Play-By-Play Summary: Stanford vs. OSU

We grade out every meaningful snap in Stanford's season-finale thrashing over Oregon State. Who grades out poorly, who grades out well, how did the coaches do and what does it all mean moving forward? You won't want to miss this massive undertaking, only on

I often find myself watching Stanford football games and wondering exactly why a play did or didn't work. Sometimes the network deigns to show us an instant replay and telestrate it up, but thanks to the magic of DVR, where anyone can pause, rewind and replay plays to their heart's content, I've increasingly become my own producer watching football. Especially with all of Stanford's complex offensive shifts and all of the looks in its power-run game, it's not immediately obvious what made the play click, and I want to know. I want to see which pulling guards made the play work, I want to see the unheralded wide receiver blocking twenty yards downfield to spring a run or QB scramble, I want to see Andrew look off the safety to give his receiver an opening, and I want to see the defensive tackle that eats two blockers and allows the linebacker to flow free to the ball. Now we can, and we're going to use that closer look to analyze each and every play from the Oregon State game. Football junkies, eat your hearts out.

I am coopting the idea from the site, which has become enormously popular among Michigan fans for the feature, and being able to diagnose exactly which players and schemes were and weren't producing, and why, and has overtaken mainstream media, whose game recaps are too often mere repetitions of the box score and cliché quotes from the principal actors. As such, I'm using much of the system that site has developed over the years.

The main currency is plusses and minuses. A player who makes a good play, defined as a play above and beyond what a typical BCS-level player in the position would achieve, earns a plus, and, for the inverse, earns a minus. Exceptionally good or bad plays can merit additional plusses and minuses, and multiple players can receive marks on the same play. Units can earn points too, such as an entire offensive line for good pass protection, a D line for collapsing the pocket (or failing to pressure), and a secondary for providing good coverage and forcing a throwaway.

We also give plusses/minuses to the coaching staff, for calling plays that have an excellent or poor chance of succeeding, for general game management (such as burning timeouts early in a close game) or game theory (clock management, go/kick decisions, recentering the ball for field goals on third down, cough cough).

Finally, in the passing game we're rating each throw on a 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) scale, with a default of 3 (good) for routine throws. We rate each catch from a 0 (utterly uncatchable, used to track which receivers are targeted) to a 1 (circus catch) to a 2 (difficult catch) to a 3 (routine).

(Note that because of the nature of television camera angles and the game of football, some units are going to find it easier to rack up points than others. The secondary, in particular, often doesn't get noticed for good coverage – because the ball usually isn't heading that way when the coverage is sound. So while these numbers aren't a be-all, end-all, there is still much to be learned from tracking and grading every snap from scrimmage, and these numbers can serve as a useful guide. We also try to adjust and give DBs more credit, and specifically tracking good coverage.)

Okay, with all that intro out of the way, below are our summary charts and conclusions from our play-by-play analysis. Don't spoil the ending ahead of time though! First, read the actual play-by-play of:
the first quarter
the second quarter
and the second half
and then come back here to read our summary stats.

Okay, welcome back! Here are the summary stats...

Defensive PlayerPlussesMinusesTotal
Matt Masifilo2.511.5
Sione Fua60.55.5
Brian Bulcke01-1
Terrence Stephens211
Josh Mauro01-1
Ben Gardner0.51-0.5
Line (unit)633
Chase Thomas14113
Thomas Keiser321
Owen Marecic3.521.5
Shayne Skov31.51.5
Richard Sherman422
Delano Howell6.515.5
Michael Thomas13.5-2.5
Barry Browning52.52.5
Taylor Skaufel20.51.5
Coverage (unit)14014

Offensive PlayerPlussesMinusesTotal
Andrew Luck5.514.5
Jonathan Martin41.52.5
David DeCastro3.503.5
Chase Beeler321
Andrew Phillips835
Derek Hall505
James McGillicuddy101
Konrad Reuland01-1
Line (unit)19.5118.5
Ryan Whalen41.52.5
Doug Baldwin60.55.5
Drew Terrell101
Griff Whalen101
Jamal-Rashad Patterson101
Zach Ertz01-1
Owen Marecic505
Stepfan Taylor633
Anthony Wilkerson202
Tyler Gaffney1.501.5

Passing chart:

(5: Excellent)(4: Great)(3: Good)(2: Fair)(1: Poor)

Receiving chart:

Name(0: Targeted)(1: Circus)(2: Difficult)(3: Routine)
R. Whalen20/00/07/7
G. Whalen00/10/00/0
D. Terrell00/00/01/1


You miscounted this and misattributed that and totally don't understand the other. Take the hours to do this and you'd probably make a mistake or two too. We happily make all corrections and suggestions, PM me or email Also, note that we didn't chart anything after Gaffney's screen pass TD made it 38-0 because the game was out of reach then, and the backups started to enter.

This number doesn't feel right. Well, that doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong. In fact, that's kind of the value of this whole exercise, open our eyes up and make us realize something we wouldn't have without putting each play under a magnifying glass.
Now having said that, we track the offensive line, the secondary and the defensive line as units, because it's harder to attribute success to an individual in those units – either the whole line pass protects well or there's a breakdown; either the whole secondary covers well, or there's a hole. So if you take those ridiculously positive scores for coverage and the O-line and divide them in your head among the players at those positions, I think our linemen and DBs grade out more positively, as they should.
Also, of course, your opponent has something to do with your day, and that Chase Beeler, for example, was relatively quiet on the day has something to do with the guy lined up across from him, half-man, half-machine Stephen Paea. Scheme also affects numbers – maybe Skov was quieter because his job was to eat blocks, which in turn left Chase Thomas free to put up the best day this side of Ray Lewis.
Still, the one number that doesn't make sense to me is the defensive coaching number, given the shutout. Three points in its defense: first, Katz was really off, second, the offense did a lot for the D in terms of possession and field position, and third, OSU stupidly didn't go with a gameplan of trying to get their athletes isolated against us in space. To understate matters, spreading it out worked rather well for OSU last year, and USC and Oregon this year, and the few times OSU did try fly sweeps or bubble screens, those plays were there. (Maybe Katz just isn't good enough to run that offense yet?) Then again, the ridiculous coverage number all day long, and the ridiculous numbers Chase Thomas put up – obviously the coaches deserve some credit for that too, so factor that in and the defensive brain trust had a pretty good day after all.

Andrew Luck only +4.5!?! We don't want to double count his passing, which we tracked separately, so that score only captures the non-throwing parts of his day – runs, avoiding pressure, good decisions, game management and the like. That's actually quite a good score for a quarterback, reinforcing my comment in the play-by-play that the non-passing parts of his game are really underrated.

Okay, but how about Andrew as a passer? That's a ridiculous chart. He made all the routine throws look easy (all those 3's), made the more difficult throws when he had to (the 4's and 5's) and had just two so-so throws (the 2's) all day. Thought of another way, he was successful on 20 of the 22 throws we tracked, for a 91 percent success rate. We could chart NFL games and half the QBs in the league wouldn't have that day, but you know this already.

Chase Thomas? Yeah, pretty much. Dude deserves his own section, I don't know what I can add. Howell, Skov and Fua get the publicity on defense (and Howell and Fua had the next-best days on the D), but Thomas outshined Paea and had, easily, the best game of anyone on the field Saturday.

Stars? On the defense, Chase Thomas, Fua, and the entire secondary, in particular Howell and Browning, who is going to be an All-Conference corner in two years, given that he had a darn good day despite being a true frosh and giving up 40 pounds to everyone. Who'd have thunk it'd be Browning, not Devon Carrington, who'd make the most impact as a true frosh DB? Between Marecic and Browning, you have to like the staff's instincts on lower-rated recruits.
On offense, however good you think our quarterback is, he's probably better, and the same with our offensive line, Phillips in particular. How about the receivers though, who were a perfect 17-of-17 on non-circus catches? Baldwin in particular has made the most of Owusu's injury, and has stepped up to be the guy deep.

Duds? None, we won by 40 points!

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