Redshirt Freshman Clayton Thorson made sure that the Cardinal's defense wouldn't be able to win it by hurting Stanford with both his arm and his legs. Thorson himself put up a modest 4.2 yards per attempt on his 12-of-25 performance, but he hit just enough plays to sustain the Wildcats' four scoring drives. His legs carried him 42 yards for the only touchdown of the game and he completed a huge 25-yard pass to Miles Shuler on the drive that gave the Wildcats a critical two-score lead deep in the fourth quarter.
Beyond that, it was about the Stanford offense, or lack thereof. 85 yards rushing. When confronted about the game plan afterwards, Coach Shaw replied to the Mercury's Jon Wilner, "Tell me what you thought we didn't run and I'll get it into next week's game plan." Unfortunately his offensive line showed no such saltiness during the game, as it surrendered three sacks, ran the ball inconsistently, and missed crucial blocks on plays that might have been big gainers. It all added up to a very familiar post-game offensive autopsy.
Stanford was 3-of-15 on third down, and on three trips to the Red Zone failed to score a touchdown. Kyle Queiro's end zone interception with 57 seconds left ended any faint hopes the Cardinal had of a comeback. "We didn't give ourselves a chance to win," Coach Shaw said afterwards. "You're not going to beat anybody scoring six points."
Stanford returns home next Saturday to face Central Florida. The Cardinal will resume its search for the first touchdown of 2015 next Saturday, but along the way they need to ask themselves some serious, and sadly very familiar questions. They remain convinced of their identity as a "Power Football Team" but the fact is that it's now been quite a while since they dominated a good defense at the line of scrimmage. Everything Stanford wants to do is built on the presumption of running effectiveness, but the only success they've had in the past 14 games has come from success with the vertical passing game. And that gets us back to their reluctance to consistently attempt such throws. Michael Rector's drop was a huge blow to Stanford's hope, but the bigger concern is that it was the only such throw the Cardinal tried all day.
"Execution" was the buzzword that Coach Shaw, Hogan, and left guard Josh Garnett kept repeating after the game. The question is, how does this team respond in the wake of a season already severely dented after just four quarters of play?
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