"The Report Card-inal": Stanford 42, Arizona

The Bootleg's Special Partner Dave Fowkes once again enjoys the painless undertaking of grading the 2010 Cardinal after yet another outstanding performance against the then-13th-ranked Wildcats of the U of A on Saturday. The Cardinal came to play and made them pay, rushing and passing their way over, around and through a proud, but pounded Cats defense.

"The Report Card-inal": Stanford 42, Arizona 17 

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, Wilbur or Wilma Wildcat or Stanford Head Coach Jim "EUTM" Harbaugh.     

That was a mightily impressive performance. Even several days later, after it has sunken in, Stanford's 42-17 statement-making win over Arizona stands out as a big one. Sure, Arizona 's defense may have been a bit overrated, but Stanford executed a brilliant game plan that was able to exploit the Cat defense. On the other side of the ball, Stanford's defense did a great job of limiting Arizona's scoring opportunities . That was a very big win, on a very national stage.


RUN GAME: A


The Wildcats came to stop the run. They stacked eight defenders in the box and did not want Stanford to run up the middle. Okay then, let's pass the ball and run to the outside! The coaches set it up perfectly and by the end of the night Stanford again rolled to 217 rushing yards, very close to the team's 223-yard average on the ground this season.


Stepfan Taylor (#33) saw his streak of 100-yard rushing games come to an end, but he will gladly trade that for his four touchdowns and the "W". Taylor looked good in the second half when it was time to physically take over the game - although if you really want to nit-pick, it did look like he chose the wrong hole a couple of times. He had a few clutch third-down conversions and even on a night when the defense was keying on him all the way, he ended up with a respectable 4.3 yards per carry average.


Freshman Anthony Wilkerson (#32) also looked great. His first run for 39 yards, with Andrew Luck (#12) as his willing and effective lead blocker, was a thing of beauty. The two steps right, then reverse the field to the left with a pulling lineman and a quarterback.
What a great call, performed to absolute perfection.


The coaching staff was just showing off when they took the same play that Luck ran for a touchdown against Washington and added the option element to Chris Owusu (#81). The play did not score, but it looked great picking up 12 yards. In the second half Luck converted a first down by keeping it himself.


PASS GAME: A


What else can be said about Andrew Luck? Unfortunately I don't think that he is likely to win the Heisman because his numbers won't be gaudy enough. But anyone who watches him knows we are watching a superstar in the making.

Luck was 23-32 for 293 yards and two touchdowns. He again was in complete command of the offense. The intangibles he brings to the game far out weigh his stats, and his stats are nevertheless outstanding. Coach Jim Harbaugh called the things he does on the field "Peyton Manning-like." I submit I have never seen Manning run 50+ yards for a touchdown, much less twice in the same season.


The only nit-picking I will do (hey, got to do some right?) is to say there were timing issues on the deep corner routes. They ran it three times. The only completion was thanks to a super-human effort by Chris Owusu in the fourth quarter to haul in the pass. Not sure if the receivers were running to the wrong spot or if Luck was throwing to the wrong spot, but it seemed something was off on those plays.


Speaking of Owusu, what a game he had. Harbaugh said about the fourth-quarter catch that it may be the best catch he has ever seen from the sideline of a game. It was spectacular to be sure. But that was just part of Owusu's huge night as he ended with nine catches for 165 yards and a touchdown. Andrew Luck was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week, but Owusu easily could have earned the award as well. No problem, Luck strongly prefers to share the credit!


The offensive line struggled a bit with three holding penalties, but it should be conceded that Arizona  has awfully good, fast defensive ends. While there were a few lapses, for the most part Luck had plenty of time to throw.


RUN DEFENSE: B+


Just looking at the final stats would indicate that the Cardinal defense struggled. Arizona ended with 31 carries for 180 yards and 5.8 yards per carry average. But stats can be deceptive. Yes, Stanford gave up runs of 21 yards, 19 yards and 14 yards, but Stanford was already leading by three scores. The draw play found some success in the second half, but in the first half when the game was close, the Wildcat running game never kicked into high gear.


It was textbook "3-4" defense in the first half with the defensive line holding the line of scrimmage, the linebackers flying to the ball and when someone did break through, Delano Howell was the ultimate safety net in the defensive backfield. Yes, the Arizona run game eventually found some success, but it was mostly on draw plays late when Stanford was looking pass. Keep in mind that last year those draw plays went for long touchdown runs as Arizona rallied from a 17-point deficit to win in Tucson .


PASS DEFENSE: A


The pass defense did a nice job. Cat quarterback Nick Foles threw the ball 48 times, yet Arizona only got 248 yards. That is just 5.2 yards per attempt. That will work just about any day. The pass rush was solid with Thomas Keiser playing his best game of the season. The blitz schemes were again solid in keeping Arizona off balance.


Howell was outstanding at safety. He seemed to be everywhere. He ended up with 11 tackles, one pass defended and a few huge, jarring hits that were the kind that make a receiver think twice before coming over the middle.


Senior cornerback Richard Sherman (#9) showed durability and was sharp as well. He had the lone interception of the game and added 10 tackles to his resume. Michael Thomas (#3) was also big as he made the transition from safety to cornerback for this game, while Johnson Bademosi (#27) "worked through somthing".


Arizona
put together two good drives in the second half when they went to a super hurry-up offense, but other than that, the Cardinal defense came up with the big play when needed. Maybe it was a little of the "bend but don't break" mentality, in the end it was very successful.


SPECIAL TEAMS: B


Drew Terrell (#4) had a very nice 27-yard return in his one opportunity. There was another one that he should have caught that he did not that rolled into a nice punt. Owusu was back at kickoff return and looked good. Daniel Zynchlinski (#36) kicked four times and only averaged 34.5 yards. Nate Whitaker was perfect in his extra point attempts. His kick-offs with the wind were not returned and he nearly put on through the uprights. Overall, it was a solid special teams performance.


COACHING: A+


There is nothing I would rather do than sit in on the offensive coaches meetings on Sunday as they prepare the following week's game plans. The combination of Greg Roman, David Shaw, Tim Drevno, "Pep" Hamilton and of course head coach Jim Harbaugh are proving to be a formidable braintrust. Since each coach loves to give the entire group all the credit, I would love to sit in that meeting and hear them toss ideas back and forth at each other.


On defense, first-year coordinator Vic Fangio has the Stanford defense back on track and playing well. Again, the team only allowed three points in the first half to a pretty well-regarded Arizona offense.


The cliché goal for all football coaches is that they try to put players in the best positions they can to try and make plays. This coaching staff is clearly doing that.


OVERALL: A+


Stanford was favored by 9.5 points going into the game. Prior to the game, most people seemed to think that was a high number against a good Arizona team. As it turned out, it was not even close. 42-17 on national television in a key battle for second place in the Pac-10? Yes, that was a monumental win for the "rolling-on" Stanford warriors!.


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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