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 The Bootleg's executive management, Major Upset Productions, the Scout Network, Fox Sports, News Corp, Jake Locker, or Stanford Head Coach Jim "EUTM" Harbaugh.
So we all saw
coming right? There is nothing like a road trip to a traditionally difficult stadium
to play in and coming away with a 41-0, air raid siren-free thumping.
RUNNING GAME: A
Let's see...278 net yards rushing on 47 carries for a 5.9 yard per carry average and four touchdowns. Yes, that will qualify for an "A" grade every time out.
Make that a school-record five straight games for Stepfan Taylor (#33) going over 100 yards. He was again very sharp, decisive, elusive, and when needed powerful with his 20 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
Normally a Stanford team would just as soon not have the quarterback be the second-leading rusher. But when his first carry from scrimmage goes 51-yards for a touchdown after a zone read fake, , it just goes to show that running the ball is yet another great weapon within the Andrew Luck (#12) arsenal. He ended up just eight yards shy of hitting 100 yards and managed it on just five carries.
It was great to see Tyler Gaffney (#25) back in the game, returning to action for the first time since injuring his ankle in the first quarter against Notre Dame. He got his feet wet (literally and figuratively) by adding another 50 yards to the ground game.
True freshman Anthony Wilkerson (#32) continues to improve. He is seeing the field much better than during his first few games. He seems to be gaining that intangible sense as to when to be patient and let the blocks develop, and when to hit the hole hard.
The offensive line of course gets all kinds of credit. The Huskies front had no chance going against the confident Cardinal line. The "power" play was dominant, the holes were wide, and anytime Stanford did need a big play on the ground, the line paved the way for them.
PASSING GAME: A
Upon reflection, it was too bad that Stanford went for the "Hail Mary" at the end of the first half. The interception on the play was really the only blemish on Luck's remarkable night. The ever-rising star quarterback ended up 19-26 for 192 yards and a touchdown. His numbers would have been even better had Stanford had experienced any actual need throw the ball. Of his incomplete passes, Luck had a couple of them dropped, and a couple of them were at least catchable. It may not have been perfection, but it seemed awfully close. Especially in the first half, when the game was arguably still in doubt.
Ryan Whalen (#8) got back into action with five catches for 59 yards, his biggest day since returning from injury. Doug Baldwin (#89) looked good for five catches as well. Redshirt freshman tight end Zach Ertz (#86) had his biggest day with three catches for 20 yards and showed nice, soft hands on his touchdown.
Again, the offensive line gets credit for some outstanding blocking. Luck seemed to have a fair amount of time to throw the ball whenever a pass was called.
RUN DEFENSE: A
It seemed like a real fault in
the game plan for
The defensive line manhandled the Huskies offensive line. With the line occupying all the blockers, Shayne Skov and Owen Marecic had no problems finding the backs in the holes. However Chase Thomas (#44) was the dominant linebacker in this one.
He kept contain and could still crash the inside to support on the inside run. It was his best game at Stanford. Thomas ended up with nine tackles on the night and #44 was giving the Husky offensive coaches fits. Skov added eight.
PASS DEFENSE: A
So this was the team that was so much-maligned the last few games? The Stanford pass defense that had been torn apart at times was suddenly brilliant allowing just 88-yards passing. Was it the return of a healthier Delano Howell (#26) and a healthier Michael Thomas (#3)? Was it better coverage? Was it the strong pass rush? Coach Jim Harbaugh felt it was all three playing a factor.
The Stanford pass rush was simply unstoppable. Matt Masifilo (#98) had two sacks. Thomas had the other sack. But Jake Locker had very little time to throw most of the night. And as the night continued, and the pressure got to him, he started to pass the ball poorly. That led to interceptions by Howell and Johnson Bademosi (#27), who needed a big game and got one. After a difficult outing against
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
We have to find one fault! Nate Whitaker finally missed his first field goal of the season. After being perfect this season including a game winner against USC, he finally missed from 40 yards. Could not have been a better time if you had to miss one. It was almost a "mercy-miss".
Other than that, the special teams play was pretty solid. Whitaker nailed his other two attempts. Out of eight kickoffs, he had three touchbacks. The longest return for
Punter Daniel Zynchlinski (#36) again was limited to just one opportunity, and he got 45-yards out of his punt.
It is always fun to nit-pick, so we will start with that. The red-zone offense stumbled in the second half. There were a few plays of "third and seven-ish" that ended up being short passes in front of the sticks. The design was catch and run, but that did not seem to work. With Luck firing as well as he was, it would have been nice to see the staff be a bit more aggressive going after the first down or touchdown.
Now that the second-guessing is done, let's face it, the coaches put together a game plan that led to an historic 41-0 win. It was a great combo of run and pass early. Then it was a great philosophy change going to the run when everyone identified that Stanford's offensive line was goimng to be too much for the Huskies.
On defense, Vic Fangio gets great credit for bringing the pressure back to the passing game. There was a nice mix of blitzes designed to stop the run and the pass.
41-0 on the road! The second Stanford road shutout in the Pac-10 this season. The first time they have done that since 1968.
Let there be no doubt, Stanford is a very good team. If they can stay focused.....
THE BOOTLEG PLAYERS OF THE GAME:
OFFENSE: Andrew Luck (Honorable mention to the entire offensive line)
DEFENSE: Chase Thomas (Honorable mention to Matt Masifilo)
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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