The Bootleg Breakdown: Stanford 24, Washington State 17
Well, that was as demoralizing as a 24-17 win can be. Aside from a fluky busted coverage that netted a (game-saving) 70-yard touchdown, Stanford's offense was stone-walled by the Pac-12's worst team at home. Washington State entered the game surrendering 462 yards per game. With 256 total yards of production, the Cardinal came up over 200 yards short of that average figure.
It's particularly disturbing because lackluster offensive production has become the norm. Despite solid pass protection, a pair of future NFL tight ends, and an enviable stable of running backs, Stanford has effectively performed in only two of its games in 2012. Those outputs came against Duke (plastered 48-7 by Florida State Saturday) and Arizona, gashed for over 600 yards again this weekend.
Even some of Josh Nunes' (7-15, 136 yards) completions missed the mark, forcing receivers into slides that prevented chances of yardage after the catch. Meanwhile, the quarterback's incomplete passes missed so badly that Washington State abandoned all of its respect for the Cardinal's running game, selling out in the box to limit Stepfan Taylor to 58 yards on 21 carries (2.8 yards per carry).
The Farm Boys were bailed out by a monstrous front seven that recorded a school-record 10 sacks and delivered Ed Reynolds' devastating pick six in the fourth quarter. While this unit's performance was commendable, the offense's struggles were indicative of an elite program's precipitous drop back into the realm of mediocrity.
A year after hauling in 11 throws for 216 yards against Washington State, Stanford's massive tight ends caught only one pass against the Cougars. That statistic sums these troubles up in a nutshell: the Cardinal are making poor use of their immense talent. Taylor himself cited "communication" issues as a main impediment to solid play. He's right: there's no unifying presence and driving force of cohesion bringing all the powerful individual pieces together. In Eugene, Chip Kelly is licking his chops.
David Lombardi covers Stanford sports for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. He was the Cardinal football KZSU play-by-play voice for several years. He can also be heard on San Francisco's 95.7 The Game. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @davidmlombardi.
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