Clardy's Corner: Going Deep

For many of the experts, Stanford's biggest preseason question was how explosive the Cardinal offense could be. After three games, Stanford may already have its answer.



It's to be expected from a school that has produced many prolific quarterbacks and productive receivers and backs, but over the decades, Stanford Football has largely been defined by offenses that can rack up the yards and make big plays.

Going back to the days of John Brodie and Chris Burford (and likely beyond), the Cardinal have had guys who could make explosive plays. The list is too long to recount here, and most of you know it anyway.

Even with the Andrew Luck era in the history books, what Joe Borchard did to UCLA in 1999 (15-of-19 for 324 yards, five passing TDs) makes my top five list of the greatest single-game performances by a Stanford quarterback. Chad Hutchinson was able to turn things around in November 1996, and Todd Husak has his name all over Stanford's passing record books.

Of course, the common denominator among those three was Troy Walters. He made big, spectacular plays that singlehandedly changed the outcomes of games. If you made the case that he is still the most explosive receiver in Stanford history, I would not argue.

Historically, Stanford can be counted on to punctuate its offense with the exclamation points that come from making big plays. But entering this year, when it came to the Card's ability to be explosive, question marks seemed far more appropriate.

With no proven weapons at receiver, where would those big plays come from in the passing game? Would the Cardinal have the ability to break off long gains in the rushing game? Could Kelsey Young be that breakthrough threat? Instead of churning out marathon drives, could the Card win a sprint every once in a while?

It was one of the biggest subplots surrounding the Cardinal coming into the season. It's also a big reason why I asked David Shaw about how explosive his team had been following the win over Army. His response, as noted in last weeks Corner: "So far, so good. We still left some points out there for the second game in a row. That corner route to Devon [Cajuste]—gosh!—we just barely missed that. But the emphasis is there because we have the guys to do it. Since the day Chris Owusu got hurt the last time, we haven't been able to put this kind of speed on the field before."

I found that answer, particularly the last two sentences, very intriguing. Speed has come to rule the roost in college football. It's the one attribute that cannot be coached, and, if you have more of it than the other team, cannot be matched. And even though Stanford would still rather beat you in a street fight than a track meet, David Shaw still wouldn't mind having the ability to choose.

This year, Shaw seems confident that Stanford finally has the speed necessary to become a truly explosive offense. In three games, Stanford has run 12 plays that have gained 20 yards or more. So far, so good indeed. Especially when big plays seemed to be at a premium last year.

Ty Montgomery has made big impacts with long catches in every game so far this year, and he also added a 50-yard return on the opening kickoff last week against Arizona State. Devon Cajuste has contributed nicely too, although he might still be thinking about his non-touchdown at Army.

With Montgomery and Cajuste giving Stanford the consistent downfield presence it has been missing, defenses now have to change how they approach the Cardinal. Leave the safeties back to keep an eye on Montgomery and Cajuste, and the running game has room to flourish. Bring the safeties up to stop Stanford's power running game, and those two can fly past and make the big play. Plus, downfield threats expose the defense to mismatches against Stanford's tight ends, an aspect of the offense that has been almost completely silent so far this year.

Regardless of what defenses try to do, it seems to be reaching a point where Montgomery and Cajuste must be accounted for whenever they are on the field. It's a little thing that could add up to bigger plays in all phases of the game as the season goes along.

When your offense can't make big plays, it shows. And it affects your entire season. I still think it's one of the main reasons why the 2011 squad, as great as it was, still isn't remembered quite as fondly as it should be. When Chris Owusu's Cardinal career came to an end thanks to a concussion suffered in Corvallis, so went much of Stanford's big-play ability. Teams no longer had to respect Owusu's speed, and the rest of Stanford's offense suffered for it. The Cardinal spent that November searching for a knockout punch it no longer had.

That missing cog was evident in Stanford's loss to Oregon and its two underwhelming wins over cal and Notre Dame. I think it clouded many Stanford fans' perceptions of how good that team really was. It also may have cost Andrew Luck the Heisman that year as well.

Making big plays is nice. Big plays please the fans, make announcers shout, and give the media things to talk about. But while there is still plenty of room to improve, the Cardinal seem to have taken big steps towards restoring the big-play dimension of their offense.

********** ********** **********

RANDOM PAC-12 THOUGHTS

Even though he annoys me now, Gus Johnson still has my respect. And years after his Stanford days, I am still proud to call Charles Davis a friend. But I really could have done without those two spending the second half acting like Todd Graham reinvented the halftime speech. Everywhere he goes, at the beginning of every halftime, Graham always huddles his team on the field for a quick speech before heading to the locker room. Why? Because it looks good. And because it serves the larger purpose of projecting the image that he is in charge, and that he is the star of the show. And make no mistake, it is all a show. And Johnson and Davis fell for it. Criminy, he's Todd Graham, not Knute Rockne…

I don't think much of their head coach, but I do think that Arizona State is a much, much better team than what they showed in the first half. With all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth over how things went for Stanford in the second half last week, I think many on the BootBoard Plus seemed to forget that. To steal the old saying, the other team is on scholarship, too…

Saw a new wrinkle with the ogre formation early in the game, where the extra tight end went in motion from the backfield, split out tight to the formation, and actually ran a pass route. Kevin Hogan threw elsewhere, and who knows if that extra tight end was actually an option, but I had not seen that before. Always good to see creativity from the offense…

Our Stat of the Week: Oregon has had 28 scoring drives this season. 23 of them have lasted fewer than two minutes…

The 63,482 who showed up to the Coliseum on Saturday made up U$C's smallest home crowd since October 2002. It's official, folks: the Trojans are unwatchable…

I keep waiting for Marquise Lee to impress me. After all, I keep getting told that he's a great receiver. Granted, he's getting little to no help from the Trojans' terrible quarterbacking. But still, when he has had chances to make plays, he has largely come up empty so far. Plus, he allowed the Hawaii players to get in his head. That told me everything I need to know…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… there's no way to spin it: we are coming off the worst Saturday of college football action I have seen in 20 years of following the sport. Ohio State, Louisville, Miami, and Baylor beat their foes by an average of 70 points. Blowouts and bad football ruled the day everywhere else. Wouldn't this weekend have been much better if those four schools had played each other instead?

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… this time last year, West Virginia was emerging as the "it" team in college football. Now? They're getting shut out by Maryland. Maryland! Ouch…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… speaking of the Terps, as heinous as Oregon's uniforms are, Maryland's are far, far worse. Watching them play in those uniforms is almost seizure-inducing…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… Oakland A's: 2013 AL West Champions. I like the sound of that, don't you?

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… there is nothing more irritating than smelling bacon and having no idea where it is coming from. Nothing…

********** ********** **********

CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX

Was it something I said, Sun Devils fans?

Apparently, last week's Corner on Todd Graham was not too well received among the Arizona State faithful. Bill from Glendale, Arizona writes, among other things…

"I am an alumni of Arizona State and a lifelong Sun Devil.…Now that you've revealed your opinion in a public forum, how are you going to deal with the public backlash? The problem is that you've smeared the integrity of an individual, and the problem with words is you can never take them back.…What happens if Todd Graham continues to be successful at Arizona State? What if he continues to perform at a high level? Providing a positive influence on young men's lives, supporting the community and gaining a higher profile in college football? Makes your words look more and more insignificant and self-serving.

So, you have a decision to make. You can stand by what you wrote, even though it's old news and has been discussed ad nauseam. Or you can show your integrity and admit your mistake. Todd Graham admitted his mistake in coming to Pittsburgh and the public has moved on. Choice is yours."

Bill, even a cursory Internet search would have uncovered the facts I brought up in the column. Smearing someone's integrity, by definition, isn't done with facts, only by falsehoods. I encourage you to find any false accusations in the column. Until then, I stand by the integrity of what I wrote.

The problem with actions is you can never take them back. And Graham's actions, plus the facts that resulted from those actions, have led me to the opinion that I don't think Graham is a particularly trustworthy or ethical individual. For the sake of those around him who have to deal with the consequences of his actions, I hope that he has changed for the better since coming to Tempe.

Here's one from Doug from parts unknown, who is also a self-described "Devil for life"…

"Wow. Just wow. I don't think I've ever read an article like yours. I'm literally embarrassed for you. Evidently, Todd Graham slept with your girlfriend (if you like girls), because why else would you be so hurt and so bitter?...What a villain. Hitler, Stalin, Hussein…Now, Graham. Thank God you gave the Stanford fans someone to dislike....

It's weird, but I don't hear Graham tout how good he is. I hear that he believes in his team, but never bragging. He must have changed, I guess. Do I believe this is the best job he's ever had? Yes. Are there still better jobs out there? Yes….

I feel sorry for you that you've held on to this for so long. It's sad to me. You may want to see a therapist so that you can learn to choose not to let other people affect you in this manner. Two years. Two years!"

Doug, outside the rest of your note (which is full of reaches and conclusion-jumping on a level that I find impressive), I will agree that Arizona State is a very, very good job. In case you missed that part of the column, I called ASU a sleeping giant. Sun Devil fans have been underserved by their football program for far too long. If Graham finally takes the Sun Devils to three straight BCS bowls and national prominence, great. For your sake, I hope that he does.

Aside from that, I will rely on my own personal interactions with Graham (which I am not sure you have) and my knowledge of his actions from people who were inside his program every single day (which I am not sure you have, either), stand by what I wrote, and continue to sleep remarkably well as I have over the past two years. I do appreciate your concern for my mental well-being, though.

Got a thought on this Corner? Drop me a line either at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc)... or e-mail me at troyc@thebootleg.com...

********** ********** **********

PAC-12 PICKS

Colorado @ Oregon State. If you hate defense, this will probably be the game for you. Colorado's Paul Richardson and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks will probably put up huge numbers. But thanks to the schedule makers (bye week last week), and the catastrophic flooding in the Boulder area, this is Colorado's first game in three weeks. I think the rust will show early, especially on the road. I like Oregon State by 13.

Arizona @ Washington. Ka'Deem Carey and the Wildcats have pounded their opponents so far. Of course, those opponents have been Northern Arizona, UNLV, and Texas-San Antonio. Slight step up in competition here. I like Washington by 9.

U$C @ Arizona State. Statistically, U$C has one of the better defenses in the country. But there were times last week when I thought the Trojan defense looked slow against Utah State. If I can think that way when U$C is facing the Aggies, how can I give them a chance against the much quicker Sun Devils? I like Arizona State by 19.

cal @ Oregon. Oh my God. This won't take long. I like Oregon by 47.

This year: 0-2 (straight-up), 1-1 (ATS). Last year: 36-9 (straight-up), 25-20 (ATS). ********** ********** **********


Troy Clardy is in his 21st year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 12th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, hear him on Pittsburgh's Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan, or e-mail him at troyc@thebootleg.com.






Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!


The Bootleg Top Stories

\r\n\r\nFollow @TheBootleg\r\n\r\n

\r\nIt's to be expected from a school that has produced many prolific quarterbacks and productive receivers and backs, but over the decades, Stanford Football has largely been defined by offenses that can rack up the yards and make big plays. \r\n

\r\nGoing back to the days of John Brodie and Chris Burford (and likely beyond), the Cardinal have had guys who could make explosive plays. The list is too long to recount here, and most of you know it anyway. \r\n

\r\nEven with the Andrew Luck era in the history books, what Joe Borchard did to UCLA in 1999 (15-of-19 for 324 yards, five passing TDs) makes my top five list of the greatest single-game performances by a Stanford quarterback. Chad Hutchinson was able to turn things around in November 1996, and Todd Husak has his name all over Stanford's passing record books. \r\n

\r\nOf course, the common denominator among those three was Troy Walters. He made big, spectacular plays that singlehandedly changed the outcomes of games. If you made the case that he is still the most explosive receiver in Stanford history, I would not argue.\r\n

\r\nHistorically, Stanford can be counted on to punctuate its offense with the exclamation points that come from making big plays. But entering this year, when it came to the Card's ability to be explosive, question marks seemed far more appropriate.\r\n

\r\nWith no proven weapons at receiver, where would those big plays come from in the passing game? Would the Cardinal have the ability to break off long gains in the rushing game? Could Kelsey Young be that breakthrough threat? Instead of churning out marathon drives, could the Card win a sprint every once in a while?\r\n

\r\nIt was one of the biggest subplots surrounding the Cardinal coming into the season. It's also a big reason why I asked David Shaw about how explosive his team had been following the win over Army. His response, as noted in last weeks Corner: \"So far, so good. We still left some points out there for the second game in a row. That corner route to Devon [Cajuste]—gosh!—we just barely missed that. But the emphasis is there because we have the guys to do it. Since the day Chris Owusu got hurt the last time, we haven't been able to put this kind of speed on the field before.\"\r\n

\r\nI found that answer, particularly the last two sentences, very intriguing. Speed has come to rule the roost in college football. It's the one attribute that cannot be coached, and, if you have more of it than the other team, cannot be matched. And even though Stanford would still rather beat you in a street fight than a track meet, David Shaw still wouldn't mind having the ability to choose.\r\n

\r\nThis year, Shaw seems confident that Stanford finally has the speed necessary to become a truly explosive offense. In three games, Stanford has run 12 plays that have gained 20 yards or more. So far, so good indeed. Especially when big plays seemed to be at a premium last year. \r\n

\r\nTy Montgomery has made big impacts with long catches in every game so far this year, and he also added a 50-yard return on the opening kickoff last week against Arizona State. Devon Cajuste has contributed nicely too, although he might still be thinking about his non-touchdown at Army.\r\n

\r\nWith Montgomery and Cajuste giving Stanford the consistent downfield presence it has been missing, defenses now have to change how they approach the Cardinal. Leave the safeties back to keep an eye on Montgomery and Cajuste, and the running game has room to flourish. Bring the safeties up to stop Stanford's power running game, and those two can fly past and make the big play. Plus, downfield threats expose the defense to mismatches against Stanford's tight ends, an aspect of the offense that has been almost completely silent so far this year. \r\n

\r\nRegardless of what defenses try to do, it seems to be reaching a point where Montgomery and Cajuste must be accounted for whenever they are on the field. It's a little thing that could add up to bigger plays in all phases of the game as the season goes along.\r\n

\r\nWhen your offense can't make big plays, it shows. And it affects your entire season. I still think it's one of the main reasons why the 2011 squad, as great as it was, still isn't remembered quite as fondly as it should be. When Chris Owusu's Cardinal career came to an end thanks to a concussion suffered in Corvallis, so went much of Stanford's big-play ability. Teams no longer had to respect Owusu's speed, and the rest of Stanford's offense suffered for it. The Cardinal spent that November searching for a knockout punch it no longer had. \r\n

\r\nThat missing cog was evident in Stanford's loss to Oregon and its two underwhelming wins over cal and Notre Dame. I think it clouded many Stanford fans' perceptions of how good that team really was. It also may have cost Andrew Luck the Heisman that year as well.\r\n

\r\nMaking big plays is nice. Big plays please the fans, make announcers shout, and give the media things to talk about. But while there is still plenty of room to improve, the Cardinal seem to have taken big steps towards restoring the big-play dimension of their offense.\r\n

\r\n********** ********** **********\r\n

\r\nRANDOM PAC-12 THOUGHTS\r\n

\r\nEven though he annoys me now, Gus Johnson still has my respect. And years after his Stanford days, I am still proud to call Charles Davis a friend. But I really could have done without those two spending the second half acting like Todd Graham reinvented the halftime speech. Everywhere he goes, at the beginning of every halftime, Graham always huddles his team on the field for a quick speech before heading to the locker room. Why? Because it looks good. And because it serves the larger purpose of projecting the image that he is in charge, and that he is the star of the show. And make no mistake, it is all a show. And Johnson and Davis fell for it. Criminy, he's Todd Graham, not Knute Rockne…\r\n

\r\nI don't think much of their head coach, but I do think that Arizona State is a much, much better team than what they showed in the first half. With all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth over how things went for Stanford in the second half last week, I think many on the BootBoard Plus seemed to forget that. To steal the old saying, the other team is on scholarship, too…\r\n

\r\nSaw a new wrinkle with the ogre formation early in the game, where the extra tight end went in motion from the backfield, split out tight to the formation, and actually ran a pass route. Kevin Hogan threw elsewhere, and who knows if that extra tight end was actually an option, but I had not seen that before. Always good to see creativity from the offense…\r\n

\r\nOur Stat of the Week: Oregon has had 28 scoring drives this season. 23 of them have lasted fewer than two minutes…\r\n

\r\nThe 63,482 who showed up to the Coliseum on Saturday made up U$C's smallest home crowd since October 2002. It's official, folks: the Trojans are unwatchable…\r\n

\r\nI keep waiting for Marquise Lee to impress me. After all, I keep getting told that he's a great receiver. Granted, he's getting little to no help from the Trojans' terrible quarterbacking. But still, when he has had chances to make plays, he has largely come up empty so far. Plus, he allowed the Hawaii players to get in his head. That told me everything I need to know…\r\n

\r\nNot a Pac-12 thought, but… there's no way to spin it: we are coming off the worst Saturday of college football action I have seen in 20 years of following the sport. Ohio State, Louisville, Miami, and Baylor beat their foes by an average of 70 points. Blowouts and bad football ruled the day everywhere else. Wouldn't this weekend have been much better if those four schools had played each other instead?\r\n

\r\nNot a Pac-12 thought, but… this time last year, West Virginia was emerging as the \"it\" team in college football. Now? They're getting shut out by Maryland. Maryland! Ouch…\r\n

\r\nNot a Pac-12 thought, but… speaking of the Terps, as heinous as Oregon's uniforms are, Maryland's are far, far worse. Watching them play in those uniforms is almost seizure-inducing…\r\n

\r\nNot a Pac-12 thought, but… Oakland A's: 2013 AL West Champions. I like the sound of that, don't you?\r\n

\r\nNot a Pac-12 thought, but… there is nothing more irritating than smelling bacon and having no idea where it is coming from. Nothing…\r\n

\r\n********** ********** **********\r\n

\r\nCLARDY'S CORNER INBOX\r\n

\r\nWas it something I said, Sun Devils fans?\r\n

\r\nApparently, last week's Corner on Todd Graham was not too well received among the Arizona State faithful. Bill from Glendale, Arizona writes, among other things…\r\n

\r\n\"I am an alumni of Arizona State and a lifelong Sun Devil.…Now that you've revealed your opinion in a public forum, how are you going to deal with the public backlash? The problem is that you've smeared the integrity of an individual, and the problem with words is you can never take them back.…What happens if Todd Graham continues to be successful at Arizona State? What if he continues to perform at a high level? Providing a positive influence on young men's lives, supporting the community and gaining a higher profile in college football? Makes your words look more and more insignificant and self-serving.\r\n

\r\nSo, you have a decision to make. You can stand by what you wrote, even though it's old news and has been discussed ad nauseam. Or you can show your integrity and admit your mistake. Todd Graham admitted his mistake in coming to Pittsburgh and the public has moved on. Choice is yours.\"\r\n

\r\nBill, even a cursory Internet search would have uncovered the facts I brought up in the column. Smearing someone's integrity, by definition, isn't done with facts, only by falsehoods. I encourage you to find any false accusations in the column. Until then, I stand by the integrity of what I wrote.\r\n

\r\nThe problem with actions is you can never take them back. And Graham's actions, plus the facts that resulted from those actions, have led me to the opinion that I don't think Graham is a particularly trustworthy or ethical individual. For the sake of those around him who have to deal with the consequences of his actions, I hope that he has changed for the better since coming to Tempe. \r\n

\r\nHere's one from Doug from parts unknown, who is also a self-described \"Devil for life\"…\r\n

\r\n\"Wow. Just wow. I don't think I've ever read an article like yours. I'm literally embarrassed for you. Evidently, Todd Graham slept with your girlfriend (if you like girls), because why else would you be so hurt and so bitter?...What a villain. Hitler, Stalin, Hussein…Now, Graham. Thank God you gave the Stanford fans someone to dislike....\r\n

\r\nIt's weird, but I don't hear Graham tout how good he is. I hear that he believes in his team, but never bragging. He must have changed, I guess. Do I believe this is the best job he's ever had? Yes. Are there still better jobs out there? Yes….\r\n

\r\nI feel sorry for you that you've held on to this for so long. It's sad to me.\r\nYou may want to see a therapist so that you can learn to choose not to let other people affect you in this manner. Two years. Two years!\"\r\n

\r\nDoug, outside the rest of your note (which is full of reaches and conclusion-jumping on a level that I find impressive), I will agree that Arizona State is a very, very good job. In case you missed that part of the column, I called ASU a sleeping giant. Sun Devil fans have been underserved by their football program for far too long. If Graham finally takes the Sun Devils to three straight BCS bowls and national prominence, great. For your sake, I hope that he does.\r\n

\r\nAside from that, I will rely on my own personal interactions with Graham (which I am not sure you have) and my knowledge of his actions from people who were inside his program every single day (which I am not sure you have, either), stand by what I wrote, and continue to sleep remarkably well as I have over the past two years. I do appreciate your concern for my mental well-being, though.\r\n

\r\nGot a thought on this Corner? Drop me a line either at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc)... or e-mail me at troyc@thebootleg.com...\r\n

\r\n********** ********** **********\r\n

\r\nPAC-12 PICKS\r\n

\r\nColorado @ Oregon State. If you hate defense, this will probably be the game for you. Colorado's Paul Richardson and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks will probably put up huge numbers. But thanks to the schedule makers (bye week last week), and the catastrophic flooding in the Boulder area, this is Colorado's first game in three weeks. I think the rust will show early, especially on the road. I like Oregon State by 13.\r\n

\r\nArizona @ Washington. Ka'Deem Carey and the Wildcats have pounded their opponents so far. Of course, those opponents have been Northern Arizona, UNLV, and Texas-San Antonio. Slight step up in competition here. I like Washington by 9.\r\n

\r\nU$C @ Arizona State. Statistically, U$C has one of the better defenses in the country. But there were times last week when I thought the Trojan defense looked slow against Utah State. If I can think that way when U$C is facing the Aggies, how can I give them a chance against the much quicker Sun Devils? I like Arizona State by 19.\r\n

\r\ncal @ Oregon. Oh my God. This won't take long. I like Oregon by 47.\r\n

\r\nThis year: 0-2 (straight-up), 1-1 (ATS).\r\nLast year: 36-9 (straight-up), 25-20 (ATS).\r\n\r\n********** ********** **********\r\n\r\n


\r\nTroy Clardy is in his 21st year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 12th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, hear him on Pittsburgh's Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan, or e-mail him at troyc@thebootleg.com.\r\n


\r\n

\r\n




\r\n

Are you fully subscribed to The\r\nBootleg? If not, then you are missing out on\r\nall the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our\r\naward-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in\r\nStanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com\r\n(sign-up)!

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Follow @TheBootleg

It's to be expected from a school that has produced many prolific quarterbacks and productive receivers and backs, but over the decades, Stanford Football has largely been defined by offenses that can rack up the yards and make big plays.

Going back to the days of John Brodie and Chris Burford (and likely beyond), the Cardinal have had guys who could make explosive plays. The list is too long to recount here, and most of you know it anyway.

Even with the Andrew Luck era in the history books, what Joe Borchard did to UCLA in 1999 (15-of-19 for 324 yards, five passing TDs) makes my top five list of the greatest single-game performances by a Stanford quarterback. Chad Hutchinson was able to turn things around in November 1996, and Todd Husak has his name all over Stanford's passing record books.

Of course, the common denominator among those three was Troy Walters. He made big, spectacular plays that singlehandedly changed the outcomes of games. If you made the case that he is still the most explosive receiver in Stanford history, I would not argue.

Historically, Stanford can be counted on to punctuate its offense with the exclamation points that come from making big plays. But entering this year, when it came to the Card's ability to be explosive, question marks seemed far more appropriate.

With no proven weapons at receiver, where would those big plays come from in the passing game? Would the Cardinal have the ability to break off long gains in the rushing game? Could Kelsey Young be that breakthrough threat? Instead of churning out marathon drives, could the Card win a sprint every once in a while?

It was one of the biggest subplots surrounding the Cardinal coming into the season. It's also a big reason why I asked David Shaw about how explosive his team had been following the win over Army. His response, as noted in last weeks Corner: \"So far, so good. We still left some points out there for the second game in a row. That corner route to Devon [Cajuste]—gosh!—we just barely missed that. But the emphasis is there because we have the guys to do it. Since the day Chris Owusu got hurt the last time, we haven't been able to put this kind of speed on the field before.\"

I found that answer, particularly the last two sentences, very intriguing. Speed has come to rule the roost in college football. It's the one attribute that cannot be coached, and, if you have more of it than the other team, cannot be matched. And even though Stanford would still rather beat you in a street fight than a track meet, David Shaw still wouldn't mind having the ability to choose.

This year, Shaw seems confident that Stanford finally has the speed necessary to become a truly explosive offense. In three games, Stanford has run 12 plays that have gained 20 yards or more. So far, so good indeed. Especially when big plays seemed to be at a premium last year.

Ty Montgomery has made big impacts with long catches in every game so far this year, and he also added a 50-yard return on the opening kickoff last week against Arizona State. Devon Cajuste has contributed nicely too, although he might still be thinking about his non-touchdown at Army.

With Montgomery and Cajuste giving Stanford the consistent downfield presence it has been missing, defenses now have to change how they approach the Cardinal. Leave the safeties back to keep an eye on Montgomery and Cajuste, and the running game has room to flourish. Bring the safeties up to stop Stanford's power running game, and those two can fly past and make the big play. Plus, downfield threats expose the defense to mismatches against Stanford's tight ends, an aspect of the offense that has been almost completely silent so far this year.

Regardless of what defenses try to do, it seems to be reaching a point where Montgomery and Cajuste must be accounted for whenever they are on the field. It's a little thing that could add up to bigger plays in all phases of the game as the season goes along.

When your offense can't make big plays, it shows. And it affects your entire season. I still think it's one of the main reasons why the 2011 squad, as great as it was, still isn't remembered quite as fondly as it should be. When Chris Owusu's Cardinal career came to an end thanks to a concussion suffered in Corvallis, so went much of Stanford's big-play ability. Teams no longer had to respect Owusu's speed, and the rest of Stanford's offense suffered for it. The Cardinal spent that November searching for a knockout punch it no longer had.

That missing cog was evident in Stanford's loss to Oregon and its two underwhelming wins over cal and Notre Dame. I think it clouded many Stanford fans' perceptions of how good that team really was. It also may have cost Andrew Luck the Heisman that year as well.

Making big plays is nice. Big plays please the fans, make announcers shout, and give the media things to talk about. But while there is still plenty of room to improve, the Cardinal seem to have taken big steps towards restoring the big-play dimension of their offense.

********** ********** **********

RANDOM PAC-12 THOUGHTS

Even though he annoys me now, Gus Johnson still has my respect. And years after his Stanford days, I am still proud to call Charles Davis a friend. But I really could have done without those two spending the second half acting like Todd Graham reinvented the halftime speech. Everywhere he goes, at the beginning of every halftime, Graham always huddles his team on the field for a quick speech before heading to the locker room. Why? Because it looks good. And because it serves the larger purpose of projecting the image that he is in charge, and that he is the star of the show. And make no mistake, it is all a show. And Johnson and Davis fell for it. Criminy, he's Todd Graham, not Knute Rockne…

I don't think much of their head coach, but I do think that Arizona State is a much, much better team than what they showed in the first half. With all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth over how things went for Stanford in the second half last week, I think many on the BootBoard Plus seemed to forget that. To steal the old saying, the other team is on scholarship, too…

Saw a new wrinkle with the ogre formation early in the game, where the extra tight end went in motion from the backfield, split out tight to the formation, and actually ran a pass route. Kevin Hogan threw elsewhere, and who knows if that extra tight end was actually an option, but I had not seen that before. Always good to see creativity from the offense…

Our Stat of the Week: Oregon has had 28 scoring drives this season. 23 of them have lasted fewer than two minutes…

The 63,482 who showed up to the Coliseum on Saturday made up U$C's smallest home crowd since October 2002. It's official, folks: the Trojans are unwatchable…

I keep waiting for Marquise Lee to impress me. After all, I keep getting told that he's a great receiver. Granted, he's getting little to no help from the Trojans' terrible quarterbacking. But still, when he has had chances to make plays, he has largely come up empty so far. Plus, he allowed the Hawaii players to get in his head. That told me everything I need to know…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… there's no way to spin it: we are coming off the worst Saturday of college football action I have seen in 20 years of following the sport. Ohio State, Louisville, Miami, and Baylor beat their foes by an average of 70 points. Blowouts and bad football ruled the day everywhere else. Wouldn't this weekend have been much better if those four schools had played each other instead?

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… this time last year, West Virginia was emerging as the \"it\" team in college football. Now? They're getting shut out by Maryland. Maryland! Ouch…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… speaking of the Terps, as heinous as Oregon's uniforms are, Maryland's are far, far worse. Watching them play in those uniforms is almost seizure-inducing…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… Oakland A's: 2013 AL West Champions. I like the sound of that, don't you?

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… there is nothing more irritating than smelling bacon and having no idea where it is coming from. Nothing…

********** ********** **********

CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX

Was it something I said, Sun Devils fans?

Apparently, last week's Corner on Todd Graham was not too well received among the Arizona State faithful. Bill from Glendale, Arizona writes, among other things…

\"I am an alumni of Arizona State and a lifelong Sun Devil.…Now that you've revealed your opinion in a public forum, how are you going to deal with the public backlash? The problem is that you've smeared the integrity of an individual, and the problem with words is you can never take them back.…What happens if Todd Graham continues to be successful at Arizona State? What if he continues to perform at a high level? Providing a positive influence on young men's lives, supporting the community and gaining a higher profile in college football? Makes your words look more and more insignificant and self-serving.

So, you have a decision to make. You can stand by what you wrote, even though it's old news and has been discussed ad nauseam. Or you can show your integrity and admit your mistake. Todd Graham admitted his mistake in coming to Pittsburgh and the public has moved on. Choice is yours.\"

Bill, even a cursory Internet search would have uncovered the facts I brought up in the column. Smearing someone's integrity, by definition, isn't done with facts, only by falsehoods. I encourage you to find any false accusations in the column. Until then, I stand by the integrity of what I wrote.

The problem with actions is you can never take them back. And Graham's actions, plus the facts that resulted from those actions, have led me to the opinion that I don't think Graham is a particularly trustworthy or ethical individual. For the sake of those around him who have to deal with the consequences of his actions, I hope that he has changed for the better since coming to Tempe.

Here's one from Doug from parts unknown, who is also a self-described \"Devil for life\"…

\"Wow. Just wow. I don't think I've ever read an article like yours. I'm literally embarrassed for you. Evidently, Todd Graham slept with your girlfriend (if you like girls), because why else would you be so hurt and so bitter?...What a villain. Hitler, Stalin, Hussein…Now, Graham. Thank God you gave the Stanford fans someone to dislike....

It's weird, but I don't hear Graham tout how good he is. I hear that he believes in his team, but never bragging. He must have changed, I guess. Do I believe this is the best job he's ever had? Yes. Are there still better jobs out there? Yes….

I feel sorry for you that you've held on to this for so long. It's sad to me. You may want to see a therapist so that you can learn to choose not to let other people affect you in this manner. Two years. Two years!\"

Doug, outside the rest of your note (which is full of reaches and conclusion-jumping on a level that I find impressive), I will agree that Arizona State is a very, very good job. In case you missed that part of the column, I called ASU a sleeping giant. Sun Devil fans have been underserved by their football program for far too long. If Graham finally takes the Sun Devils to three straight BCS bowls and national prominence, great. For your sake, I hope that he does.

Aside from that, I will rely on my own personal interactions with Graham (which I am not sure you have) and my knowledge of his actions from people who were inside his program every single day (which I am not sure you have, either), stand by what I wrote, and continue to sleep remarkably well as I have over the past two years. I do appreciate your concern for my mental well-being, though.

Got a thought on this Corner? Drop me a line either at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc)... or e-mail me at troyc@thebootleg.com...

********** ********** **********

PAC-12 PICKS

Colorado @ Oregon State. If you hate defense, this will probably be the game for you. Colorado's Paul Richardson and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks will probably put up huge numbers. But thanks to the schedule makers (bye week last week), and the catastrophic flooding in the Boulder area, this is Colorado's first game in three weeks. I think the rust will show early, especially on the road. I like Oregon State by 13.

Arizona @ Washington. Ka'Deem Carey and the Wildcats have pounded their opponents so far. Of course, those opponents have been Northern Arizona, UNLV, and Texas-San Antonio. Slight step up in competition here. I like Washington by 9.

U$C @ Arizona State. Statistically, U$C has one of the better defenses in the country. But there were times last week when I thought the Trojan defense looked slow against Utah State. If I can think that way when U$C is facing the Aggies, how can I give them a chance against the much quicker Sun Devils? I like Arizona State by 19.

cal @ Oregon. Oh my God. This won't take long. I like Oregon by 47.

This year: 0-2 (straight-up), 1-1 (ATS). Last year: 36-9 (straight-up), 25-20 (ATS). ********** ********** **********


Troy Clardy is in his 21st year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 12th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, hear him on Pittsburgh's Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan, or e-mail him at troyc@thebootleg.com.






Are you fully subscribed to The\r\nBootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!

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