"Cardinal Numbers" - The 2011 Season

It is always a treat for The Bootleg when "Terry2" seriously gets his stats on! Numbers seldom lie and Terry has crafted, rather artfully, a retrospective analysis of the Stanford Football's outstanding 2011 season and helpfully placed the team's on-field performance in a historical context! We feel it's important to appreciate just how remarkable the Cardinal's success has been in recent years.

"Cardinal Numbers" - The 2011 Season

We are pleased to bring you our statistical breakdown of Stanford's 2011 season. For the second straight season, Stanford's statistical performance was simply outstanding. The short summary is that Stanford was able to maintain and even improve on last season's superb offensive performance. Stanford's defense was good, especially against the run, although not quite up to last year's standard. The performance of the Cardinal's special teams was generally in the middle of the pack, with some bright spots.


Stanford had a record-setting season on offense. This year's offense managed to improve slightly on last year's excellent performance:

Offense: 2010 vs. 2011
First downs/game 24.325.0
Total yards/game 472489
Rushing yards/game 214211
Rushing yards/game (excluding sacks) 218216
Rushing yards/attempt 5.25.3
Rushing yards/attempt (excluding sacks) 5.35.6
Passing yards/game 259279
Passing yards/attempt 8.98.7
Pass efficiency rating 168.4169.5
Sacks allowed/game 0.50.8
Pass attempts per sack allowed 6338
Third down conversion rate 58%53%

Stanford's offense was among the top 10 in the NCAA in numerous categories, including scoring and total offense:

2011 Offense
NCAA Rankings
Scoring (Points/Game) 43.27th
Total Offense (Yards/Game) 4898th
Yards Per Play 6.86th
First Downs Per Game 25.010th
Pass Efficiency Rating 169.55th
Yards per Pass Attempt 8.78th
Sacks Allowed per Game 0.87th
Tackles for Loss Allowed per Game 3.21st
Third Down Conversions 53%3rd
Red Zone Efficiency 97%1st
Time of Possession per Game 33:475th

Stanford's offense ranked 8th in the nation in the number of 20+ yard plays per game, and 17th in the number of 30+ yard plays per game.

For the fifth straight year, Stanford's offense improved its performance, improving from Stanford's worst-ever offense five years ago to arguably its best ever:

Offensive Improvement

For the second straight season, Stanford set a new school record for scoring offense:

1923Kerr/Nevers (FB) 31.6

[Note: In accordance with NCAA policy, bowl games were not counted in the statistics until 2002.]

This year's offense ranks second in Stanford history in yards per game, just behind Jim Plunkett's explosive 1969 team:

Total Offense

Based on yards per play, this year's offense was the most productive offense in Stanford history, just ahead of last year's team:

Yards per Offensive Play

Rushing Offense

Stanford's running game once again was a major strength. Stanford's running game has been producing at a consistently high level for the last several years:

Rushing Yards
2009 - 2011
Rushing Yards 2,8372,7792,738
Rushing Yards/Game 218214211
Rushing Yards/Attempt

Stanford's rushing attack ranked 2nd in the Pac 10 in rushing yards per game, 2nd in rushing yards per attempt, and 2nd in rushing TDs (behind Oregon in each case). Among the 67 BCS teams, Stanford ranked in the top 10 in all three of those categories. This year's team ranks among the top rushing teams in Stanford history:

Rushing Yards Per Game
YearCoach/Leading Rusher Yards/Game

Although this year's rushing yardage was just a little less than last year's, Stanford's running backs actually were more productive this year. The running backs gained an additional 21 yards per game this year, and the running backs' combined average went up from 4.9 yards per carry to 5.4 yards per carry. The increased production by the running backs made up for a decrease in rushing yards by the quarterbacks. Andrew Luck and Alex Loukas combined for 603 rushing yards in 2010, while Luck and Brett Nottingham accounted for just 160 rushing yards in 2011.

Rushing Yards
2010 vs. 2011
Running backs 2,0692,341+272
WRs and others 61112+51

Stanford averaged 5.3 yards per carry this year, falling short of the school record by just .007 yards per carry. The Cardinal's average yards per carry have been remarkably consistent over the last three seasons -- 5.3, 5.2, 5.3. The top four averages in school history have come in the last four seasons:

Rushing Yards Per Attempt
YearCoach/Leading Rusher Yards/Attempt

Stanford's strong performance in average yards per carry came despite a slight increase in the number of sacks allowed. Sacks reduce average yards per carry. When sacks are excluded from last season's figures, Stanford averaged 5.6 yards per carry for the season, which is outstanding. That compares to 5.4 yards per carry in 2009 and 5.3 yards per carry in 2010, excluding sacks.

Passing Offense

Stanford threw the ball somewhat more this year than last year. Stanford still was a power running team and maintained its running game at essentially the same level as last year. But at the same time, the Cardinal's play-selection mix shifted slightly toward the pass. This was a continuation of a shift that began last year:

Play Selection 2008 - 2011
 20082009 20102011
Rushing Attempts per Game 40.841.241.239.8
Passing Attempts per Game 23.924.129.232.1
Run/Pass Mix 63% - 37% 63% - 37% 59% - 41% 55% - 45%

The Cardinal's passing game was highly effective, essentially matching last year's pass efficiency rating. Stanford threw more than last year and gained an additional 20 passing yards per game, while maintaining efficiency at a high level:

Passing Offense
Attempts per Game 29.232.1
Completions per Game 20.522.8
Completion Pct. 70.2%71.2%
Passing Yards 3,3633,623
Passing Yards/Game 259279
TD passes 3238
Pass Efficiency Rating 168.4169.5

Stanford finished fifth in the nation in pass efficiency rating with a rating of 169.5, breaking the school record of 168.4 set last year. Passing yards, touchdown passes, and completion percentage went up, while yards per pass attempt went down slightly. For the third straight year, Stanford was in the range of 8.7 to 8.9 yards per pass attempt, which is excellent. Those last three seasons are three of Stanford's top four seasons ever in yards per pass attempt:

Yards Per Pass Attempt

The focus of the passing game shifted from the wide receivers to the tight ends and the backs. Stanford's wide receivers accounted for just 43% of the team's receptions this season, compared to a more typical wide receiver share of 55%-75%. This year's 43% is the lowest percentage of receptions for Stanford's wide receivers during the last 18 seasons, which is as far back as my data go. The tight ends' percentage of the team's receptions went up to 29%, which is the highest percentage of receptions for Stanford's tight ends during those 18 seasons. And the percentage of receptions by fullbacks was 12%, which is the highest percentage of receptions by fullbacks since Bill Walsh's last year, 1994.

In addition to catching fewer passes, the Stanford wide receivers gained fewer yards per catch. The wide receivers averaged 12.7 yards per catch, down from 13.6 yards per catch the previous season. On the other hand, the tight ends averaged 15.8 yards per catch, which is an exceptional figure for tight ends. Thus, the statistics reflect what we already knew -- Stanford's deep passing threat came primarily from its tight ends, not its wide receivers. The use of the tight ends as deep threats allowed Stanford to average 12.2 yards per completion, slightly higher than the national average.

Pass Receptions, 2010 vs. 2011
 Percentage of
Yards per
Percentage of
Yards per
Wide Receivers 56%13.6 yds 43%12.7 yds
Tight Ends 25%13.0 yds 29%15.8 yds
Running Backs 15%10.0 yds 16%7.4 yds
Fullbacks4%8.3 yds 12%8.0 yds
Note: These figures do not include one reception by a QB in 2009 & 2011
and one reception by an OL in 2010

What can we say about Andrew Luck? Luck's accomplishments on the field go far beyond ready measurement by statistics. Nevertheless, here are some of Luck's statistical achievements for the season and his career:

Andrew Luck
NCAA Active Career Leader:
Most yards per pass attempt, career 8.9
Most total offense yards per play, career 8.5
Pac 12 Records:
Highest pass efficiency rating, career 162.8
Highest completion percentage, career 67.0%
Most yards per pass attempt, career 8.9
Highest completion percentage, season 71.3% (2011)
Stanford Career Records:
Most touchdown passes, career 82
Most total offense yards, career 10,387
Highest pass efficiency rating, career 162.8
Highest completion percentage, career 67.0%
Most yards per pass attempt, career 8.9
Most rushing yards by a QB, career 957
Most wins by a starting QB, career 31
Highest winning percentage by a starting QB, career .816
Stanford Single Season Records:
Most touchdown passes, season 37 (2011)
Most total offense yards, season 3,791 (2010)
Highest pass efficiency rating, season 170.2 (2010)
Highest completion percentage, season 71.3% (2011)
Most yards per pass attempt, season 9.0 (2010)
Most rushing yards by a QB, season 453 (2010)

Stanford gave up relatively few sacks, allowing just 11 sacks for the season -- the 7th fewest in the nation. That was, however, up from than last year, when remarkably, the Cardinal allowed just 6 sacks.


In 2010, Stanford's defense took a huge leap forward, going from a below-average defense to a very good one. This season, the defense continued to play at a high level, although not quite up to the standards of 2010.

In 2010, Stanford had one of the top defenses in the Pac 10, ranking 1st in scoring defense, 2nd in total defense, 2nd in rushing defense, and 2nd in pass efficiency defense. This past season, Stanford was again one of the conference's top defensive teams, finishing 2nd in scoring defense, 2nd in total defense, 1st in rushing defense, and 5th in pass efficiency defense.

Nationally, out of 120 teams, Stanford finished an outstanding 3rd in rushing defense. However, Stanford finished just 73rd in pass efficiency defense. Overall, Stanford was 30th in scoring defense and 26th in total defense -- in the top 25%, but not an elite defense.

In a line by line comparison to last season, Stanford's defense showed a great improvement in rushing defense, a decline in pass defense, and a smaller decline in overall defense:

Defense: 2010 vs. 2011
Points allowed/game 17.421.9
First downs allowed/game 18.517.5
Total yards allowed/game 323338
Yards allowed/play 5.15.4
Rushing yards allowed/game 12184
Rushing yards allowed/game (excl. sacks) 139108
Rushing yards allowed/attempt 3.93.0
Rushing yards allowed/attempt (excl. sacks) 4.94.3
Passing yards allowed/game 202253
Passing yards allowed/attempt 6.27.3
Pass efficiency defense 112.8132.9
Opponent pass attempts per sack 11.811.6
Tackles for loss/game 5.56.8
Third down conversion rate allowed 37%31%

Stanford's defense allowed only one opponent (Washington) to gain as many as 400 yards in regulation. (Stanford held both USC and Oklahoma State under 400 yards in regulation, but both went over 400 yards in overtime.) Stanford allowed more yards and more points in the second half of the season than in the first half. But that is not surprising because all of Stanford's strongest opponents were in the second half of Stanford's schedule, including three opponents that finished in the top 6 of the final AP poll -- Oregon, Oklahoma State, and USC.

2011 Defense: First Half vs. Second Half of Season
 First 6 Games Last 7 Games
Points allowed/game 11.231.1
Total yards allowed/game 295374
Rushing yards allowed/game 60106
Passing yards allowed/game 235269

These statistics for the second half of the season are slightly distorted by the two overtime games. Excluding overtime, Stanford allowed 28.7 points per game and 362 yards per game in the second half of the season.

After making progress in 2010 in reducing the number of big plays allowed, Stanford regressed somewhat in 2011:

30+ Yard Gains Allowed
Total 30+ Yard Gains Allowed 251320
30+ Yard Runs Allowed 625
30+ Yard Passes Allowed 191115

Allowing big plays was a weakness in an otherwise good defense. Stanford did an excellent job of preventing long, methodical drives. The Cardinal defense allowed a third down conversion rate of just 31%, which ranked 6th in the nation. Only 9% of opponents' drives lasted 10 plays or more, which was the 8th best figure in the nation. So, Stanford did a good job of getting opponents off the field most of the time. But Stanford's defense had a penchant for giving up the occasional long play. Notably, although Stanford held both Oregon and Oklahoma State under 400 yards in regulation, Stanford's defense allowed five touchdowns of 40+ yards in those two games. Those five 40+ yard touchdowns were crucial to the disappointing outcomes of those games.

Rushing Defense

Stanford had one of its best rushing defenses ever this season. Stanford allowed just 84.4 yards per game, which ranked third in the NCAA. That was the fewest rushing yards per game allowed by a Stanford team since at least 1965, which is as far back as my records go.

Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game
(since 1965)

One reason for the low number of opponent rushing yards was the fact that Stanford's opponents didn't run the ball much. Stanford's defense faced just 27.9 rushing attempts per game, the fewest in the nation.

But that wasn't the only reason for Stanford's strong rushing defense statistics. Stanford also allowed a mere 3.0 yards per rushing attempt, which ranked 11th in the nation. That was a big improvement over last year, when Stanford allowed 3.9 yards per rushing attempt (43rd in the nation). The average of 3.0 yards allowed per rushing attempt was among Stanford's all-time best figures in that category:

Rushing Yards Allowed Per Attempt
(since 1965)

Stanford's defense generated 6.8 tackles for loss per game, which ranked 28th in the nation. This was a substantial improvement over 2010 (5.5 tackles for loss per game, 75th in the nation) and 2009 (4.5 tackles for loss per game, 108th in the nation).

Pass Defense

After a major improvement in pass defense in 2010, the Cardinal pass defense took a step back this year:

Pass Defense, 2009 to 2011
NCAA Rankings
Pass Efficiency Defense 98th16th73rd
Passing Yards Allowed per Game 110th35th95th
Yards Allowed per Attempt 86th19th76th
Interceptions per Game 99th18th104th

Stanford's pass defense declined in every category this season compared to the previous year. This decline probably cannot be blamed on a less effective pass rush. Stanford's pass rush improved from 2.8 sacks per game last year (14th in the nation) to 3.0 sacks per game this year (11th nationally). Stanford's pass rush was a team effort. Fifteen Stanford defenders recorded at least half a sack. Chase Thomas led a group of seven players with at least two sacks each:

Sacks, 2011
Chase Thomas OLB8.5
Trent Murphy OLB6.5
Ben Gardner DE4.5
Jarek Lancaster ILB3.5
Matt Masifilo DE2.5
Blake Lueders OLB2.0
Josh Mauro DE2.0


Stanford's turnover margin of +5 was good, but not great. Stanford's per-game turnover margin of +0.38 per game was 30th in the nation. In 2010, Stanford's turnover margin was significantly better at +13.

Stanford did well in taking care of the ball. For the third consecutive season, Stanford committed 17 turnovers, which was the 14th lowest figure in the nation this year. Stanford lost only 7 fumbles during the season, which was the fewest fumbles Stanford has lost in a season since 1995 (also 7). Unfortunately, 3 of the 7 lost fumbles came in one game, the Oregon game.

Stanford didn't do as well in taking the ball away from the opponent. Stanford's 22 takeaways ranked 59th nationally. This year's 22 takeaways were down from 30 takeaways a year ago. Notably, interceptions by the Stanford defense declined from 18 last year to 7 this year.

Over the years, the turnover margin has been a pretty good indicator of wins and losses. Looking at all of Stanford's games for the last 17 seasons, the team with the advantage in turnovers has won 75% of the time. That general relationship was evident this year. Stanford went 6-0 in games in which it had the turnover advantage, while going just 2-2 in games in which the opponent had the turnover advantage. (The other three games were even in turnovers.) Stanford's -3 turnover margin against Oregon was particularly harmful. Of Stanford's 17 turnovers this season, 5 of them came in the Oregon game. Stanford had just 12 turnovers in the other 12 games combined.

Special Teams

Stanford's special teams were more or less average this year, with a few above-average aspects.

The punting team didn't get many opportunities. Stanford punted 37 times, which is just 2.8 punts per game, the second fewest in the nation. Only Baylor punted less often. Stanford's average of 40.8 yards per punt was fair-to-middling, ranking 53rd in the nation. Individually, David Green averaged 41.7 yards per punt, which was 9th in the Pac-12. Stanford did not allow any blocked punts.

Stanford did a pretty good job of punt coverage. Only 11 Stanford punts were returned for a total of 70 punt return yards, or 5.4 punt return yards per game. On the 11 punts that were returned, Stanford allowed an average of 6.4 yards, which ranked 40th nationally. Stanford was not hurt by any punt returns this year. Overall, Stanford's net punting average (net of returns and touchbacks) was 36.2 yards per punt, which was 67th nationally. That was slightly below last year's net punting average of 36.8 yards.

Stanford's punt return team was good, with an average of 11.3 yards per return (23rd in the nation). This was an improvement from last year's average of 10.0 yards per return. Drew Terrell averaged 12.0 yards per punt return, which was 12th in the nation and led the Pac-12.

The Cardinal struggled with kickoffs at times this year. As a team, Stanford averaged 63.9 yards per kickoff (53rd in the nation), which means the average kickoff carried to the 6 yard line. Stanford's touchback percentage of 9.1% ranked 86th in the nation. This was down from Nate Whitaker's excellent 28.9% touchback percentage last year. When Jordan Williamson was healthy, Stanford's kickoffs were considerably better. Williamson averaged 66.5 yards per kickoff, which was 12th in the nation and best in the Pac-12. About one-third of the team's kickoffs were handled by Ben Rhyne and Eric Whitaker, who had a combined average of 58.9 yards per kickoff -- 7.6 yards less than Williamson's average.

Stanford allowed an average of 21.3 yards per kickoff return, which was 54th in the nation. Overall, taking into account the length of the kickoff and the return, Stanford averaged a net of 44.0 yards per kickoff, which was a couple yards less than the Cardinal's 46.2 yard net kickoff average last year.

Stanford's kickoff return team averaged 22.6 yards per return, which was 46th in the nation. That was up from 21.8 yards per return last year. Ty Montgomery emerged as a good return threat with an average of 25.2 yards. He ranked 4th in the Pac-12 and 32nd in the nation.

The Cardinal's field goal kicking was good in the regular season. In the first seven games, Jordan Williamson made 11 of 12 FG attempts, with his only miss from 47 yards. With Williamson injured, Eric Whitaker took over for three games and made 4 of 5 FG attempts, with his only miss from 48 yards. So the kickers were a combined 15 of 17 through ten games. Williamson returned in the last two games of the season and made 1 of 3 attempts, missing from 33 and 49 yards. For the regular season, then, Stanford made 16 of 20 FG attempts, with 3 of the 4 misses coming from 47 yards or farther. From 46 yards or less, the Cardinal made 16 of 17 FG attempts in the regular season. Of course, the Fiesta Bowl was a disaster. Stanford made just 1 of 4 FG attempts, with the 3 misses coming from 41, 35, and 43 yards. For the season, Stanford made 70.8% of FG attempts, which ranked 54th nationally.

Stanford blocked one FG attempt, with Max Bergen blocking the kick and returning it for a TD.

In summary, Stanford's special teams were mostly in the middle of the pack, with some above-average areas.

Random Numbers

* Stanford's # 7 ranking in the final AP poll was tied for its third-highest AP ranking ever, behind the # 2 ranked 1940 "Wow Boys" team and the # 4 ranked Orange Bowl team last season. Stanford also finished # 7 under Chuck Taylor in 1951. (The AP poll began in 1936.)

* This was the second time Stanford has finished in the top 10 in the AP poll in back-to-back seasons. Stanford's Rose Bowl teams of 1970 and 1971 finished # 8 and # 10 respectively.

* Stanford has been in the top 10 in the AP poll for 23 consecutive polls, going back to October 2010. That is Stanford's longest top 10 streak by far. The previous best was 8 straight weeks in the top 10 in 1940.

* Stanford has been ranked in 31 consecutive AP polls, which is the second longest streak in school history behind a 43-week streak in 1969-72.

* Andrew Luck became the first Stanford quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards in a season in two different seasons. He is second on both the season and career passing yardage lists:

Passing Yards, Season
Steve Stenstrom 19933,627
Andrew Luck 20113,517
Andrew Luck 20103,338
John Elway 19823,242
Todd Husak 19983,092

Passing Yards, Career
Steve Stenstrom 1991-9410,531
Andrew Luck 2009-119,430
John Elway 1979-829,349
John Paye 1983-867,669
Jim Plunkett 1968-707,544

* Luck's career pass efficiency rating of 162.8 is the 8th best in NCAA Division I history, and the 4th best ever for a player in a BCS conference.

* Stepfan Taylor gained the second most rushing yards in a season in Stanford history. The top four individual single-season rushing yardage totals in school history have come in the last four seasons (although these last four seasons had 12 or 13 games rather than the 11 games that used to be standard). Toby Gerhart's school rushing record of 1,136 yards in 2008 has been surpassed every season since then:

Rushing Yards, Season
Toby Gerhart 20091,871
Stepfan Taylor 20111,330
Stepfan Taylor 20101,137
Toby Gerhart 20081,136
Tommy Vardell 19911,084
Darrin Nelson 19771,069

* Stepfan Taylor is now 4th on Stanford's career rushing list. He needs 1,264 rushing yards next season to break Darrin Nelson's school record:

Rushing Yards, Career
Darrin Nelson 1977-814,033
Toby Gerhart 2006-093,522
Brad Muster 1984-872,940
Stepfan Taylor 2009-112,770

* Stepfan Taylor has scored 30 TDs in his Stanford career -- 27 rushing TDs, 3 receiving TDs. He needs 14 TDs this coming season to match Toby Gerhart's school record of 44 career TDs:

Career Touchdowns
Toby Gerhart 2006-0944
Darrin Nelson 1977-8140
Tommy Vardell 1988-9137
Brad Muster 1984-8733
Vincent White 1979-8231
Ken Margerum 1977-8030
Stepfan Taylor 2009-1130

* Ten Stanford players have had career rushing averages of 5.0 yards per attempt or better (minimum 600 career rushing yards). Three of those ten players were on this season's team: Andrew Luck (5.9), Stepfan Taylor (5.3), and Tyler Gaffney (5.1).

* Jeremy Stewart scored 14 career rushing TDs, which ties him with Hillary Shockley for 14th on Stanford's career rushing TD list.

* Coby Fleener and Chris Owusu finished their Stanford careers with almost the same career receiving yardage -- 1,543 yards for Fleener, 1,534 yards for Owusu.

* Coby Fleener was just the second Stanford player in the last 30 years to make 10 or more touchdown catches in a season (along with Troy Walters in 1999). Fleener is in the top 5 in Stanford history in both single-season TD receptions and career TD receptions. He is the top tight end in Stanford history in both categories:

TD Receptions, Season
James Lofton 197712
Ken Margerum 198011
Ken Margerum 197910
Troy Walters 199910
Coby Fleener 201110

TD Receptions, Career
Ken Margerum 1977-8030
Troy Walters 1996-9926
DeRonnie Pitts 1997-0024
Justin Armour 1991-9420
Tony Hill 1973-7618
Vincent White 1979-8218
Coby Fleener 2008-1118

* Coby Fleener's average of 19.6 yards per reception was the 5th best average in Stanford history, and the best ever for a Stanford tight end.

* Chris Owusu set a school record for career kickoff return yards (2,132 yards). He ranks second in career kickoff return average (27.3 yards/return), behind Ron Inge (27.8 yards/return).

* Chris Owusu is 8th in Stanford history in career all-purpose yards, with 3,842 yards.

* Andrew Luck threw TD passes to 11 different receivers. Every Stanford player with 7 or more receptions made at least one TD catch.

* For the first time in school history, three different players scored 10 or more TDs in the same season. Stepfan Taylor scored 12 TDs, while Coby Fleener and Jeremy Stewart scored 10 TDs each.

* Stanford has won 13 of its last 14 home games. Over the last 4+ seasons, going back to the 2007 Big Game, Stanford has a home-field record of 23-3.

* Stanford has won 4 out of 5 games against USC for the first time since 1933-37. That was also the last time Stanford defeated USC three straight times in the Coliseum. Stanford has a record of 7-6 against USC since 1999.

* The triple-overtime 56-48 win over USC was the only game in Stanford history to extend beyond one overtime period.

* Stanford went undefeated in road games this season, with a 5-0 record. It was Stanford's first undefeated season on the road since 1971. (This does not include bowl games, which are neutral-site games rather than road games.)

* Stanford's average home attendance of 49,997 set a record for the new stadium, and was Stanford's highest average attendance since 2001.

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