Rapid Reaction: Fight On!

Wow, does Evanston seem like a long time ago. Stanford showed up in L.A. with many ready to bury them, and those many are praising them as the Cardinal heads off into the Los Angeles night. The Cardinal beat USC 41-31, covering a point spread intended for them when the game began.

And after USC waltzed down the field on its opening drive, the shovels were at the ready. Fortunately for Stanford fans, Kevin Hogan and the Cardinal had an answer each and every time SC threatened to take control of the game.

Stanford's offense did everything necessary to realize the potential so many saw for them at the start of the season.  They utilized their Bottles of Lightning, Bryce Love and Christian McCaffrey.  McCaffrey had 249 all-purpose yards, averaged 4.4 yards per carry on some hard running inside the tackles, and made one of the defining plays of the game, off a misdirection screen where the SC defense put its attention on Love.  They utilized their tight ends (seven catches, 119 yards and a touchdown). They let Hogan be Hogan (seven carries, 45 yards) and they stretched the field just enough (highlighted by Francis Owusu's 41-yard reception).  It was a brilliant game plan and it was conceived and executed with character and cruelty.

Those constantly harping on Coach Shaw's conservatism had very little to complain about tonight. With eight seconds to go in the half, Stanford had the ball at the USC 17.  With the field goal in his pocket, Coach Shaw put the game in the hands of his 5th-Year QB, and Hogan rolled right and found Cajuste in the end zone for a huge, huge six points. That and the McCaffrey screen conversion were the Come to Jesus moments of the game, and Stanford was nails. 

And speaking of nails, the night ultimately belonged to Hogan, who is as tough as they come and for a night was as good as they come.  Note that Hogan's 11.6 YPA was better than both Kessler's 8.5 and Jared Goff's 7.2.  He had to be the best player on the field for Stanford to win tonight, and he was. He made progressions, great decisions, big plays, and was everything you could ask for from a quarterback against a very talented defense.

All Right Now, some final bullet thoughts:

  • Ukropina earned his scholarship with that game icing kick.  He's now 5-of-5 to start the season, by the way.  Remember, good teams don't win close games, good teams avoid close games, and that final kick made it a two-score game.
  • USC had 130 yards of offense in the second half.
  • Stanford ran 73 plays, USC ran 60.
  • Love had 21 yards on one reception, but he was enough of a decoy to let McCaffrey slip right for the huge screen pass.
  • USC had committed nine penalties total in two games, but they committed some BIG ones tonight.
  • The young Cardinal secondary held up just fine.  You're not going to dominate talent like that, but they kept their poise and played well.
  • Stanford outscored USC 34-17 over the game's final three quarters.
  • The Cardinal was 6-of-6 in the Red Zone, and more importantly five of the six scores were touchdowns.  They were also eight of 12 on third down.

So, we're not all crazy.  All the talent we saw in the preseason does exist, and the coaches certainly demonstrated they can use it.  Now comes the huge trap game in Corvallis on a short week.  But that's to worry about later.  Tonight, Stanford and Kevin Hogan stepped under the bright lights and the oppressive roar of 93,000 Trojan fans come for a conquest, and they conquered.

Fight On, Indeed.

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