johnson Bademosi (#27) was strong. The safeties were there to help. Wake Forest only passed for 76 yards on the night. The Cardinal now statistically leads the nation in pass defense, which doesn't mean everything, but sure means something.

 

The only knock was on Wake Forest's second drive. On third and long the pass rush somehow allowed Price to escape, he completed the pass and drew a roughing penalty that went for an additional 15-yards on the play. That led to the Deacons' only touchdown of the first half.

 

The Stanford defense will get much stronger looks as the season progresses, but working with what was presented in this game, the Cardinal was dominant with its first unit.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

 

Will Nate Whitaker take some ribbing this week? His two uncharacteristic missed PATs kept Stanford from hitting 70 points.

 

In all seriousness, missing two extra-points may be a big deal. Clearly it is not a factor when the final score is 68-24, but in closer games, such poor execution would be unacceptable. Was it something about Saturday night? Just a bad day? A new trend about which to worry?

 

Other than that, it was the kickoff coverage that got most of the work in. Whitaker was consistent in his kicks to the goal line or beyond. The coverage unit allowed 25.5 yards per return. Not as dominant as last year, but clearly acceptable. There was only one Stanford punt. Doug Baldwin (#89) looked good with a 22-yard punt return in his only opportunity.

 

Amanam ("uh-MAN-uhm") has taken over on kickoff returns and his exciting 60-yard return was a thing of beauty. Wake Forest pretty much committed to kicking to the up-men after that.

 

Overall, the only units that got a lot of practice in were the PAT and kickoff coverage groups.

 

COACHING:  A

 

Does it get much better? Wake Forest with the option offense is different enough that it can be tough to learn in a week. Granted it had been against Presbyterian and Duke, but the fact remains that Wake Forest had scored 50+ points in each of its two games before flying 2,303 miles and several time zones west. Stanford did a great job of shutting it down. On offense, there was a great plan to attack, and it is hard to argue that the gameplan was not perfectly executed.

 

OVERALL:  A++++

 

Scoreboard....68-24. Not much more needs to be said. My favorite stat from the night: Stanford had more touchdowns than third downs (10-8). Does it get more dominating than that?

 

The ACC appears down this year, Wake Forest has issues on defense, and the Demon Deacons were playing in the middle of the night, eastern time, but Stanford did what teams need to do when playing lesser foes: Destroyed them. But for a play here or there, Stanford thoroughly dominated Wake Forest.

 

Stanford improves the record to 3-0 and must move past the first three blow-outs and look ahead to challenging road trips to Notre Dame and then Oregon.

 

But for now, 3-0 certainly feels like an "A+" to start the season.


Dave Fowkes is a longtime Stanford Cardinal fan, who is finally seeing his loyalty pay some serious dividends. Born at Stanford hospital and raised on the Peninsula, he has been a football season ticket holder since 1981. In that span he has only missed three home games, but of course never a Big Game. Dave currently works in media both on the air and behind the scenes in advertising sales. He has covered sports on and off since 1992. Currently he works as a traffic, news and sports man on several Bay Area radio stations under a few different on-air aliases. Dave blends the passion of being a fan with the perspective of being a reporter in his stories. For more Stanford football coverage by Dave Fowkes, you can read the "Stanford Football Examiner" at www.stanfordfootballreport.com  


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