It took just two hours and forty minutes for the Cardinal to totally diss and dismiss the Dawgs. Stanford beat the Huskies like Washington used to beat the Cardinal. Switch everybody's jerseys and turn the clock back to 1990, and that's exactly how it would have looked.
Scouts and draft experts tuned in to this game to see "Andrew Luck vs. Jake Locker", but Luck's 51-yard option dash turned it into a one-man show. With all those NFL scouts watching from the Husky Stadium press box, Luck probably ran himself all the way to the bank.
The offensive line opened up holes wide enough for Sir Mix-a-Lot's girlfriends to run through. Stepfan Taylor pounded Washington with steady gains, and Cardinal running backs scored three first-half touchdowns. Stanford made everything look incredibly easy.
To be honest though, what really impressed me wasn't necessarily what Stanford did on offense. Oh sure, their offensive dominance was established right from the start, and it was never challenged. It was the Cardinal's performance on the other side of the ball that left me in awe. And it left the Huskies in tatters.
First, the numbers. Stanford allowed only 107 yards of total offense. They forced seven punts and five three-and-outs. The Huskies never advanced the ball farther than Stanford's 42-yard line.
Next, the record book. The 107 yards allowed is the second-stingiest performance in Cardinal defensive history. Stanford dealt its second shutout of the season, the first time they've blanked two opponents in the same year since Nixon was president. They also have two road shutouts in a season for the first time since Johnson was president.
(By the way, that's Lyndon Baines. Not Andrew. Now that would have been something! But still, keep in mind that before this season began, Stanford hadn't blanked anyone in a regular season game since Ford was president. Amazing.)
And finally, the football itself. In a game that pitted Stanford against Washington, the fastest and most physical unit on the field belonged to the Cardinal defense. Think about that. And feel free to read that sentence again, because it's probably the first time it's been written in at least 35 years.
Chase Thomas in particular was outstanding, especially in pursuit. Several times, Washington ran away from Thomas. Didn't matter. He chased the ballcarrier down from the backside and brought him down with eye-opening speed and aggression. Oh, and he helped make life even more miserable than usual for Jake Locker. It all added up to a team-high nine tackles, a sack, and one dominant show. To me, no one better personified Stanford's defensive efforts than number 44.
Thomas wasn't alone, of course. Sione Fua and Matt Masifilo were magnificent up front. Shayne Skov was his typical active self. As if to recognize his return to the lineup, Delano Howell received a gift-wrapped interception from Locker himself.
Stanford's defense played like they should have their own nickname. I'll suggest it again: the Tree-fense.
The Tree-fense got after it. They won the line of scrimmage. They won in the Huskies' backfield. And things didn't get much better for UW on the rare occasions when Jake Locker could actually get a pass away. By the time the second quarter began, the Huskies offense was a beaten like a John Bonham drum kit.
Just as impressively, they did it without playing dirty. This wasn't a body-bag game, nor did Stanford spend the afternoon strutting and preening after every big tackle. Save for one questionable personal foul, the Tree-fense played good, hard, clean defense. They didn't do anything illegal expect kick the Huskies' tails all over the place.
(Hey, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but we've got players who paint their faces on gamedays now. We've got players with ginormous tattoos. We've got players who lose their helmets but continue the play. They also happen to be good kids who represent this university well, but we've got players, folks. We've got players. I'm just saying…)
Granted, Washington's gameplan didn't seem tailored to Stanford's perceived defensive weaknesses. Short passes—usually on the perimeter—that test a defender's ability to tackle in the open field generally drive Cardinal defenses nuts. I was shocked to see Washington wait until the game was way out of hand until trying it.
Arizona won't wait to try it. Hell, it's actually what their offense is all about. They break defenses down by spreading them out, finding mismatches, and dinking and dunking them to death. It's basically death by papercuts.
That is the challenge this week. But as far as the bigger picture is concerned, I offer this: Stanford will only go as far as the Tree-fense takes it.
Yes, the spotlight will be on Luck and the offense. At Stanford, the spotlight is always on the offense. And that unit is also doing things every week that have not been done before, most notably on the scoreboard. But, as you go through history, what separates Stanford's good teams from its truly great teams is a dominant defense.
Even though they'll get one at halftime this Saturday, the Thunderchickens need no introduction, even 40 years later. The 1992 defense is right up there with one of Stanford's all-time units. Tank Williams and Coy Wire led the 2001 defense, which I think is still the best team of my era (although I may likely have to rethink that at the end of the season). All of Stanford's great teams had dominant defenses.
Yes, I know the 1999 team went to the Rose Bowl. But they got there thanks to Todd Husak, Troy Walters, DeRonnie Pitts, and Dave Davis. The Trench Dogs, as lovable as they were, were not dominant. They were timely (thank God), but they weren't dominant. That might be the only exception to this rule.
Can the Tree-fense do its part to place the 2010 team among Stanford Football's truly all-time great editions? Judging from Arizona's offensive scheme and the high stakes in this weekend's game, we may get a large part of that answer this weekend.
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RANDOM PAC-9 THOUGHTS
Just over twelve minutes remained in the game. The Bruins were down 29-21, but were gaining momentum. Meanwhile, the Wildcats were starting a critical drive to try to put the Bruins away once and for all. FOX Sports Pittsburgh could not have picked a worse time to preempt the end of the Arizona-UCLA game and head to Penguins pregame. Then again, I was probably the only person in western Pennsylvania who even cared about Arizona-UCLA…
All signs point toward Nick Foles starting at QB for Arizona. But in the event that we do see Matt Scott, keep this in mind: when he evading the pass rush, he is still a very accurate passer on the run…
UCLA LB Akeem Ayers may be the anti-Chase Thomas. At least twice against Arizona, Ayers gave up while pursuing the ballcarrier. Just gave up. Took it down from a fast sprint to a leisurely jog. I couldn't believe my eyes as I watched it…
On one hand, it's good to see that LaMichael James can carry the rock 36 times in a game. On the other hand, they need Kenjon Barner back and healthy so James doesn't have to carry the rock 36 times in a game…
Back to the drawing board, Cougs…
From the "that's never good" category: Washington State started a true freshman at left tackle last week. That's never good…
Once cal leaves Berkeley, it just looks like they're not even trying anymore…
Not a Pac-9 thought, but… the Big East has voted to expand in football. Unless Notre Dame is signed, sealed, and delivered, why bother?
Not a Pac-9 thought, but… Brian Kelly is in big, big trouble at Notre Dame. And I'm not talking about on the field, either. That whole entire situation is so unbelievably tragic, and was so unbelievably avoidable…
Not a Pac-9 thought, but… I'll be damned if I have to apologize to England for sending them the 49ers and the Broncos. You lose the war, you pay the price…
Not a Pac-9 thought, but… I'm not going to lie to you…as an A's fan, I'm not too thrilled right now. But I could not be happier for my friends who are Giants fans and employees. And it's great to have the trophy back in the Bay Area, even it's on the wrong side of the Bay. Now get to work, Billy Beane…
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CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX
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Washington @ Oregon. Jake Locker's out? Oh, Lord. I like Oregon by 97.
cal @ Washington State. All the Bears need to do is to simply have new starting QB Brock Mansion hand Shane Vereen the rock. But I'm still not putting it past them to screw that up too. Until I see otherwise, I can't trust cal to do anything right on the road. I like Washington State by 8.
Oregon State @ UCLA.The good news is UCLA finally found a big-play passing game against Arizona. But what will we see more often: Richard Brehaut completing passes downfield, or Jacquizz Rodgers gaining yards? I'll take door number two. I like Oregon State by 12.
Arizona State @ U$C. The Trojans are ninth in the league in penalties. The Sun Devils are tenth. The officials will get a lot of airtime in this one. And one of these teams is going to commit one penalty too many. My money is on the guys in maroon and gold. I like U$C by 10.
Last week: 4-0 (straight-up), 2-2 (ATS).
This year: 14-6 (straight-up), 9-11 (ATS).
Last year: 25-11 (straight-up), 19-16-1 (ATS).
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Troy Clardy hosts the Stanford Daily Update, airing every weekday at 7:00pm on Cardinal Sports Network flagship radio station XTRA Sports 860 in San Francisco, and available in podcast form at gostanford.com. If you're in Pittsburgh, you can also hear him weekends on 93.7 The Fan.
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