Stanford starts with the ball as Michael Rector sees two early receptions for 16 yards. Barry J. Sanders gets the game’s first carry for three or four yards, with Kevin Hogan operating out of the shotgun the entire drive.
Christian McCaffrey shows some decent strength to fight through on a third and six and extend for the chains. He comes up about a foot short, however, and so the Card go for fourth and one on the Utah 47. It is a great call – a pitch to McCaffrey after a fake dive inside out of a heavy formation. The 37-yard gain sets the Card up in first and goal at the ten.
Remound Wright follows great blocking to the Utah three. Then, a play action pass to fullback Lee Ward, and the Cardinal are on the board in the best way.
Stanford 7, Utah 0, 11:18 remaining, first quarter
Utah converts a third-down screen, using a cut block to establish the edge, and advance out to the 31.
…Saw the chalk talk pregame, and was impressed. On defense, Utah will mostly run cover-three looks, with a little cover two mixed in and the holes should be there if we can hit them. The implication was that their cornerbacks are vulnerable and so the Utes scheme to protect those guys. Utah’s punter (a former rugby player in Australia) has a huge leg and can punt on the run – or run for first downs. Their kickoff return game is also best in the country statistically, just ahead of ours.
In stopping the run game, we’ll be facing a ton of zone read looks, and need to keep eyes on both of the potential runners in that situation. QB Travis Wilson is tall at 6-foot-6 and rangy, while Devonte Booker is a downhill runner who may be the best running back in the conference. However, their offensive line is not super mobile, and we should be able to get around those guys and into the backfield…
A few plays later, James Vaughters is cut to the ground and Utah quarterback Travis Wilson runs for 11 to move the chains again. True to the script. On the subsequent third down, the defensive line gets through its blocks, forces the screen pass quicker than Utah wanted, and with the timing disrupted, it’s an easy tackle. True to the script.
Then, on comes the All-World punter, and sure enough, the Utes down the pooch effort at the five. Where can we sign an Aussie? We have been consulting with coaches from the American national Australian rules football team, who were in for the week sharing various ideas with our coaching staff. Amen to some innovation.
Stanford feels somewhat constrained by the field position, so on comes extra offensive linemen and two runs up the middle to set up third and three. There, Remound Wright spins away from the tackle and contorts his body just enough to move the chains.
Third and long after a screen to Kelsey Young loses five. Michael Rector had a step, but the underthrown pass did not, and Rector did well to break up a potential pick. Ben Rhyne punts for 40 yards, fair caught, and Utah will start from its 45.
The Card defense does allow a Utah first down, but not much more, and again good Ute field position results in no more than a punt. This time, however, the Ute punt is inches into the end zone, and so the Cardinal will enjoy a touchback.
Stanford 7, Utah 0, End of first quarter
Utah’s Nate Orchard was the linebacker that the coaches kept dwelling on in the chalk talk as a dangerous playmaker. Sure enough, he makes his presence pay against Austin Hooper. With Stanford driving into Utah territory, Hooper did well to snag with one hand a Kevin Hogan ball high and behind him. But as he was going to ground, Hooper saw Orchard reach in and just muscle out the ball with brute strength. Great play from Utah.
On the next drive, Stanford’s defense just gave out. Go figure. Utah had been moving it fitfully at best, but this drive went 66 yards in nine plays. Travis Wilson scored on a keeper and had run for 17 yards on the drive before that, so maybe his legs helped open things up? Wilson also hit a 32-yard pass down the sideline to move the Utes into scoring range.
Utah 7, Stanford 7, 5:54 remaining, first half
Elsewhere, Arizona has a last-second touchdown called back, and misses a would-be game-winning field goal nullified by timeout – only to hit the actual game-winner for a 27-26 win over visiting Washington.
Stanford does nothing, then Utah connects a 32-yard pass but can do nothing more, and then Stanford gets a first down or two in a two-minute drill but does nothing with it. So a whole bunch of nothing and it’s mercifully halftime.
Stanford 7, Utah 7, halftime
Elsewhere, Northwestern has rallied to tie Notre Dame and force overtime at 40-all. Let’s go ‘Cats…
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