Simulation Station: Arizona

You can read previews of opponents' strengths and weaknesses anywhere. But who cares about the outlook for some third-string tailback? That's why, here at The Bootleg, we took matters into our own hands, quite literally. We played out Stanford's upcoming season in NCAA Football 2012, and are faithfully reporting our video game results. How will the Card do this week? Read on!

TUSCON, Ariz. – Sept. 17, 2011

Stanford started off the Pac-10 season on a high note, downing host Arizona 35-21. Stepfan Taylor, Andrew Luck and Chris Owusu each accounted for two touchdowns, as the defense sacked Wildcat quarterback Nick Foles nine times.

Owusu impressed the most for the Cardinal, coming down with 25- and 42-yard jump balls for his two scores.

"Chris wasn't open at all," a smiling Coach David Shaw said afterward. "Andrew and Josh each made bad decisions with it, but Chris made them look smart today."

When the offense wasn't throwing up jump balls, it was mighty efficient against a hapless Wildcat D. Luck threw for 245 yards on just 19 attempts, while Taylor ran for 124 yards on only 14 touches.

Nonetheless, the Wildcats shut down Stanford's offense early. Arizona forced Stanford to turn the ball over twice on downs in consecutive first quarter series, as Cardinal fourth-down attempts near midfield went awry. But Arizona could only parlay the strong field position into an Alex Zendejas 36-yard field goal, and once Stanford started clicking, that would prove not nearly enough.

Taylor opened the floodgates for Stanford with a five-yard plunge with 20 seconds left in the first. The next drive, Coby Fleener rolled right with Luck on a bootleg and caught a 22-yard dart just inside the sideline to put Stanford up 14-3.

Arizona sent the house on Stanford's next series, so once Taylor managed to find the one open gap, he was off to the races for a 66-yard score with 6:03 remaining in the first half. Owusu came down with his first jump ball with a minute left in the half, and suddenly a 3-0 Arizona lead 15 minutes earlier had morphed into a 28-3 Stanford runaway.

"I think our strength on offense is that we can wear you down with the run, but we can also strike quickly," Owusu said. "I think we showed both of those sides today, especially in the first half."

The third quarter was a near-replay of the first, as Stanford's offense stalled with Luck resting on the bench and backup Josh Nunes under center. Zendejas' 52-yard field goal marked the only score on the period, and Stanford thus entered the fourth quarter with a 28-6 lead.

Twenty seconds into the fourth, however, Owusu came down with his second jump-ball touchdown, sending impatient Arizona fans to the exit.

Those fans missed out on some fireworks though, as Arizona used two successful onside kicks to score two straight touchdowns on Stanford's second-string defense, with a two-point conversion bringing the score to its final 35-21 margin. But Stanford finally recovered an onside kick, and Taylor and Luck then did enough to run out the clock.

Extra points:

  • Luck sat out most of the second half with a bruised thumb, but did re-enter the game after Arizona pulled to within 14, to loud cheers from the visitor section. Coach Shaw explained the rest was precautionary, and Luck probably could have played the whole ballgame had it been closer.
  • Stanford went 0-of-6 on third downs, but countered with a 3-of-5 day on fourth downs, and big enough plays on first and second downs to largely render the issue moot.
  • Speaking of big plays, seven of Stanford's plays went at least 20 yards. Four of them went for scores, with Stanford's touchdowns five, 22, 66, 25 and 42 yards, respectively.

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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