Penalties, blown timeouts mar an ugly third Q

I'm reminded of a Stanford 20, San Jose State 17 result early a few seasons ago, and I think that year ended in a Rose Bowl, so just win baby, who cares how pretty it is. With a loss, maybe this reminds of the Wake Forest game a few years ago, and then this program is going back in time – aka regressing.

Third quarter and maybe the halftime adjustments can get this offense unstuck. I'm reminded of a Stanford 20, San Jose State 17 result early a few seasons ago, and I think that year ended in a Rose Bowl, so just win baby, who cares how pretty it is. With a loss, maybe this reminds of the Wake Forest game a few years ago, and then this program is going back in time – aka regressing.

Halftime's a full 20 minutes and counting. Guess that's one way to make football safer – just turn it into five-minute blocks of commercials interrupted by a play or two at a time. Money makes the world go round, I guess…

Stanford D with the one bust but pretty solid otherwise. They come out and draw a holding call right out the gate, and despite some shifty moves from the NW back, it's third and long, and pass into the turf and on comes the punt team.

At some point, we do have to score a touchdown, maybe it'll come in special teams, but not if NW keeps squibbing ugly punts and not giving a Christian McCaffrey a chance.

Instead we start the first play of scrimmage with a timeout to avoid a delay of game. Different year, same old problems for the offense…

Now we're seeing the same commercials for the third time already, and if you're saying I'm just cranky because of the score, I would get cranky at the thought… and begrudgingly agree.

23 yards and a punt in the last five drives. From Jerry Punch, Shaw says the offensive struggles have come because we're not executing, and that handing it off instead of throwing it on third and long twice is all part of our game plan. This isn't 2013 all over again, right?

But hey, McCaffrey with his best run of the day, pushing into Wildcat territory and then coming back for another four-plus the next snap. We do look deep when we had a checkdown early, but Austin Hooper is well-defended as a defender comes over his back. Kevin Hogan should have been picked on third down though and the second-down drop hurt the Cardinal. Why not run it on third down, anticipating this is four down territory?

Instead, on comes the punt team, down seven in the second half, and that's a whole 18-yard punt from the Cat 38. The ESPN neutrals are way meaner than we are on our BootBoard… This isn't 2014 all over again, right?

I think David Shaw's game plan comment, upon reflection, is revealing. It's good to have a plan, but where is the flexibility if the first plan doesn't work?

Wildcats check down yet again to move the chains, and maybe the defense needs to start pushing a little more aggressively too, because bend but don't break might not be good enough the way the offense is looking right now. Well, jumping offsides early is one way to be overly aggressive, but that's not what we meant, second flag on the day for defensive offsides. And yes, the defense is trying to rip and force the turnover so they understand they might need a big play here.

Third and five, NW's pass is tipped, and as bad as our offense has looked, theirs has looked worse. Brendan Scarlett here blew up the third and five pass, tipping at the line, good series for him that earns shout outs from your televised crew.

Underneath to Austin Hooper for seven to move the chains, okay, keep it going if it's working. Rector's back now that it's the second half, and it's McCaffrey pushing forward to move the chains. "If I'm a Stanford fan, I'm a little panicked early in this season." Yup. Oh, and an illegal substitution on Austin Hooper. "Stanford is the team that's making the mistakes now." This is 2015, right?

Hogan too high, taking an open Michael Rector out of bounds. He missed Stallworth deep in the first half, and now Rector the few times we have looked deep. Third and 14 and NW makes the great play when it counts to slap away late. As our televised hosts point out, that Hogan has a longer windup, and that the ball didn't have enough zip on it gave the Cats time to close.

You almost feel bad for the offensive braintrust. They've done some questionably conservative stuff early, but when we have gone downfield, Hogan's been off, or NW has made a great play, or a borderline catch/no catch goes against Francis Owusu. Breaks not falling our way right now, but hopefully something gives.

Basically do or die time for the defense right now: If they give up a touchdown and we go down 17-3, anyone thinking a comeback is in the works? They've got to be darn close to perfect, and yes, a turnover would be great – that was the one downfall in 2014 and we haven't seen one today, with Kodi Whitfield dropping our best shot in the end zone on NW's field-goal drive.

Backwards pass that NW does well to cover up, though bringing a second and 16. Now our third offsides of the game, this one on Solomon Thomas. Sheesh.

Justin Jackson, NW's back, looking great, bounce, bounce, bouncing his way to near-first-down yardage on a play dead to rights, but a hold brings it back. Terrence Alexander draws the flag, so nice going by him, and the Cats now are backed up to their 10. However, huge conversion for the NW offense, picking up 16 on the third and 14 to move the chains yet again. Alexander got faked out on the inside move, and Cats reset the chains yet again at the NW 43. Oh no, they're a yard short, and Fitzgerald plays it conservative with a punt, so big break for the defense.

Stanford starts from its 20 – instead of presumably midfield had they forced the punt from the Cat 13. Barry Sanders takes a poor line, could have had a first on second and four, instead of gaining three, though he did have a nice first-down carry the snap before. And we have 12 in the huddle and that's another drive where we shoot ourselves in the foot. Yuck, yuck, yuck. So third and seven instead of third and two. We're getting ragged pretty hard for being conservative here, and Hogan floated away a pass to Hooper. Three and out, and another shank out of bounds with another 10 yards we pick up on an awful spot. Sheesh. Everyone's making some opening-game mistakes – both teams and the officials.

Having only one timeout could really come back to bite us later, I have a gnawing feeling here…

NW another third-down checkdown, with Kalambayi a half-step back on a screen, and tick, tick, tick for the Cats. Uh oh. NW smart to run down the playclock between snaps here and shorten the game. Solomon Thomas cleared out with power – and I thought that was our play. Time for the fourth quarter and it's not looking good, folks.

Northwestern 10, Stanford 3, End third quarter

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 (sign-up)!

The Bootleg Top Stories