And that's all it took for Stanford to bust open their season opener against South Bay neighbor San Jose State, running away from the Spartans in a 57-3 laugher.
Andrew Luck looked every bit the Heisman frontrunner, throwing for six touchdowns, two apiece to Coby Fleener, Chris Owusu and Jamal-Rashad Patterson, who enjoyed a breakout game after an up-and- down first two years at Stanford.
"I don't worry about the stats or any of that," said Luck, who finished with 297 yards on 17-of-28 passing. "It was great to get off to a win, it was great to get so many guys on offense involved, and it was great to see our defense play like that."
Stanford looked every bit a top-five team, with dominating performances on both sides of the ball. With the Luck-led offense's showing no surprise, it was the defense that proved the most, allowing the Spartans just 112 total yards. All-American candidates Delano Howell and Shayne Skov each snagged early interceptions to snuff out whatever chance the Spartans had on this warm September day.
"Delano and I, we view ourselves as the leaders of this defense, and we put it on shoulders to lead these young guys by example," Skov said. "We all know this year could be something special, and it's going to be up to us to see just how special."
Meanwhile, in his first career start, junior Terrence Stephens looked more than capable of filling the shoes of All Pac-10 defensive tackle Sione Fua, a 2011 graduate. Stephens, one of the defense's biggest unknowns heading into the season, posted three sacks as the Stanford defensive line combined for nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The Cardinal opened the 2011 season in front of a sellout crowd, a surprise to many with students still two weeks from returning to campus. The fans saw a bit of post-game controversy, with players from both squads jawing at each other as San Jose State took offense to the game's final margin.
"I'm in front of my friends and family, and they're out here trying to embarrass me," said senior tailback Brandon Rutley, of nearby Redwood City. "They go for two in the first half and Luck keeps throwing it in the fourth quarter. It's bush league."
Stanford coach David Shaw offered no apologies, however.
"It's my first game too, you know," said Shaw, who filled the vacancy Jim Harbaugh created with a January departure to the San Francisco 49ers. "I wanted the offense and the defense to get experience working with our new staff and our new playbook, and I wanted them to know that just because the head coach has changed, the tone hasn't. I might not be as in your face about it, but we still bow to no program here at Stanford."
- Stepfan Taylor's three-yard second quarter run was the only ground touchdown of the day. Taylor finished with 52 yards on 12 carries, while Luck added 21 yards on the ground.
- Replacing All-Conference kicker Nate Whitaker, redshirt freshman Jordan Williamson struggled on the day. Many of his kickoffs failed to reach the goal line, he pulled a second-quarter extra point left, and nearly missed a few others. He did knuckle home his one field goal attempt of the day, hitting a 36- yarder as time expired in the first half.
- Stanford went 5-of-7 on third downs while holding the Spartans to 2-of-9.
- Kyle Nunn's 39-yard third quarter catch gave the Spartans their best field position of the day, at Stanford's 13. But a Stephens sack stalled the Spartans' drive, and Harrison Waid connected on a 28- yard field goal for the Spartans' only points of the afternoon.
Disclaimer: The Bootleg's crystal ball cannot be held responsible for any wagers placed. Also, EA Sports doesn't know about injuries and depth chart changes and such. Take the stories in the spirit in which they're intended.
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