Surviving Seattle

Stanford's 20-13 win at Seattle was a great conference road win, but it was far from perfect.

Grungy:  shabby or dirty in character or condition

                As I sat back and savored a delectable cut of rib eye and Ruth’s Chris Saturday night, I came to grips that cheering for a college football team with high expectations is to confront misery under two different contexts.  When the team loses, you focus on everything they did wrong, and rib eyes taste like stale beef jerky and Old Fashioned’s taste like rotten swill.  When your team wins, even in the least impressive or shabbiest way possible, you complain about all the things they did wrong but you are so, so, happy to be doing so.  We are ALL STADLER and WALDORF.

All Apologies….

…….to the Stanford defense.  First of all, from me.  I predicted that there would just have to be some kind of regression from a unit that had performed at National Championship Levels for much of the past two seasons.  The team had simply lost too much leadership, athleticism, and experience.  The defense gave up 6 points, and its per game average went up.  USC has scored 52, 37, 35, and 13 points this year in its games.  The Huskies had scored 59, 44, and 45 points coming into last Saturday.  Knock our victories over an FCS school and a service academy all you like, but those Pac-12 teams are full of legit athletes and coached by pretty credible offensive minds.  I wasn’t even upset with the consecutive penalties on third downs that the defense had at the end of the game that kept a Husky drive alive.  I honestly never felt threatened because our defense was playing spectacular football at that point.  They were flying around, hitting hard, and playing disciplined football.  It wasn’t so long ago that these spread offenses would routinely give Stanford fits.  Kudos to both the players and coaches who appear to be legitimately locked in at this point, they’re going to need to be with the massive uptick in QB play they are facing in South Bend this week.

                The second apology due the Stanford defense needs to come from the offense.  To quote a weary and well-known philosopher, “Good Grief.”  Nobody veils and obfuscates ultimate offensive futility like this team.  Many teams in college football would have loved to have rushed for 186 yards.  They’d be happy to report that they nearly doubled the opponent in yardage.  Unfortunately, Stanford fell short in all the familiar areas.  First of all, the Cardinal was 3 of 12 on Third Down.  Secondly, the team scored only two touchdowns on five trips to the Red Zone.  The Cardinal now carries a pathetic 30% TD success rate from the Red Zone in two conference games.  For perspective, that number was 71% two years ago, and 55% last year.  It’s to the point where the contrast between the offense for the first 80 yards and the last 20 yards is so disconnected that it seems way too dubious to attribute it to any individual.  Three of the Cardinal’s 13 drives ended as three and outs, and that’s not counting Kevin Hogan’s interception that was the second play of the Cardinal’s second 3rd Quarter drive.  That 3rd quarter was especially odious as the Cardinal went missed FG, INT, punt, and fumble on its four possessions to start the second half.  And that brings us to #8…

 “Can’t Find a Better Man…..”

                The curious case of Kevin Hogan continued on Saturday.  ESPN’s immediate cover story had the headline “Hogan Saves Stanford,” a line that makes me wonder if the person who supplied it watched the game at all.  For the fourth straight game, Hogan’s yards per attempt declined.  Open receivers were air mailed.  The interception was an awful, awful throw.  Kevin looked far more decisive during his runs then his throws for the better part of the game.  He had Montgomery on a crucial pass over the middle in the Red Zone and threw behind him.  In the Red Zone as a passer, Hogan was one for five for 15 yards with one TD and a lost fumble.

                It’s unfair to exclusively evaluate Hogan as a passer, of course.  He did matriculate the ball down to the red zone with a series of runs on the winning touchdown drive.  This is a part of the game where he has always been an asset, and it’s a part of his game that puts pressure on the defense.  Many are calling for more Hogan runs, and more of Hogan on the run.  I think both are strategies that could help, especially in the red zone, but again, at some point he’s going to have to be trusted and able to beat teams from the pocket near the goal line.  The coaches need to do a better job of dialing up plays and throws beyond the Hopeful Fade.  Stanford has skilled tight ends and an absolute beast of a receiver in Montgomery.  There is no reason for this team to struggle to finish drives the way it has.  Hogan’s got room for improvement, but it’s clear to me that it’s a team issue at this point.

A Little Stadler, No Waldorf

                Only one of Chuck Taylor Grove’s Domed Sages was able to make the trip to the Emerald City, but that was enough for some snippets of wisdom from the midfield VIP seats…..
  • ·    The Squid didn’t last long as an under the radar performer.  He was a monster who will undoubtedly have Miles scared of getting in the water, even his own bathtub, for quite some time.
  •     “We don’t have a running back.”  One of the themes of our preseason podcasts was the interconnectedness of all the different parts of the team.  We found it difficult to talk quarterback play without talking about the offensive line, the wide receivers without the tight ends and the running backs without the offensive line.  There are many issues plaguing Stanford’s offense right now, and this is one of them.  Hogan and the coaches and the O Line must take their share of the blame, but the failure of one of the backs to rise up and take the top spot has been an underemphasized aspect of this whole situation.  The good news for the Cardinal is that the dominoes work both ways.  That is to say, if any of these pieces is able to rise, that piece is fully capable of bringing the rest up with them.  For instance, it’s not hard to envision the O Line to improve over the coming weeks, creating a chance for one of the runners to take over, which then puts Hogan in situations where he can be most successful.  The real question is, who’s going to be the first to rise, and what is Stanford’s season ceiling going to be?

The Bootleg Top Stories