- As soon as David Parry ruptured Oregon's offensive line on the first play from scrimmage (a Marcus Mariota incompletion), it was clear that a Stanford repeat of 2012's magical defensive performance would be possible. The Ducks have traditionally struggled against teams with disruptive defensive linemen, and the big question entering Thursday was whether the Cardinal would be able to overcome nagging injury and the loss of Ben Gardner up front. Parry's first play and Henry Anderson's early explosiveness answered in the affirmative, and Stanford ended up holding Oregon to just 62 yards rushing, their second-lowest total of the Chip Kelly-Mark Helfrich era. Only Kelly's first game at Boise State (31 yards) saw a lower total.
- Along those lines, Stanford sports performance director Shannon Turley was a star of the win. The Cardinal ran 66 times and passed only 13 times. There was no trickery. The Farm Boys continued to relocate both lines of scrimmage well into the fourth quarter, even after Oregon committed absolutely all of its resources to stopping the run. Stanford was simply the more physically adept team in this game, and it's an advantage that they've become used to having with Turley at the helm. Along with Dr. Jason Dragoo, head trainer Steve Bartlinksi, and physical therapist Floyd Vito Cruz, he was also able to prepare Anderson for a seamless return from knee injury. Don't discount the importance of the Cardinal's medical and sports performance staff in this win, and don't discount the advantage this group has given Stanford entering its battle at USC.
- On the flip side, there's been plenty of chatter attributing Stanford's win to Mariota's sprained MCL. This talk does not acknowledge the fact that the Farm Boys have now outscored and outgained the Ducks in consecutive years. Some may consider Stanford's firm commitment to the power run mildly surprising because of previous failures to do so at Utah and Oregon State, but this win can only be considered "shocking" to someone who did not watch the Cardinal's win at Autzen Stadium a year prior. In an inherently physical game like football, the stronger team in the trenches has the advantage.
- Stanford flexed its muscles at all defensive position groups right out of the gate. Parry, Anderson, and Josh Mauro relocated the line of scrimmage on the interior. Shayne Skov and Alex Carter added explosive plays from their positions to secure tight control of the action up front. It was clear that the Ducks wanted to attack Stanford with Utah-style swing passes, but Skov would have none of it on the third play from scrimmage. In a play that may have dissuaded the Ducks from repeating similar edge attacks, he burst around the edge to swat Mariota's first flat pass right back into the quarterback's face. A play later, Carter stonewalled a short completion to De'Anthony Thomas, overpowering a block to limit it to one yard. Consider the tone set.
Stanford players dressed as nerds at post game presser pic.twitter.com/dGzcEGhU0E— David Lombardi (@DavidMLombardi) November 8, 2013
- "Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat their mistakes." Remember back to 2012, when Stanford stuffed Oregon on downs as the Ducks approached the goal line at Autzen Stadium. Aside from setting the tone of the game, that play proved decisive during a contest in which points were at a premium. Helfrich made Kelly's mistake this time around, challenging the Cardinal's vaunted defense in a spot where three points would have been a near certainty. The decision again blew up in Oregon's face and might have given Stanford's defense even more motivation on a night already supercharged by Thomas' "at least 40" points comment.
- Ryan Hewitt expressed his desire for Stanford to run more and "hit other teams in the mouth" in the week leading up to the game, and he certainly got his wish. In person and on tape, both he and fellow fullback Lee Ward were absolute blocking missiles. Ward bruised conventionally while Mike Bloomgren used Hewitt more creatively than we've seen in the past: Several times, No. 85 came in motion from a tight end-like starting position to either seal the outside or shift the Ducks' front seven slightly out of position for a run in the other direction.
- There's little need for a Dallas Lloyd package when Kevin Hogan runs with comparable speed and can occasionally break tackles like Toby Gerhart. Lloyd's disastrous fumble at Oregon State may have cemented this realization in David Shaw's mind, and Stanford benefited immensely from it. The Cardinal wisely abandoned the idea of making Hogan emulate Peyton Manning. They let him be himself again instead, and it was fun to watch. Three broken tackles picked up a critical second quarter first down from inside the Stanford 10-yard line, while a read option keeper scored the Cardinal's second touchdown of the night. The offense is in business when Hogan is free to make plays with legs: Stanford converted 14-of-19 third downs. USC, the Farm Boys' next opponent, is converting only 31 percent of third downs this season.
- Opposing offenses must account for a multitude of Stanford defensive weapons. And with Trent Murphy, Josh Mauro, Henry Anderson, Shayne Skov, A.J. Tarpley, and James Vaughters all looking to wreak havoc, it can be easy to forget about Kevin Anderson. He has the length and burst to be an absolute missile, and his presence Thursday again proved to be invaluable. He delivered a jarring third down tackle for loss in the second half. With more pressure placed on Stanford's linebackers following the loss of Ben Gardner for the season, Anderson will continue to have the opportunity to make significant contributions.
- In one formation, Stanford clustered three wideouts on the left side. One was No. 94 Kyle Murphy, the second was No. 98 Josh Garnett, and the third was bruising fullback Lee Ward. In other words, about 860 pounds of bulk lined up in trips left.
- Wide receiver Devon Cajuste saw only limited time in his return from knee injury, but Stanford made up for his absence through their firm commitment to the run game and increased use of Michael Rector on the perimeter. On consecutive plays at the end of the first half, Shaw turned to his fade specialist Rollins Stallworth. Both end zone lobs to him were incomplete, but the officials called pass interference on the second one. That was a huge break for Stanford since time had expired. The flag allowed them to kick a field goal on the ensuing untimed down.
- Rector, by the way, is averaging 41 yards per catch this season.
- Ty Montgomery's long return to begin the second half helped maintain Stanford's impressive kickoff return average, which still sits at over 30 yards per runback and leads the Pac-12. USC, the Cardinal's next opponent, is in the conference cellar averaging just over 13 yards per kick return.
- Skov (9 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 forced fumbles, 2 QB hurries, 1 pass break up) was spectacular, but Vaughters' late contributions were also critical. His excellent tackle prevented Oregon tight end Pharaoh Brown from getting out of bounds on the Ducks' final drive. He then sacked Mariota and forced a fumble on third down from the one yard line, forcing Oregon to burn their last time out. These two plays cost the Quack Attack dearly on the time front, ensuring that Stanford would win simply by running the clock out once Jeff Trojan recovered the final onside kick.
- Speaking of plays that changed the complexion of the game, how about Stanford's only penalty of the game, an offensive encroachment call that negated Ryan Hewitt's fourth down conversion late? It's unclear to see what the Cardinal did wrong on replay. The call forced the Farm Boys to settle for a field goal that made it 26-0 instead of a touchdown that would have made the score 30-0, and Oregon responded with its first touchdown drive of the night.
- This look back would be incomplete without acknowledgment of Jarek Lancaster's disciplined contributions. He prevented Mariota from running several times and teamed with Parry and Tarpley to crunch the quarterback and force a critical fumble. For the third straight game, Stanford's defense was spectacular across the board.
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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