For those of us who are both geographically and (somewhat) economically challenged, though, that fun has been via the television. Thus, it was even more fun for this fan when the Cardinal road show closed down its run in nearby Boulder. Here is what I noticed from the stands:
The Cheap Seats?
I may need to change the name of this column, at least for this edition. Eighty bucks, for seats on the back end line (extended) of the end zone? CU must be mighty proud of their football team. Still, there is nothing quite like being at a college football game on a nice fall day. This one takes me all the way back to my roots as a sports fan, as my first big time sporting events were in this very stadium. Dad had two student-section season tickets when he was finishing his doctorate in the fall of 1971. We walked a couple of miles or so from east campus student housing to Folsom Field. Though my rooting interest is now decidedly on the other side of the field, my rare trips to this stadium bring back great memories, overpriced bad seats or not.
Stanford’s first possession was very Stanford-like (with the arguable exception of going for it on fourth and short), with a sustained drive resulting in a Remound Wright scoring a vulture touchdown. CU did not sniff the ball until almost half of the first quarter was in the books.
Too Much Time
The defense did not start as well. CU’s quarterback had too much time. [Later Edit:] As the game wore on, Stanford’s pass pressure increased, with a second half sack by Kevin Anderson. It was good to see the pass pressure increase as the game wore on, as some speculated that the altitude would have the opposite effect on a thin, sea-level defensive line. Still, to these eyes, our number one concern going forward is increasing the pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Having Anderson back should help a lot. Concern number two, for what it is worth, is cleaning up the penalties. We seemed to have lots of penalties, especially on defense, for a team that generally plays pretty cleanly.
Kicker in the Time Out Zone?
Interestingly, Conrad Ukropina did most of the kicking off. He did reasonably well, except for one kick that only went to the ten or fifteen yard line. Perhaps Jake Bailey (the kicker, not the punter) was in the penalty box for those out-of-bounds kicks at Washington State? Bailey did handle the last kickoff or two. By the way, Ukropina sure has been nails on field goals and extra points this year. In contrast, the Boulder Daily Camera reported in Saturday morning’s paper that CU’s kicker has missed three field goal tries from the left hash. Happily, that streak continued on his first attempt, when the game was still very much in doubt.
Threading the Needle
Based on his first few throws, I was afraid we had the DirecTV “don’t be that me” Kevin Hogan. But on third and eighteen, he threw a tight spiral laser headed right at us. Michael Rector, who was well-covered on his streak pattern, snagged the beauty without losing a step and sprinted to the end zone. As pretty as that must have looked on television, it was better yet in person. That was a work of art all the way around.
Onward Christian Soldier
There is not much for me to say about Christian McCaffrey, because others have pretty much said everything that can be said. So I will simply note that we Stanford fans are mighty lucky to have these great players come along more often than we probably deserve. Mrs. (Wyo)MizzouCard and I met one of his high school teammates and his dad while waiting at the Stanford will call line. They reported that he indeed is a great guy. Obviously we ride him awfully hard, but I do have one suggestion: With the possible exception of jumbo packages, he should almost always be on the field on third downs, in my opinion. Even if we are not going to him, I think we want the defense to think we are going to him. He draws a lot of attention—justifiably so.
A Love-ly Start to the Second Half
Wow. What a start to the second half by Bryce Love. But this is really going to mess with our time of possession stats. While wandering around the fieldhouse during halftime, I heard legendary CU radio announcer Don Zimmer (see Troy Clardy’s column from last week) report that CU had less than eight minutes of possession in the first half. That is quite something.
Bryce Love played more snaps than I expected, including quite a few snaps with Christian McCaffrey, something my fellow Booties have been suggesting. This reminds me of the way they worked Christian McCaffrey onto the field more and more toward the end of last season. I was surprised to see Isaiah Brandt-Sims on the field in the first half, as I had noticed him when watching on television. Devon Cajuste did not play as much as I expected, even before he was injured. Of course, all of those general observations should be taken with a grain of salt, as I was not counting snaps for any particular player.
Alameen Murphy subbed for Alijah Holder after an injury early in the game and seemed to play well. It was interesting to me that Ronnie Harris and Murphy seemed to be the last front-liners out of the game when we started to give the defensive backups some playing time. Of course, Murphy is himself a backup, but I wonder why Harris played almost to the bitter end?
Speaking of defensive and pass rush, Mike Tyler had two sacks at the end of the game, which was mighty nice to see. Is Jordan Watkins a viable option on the defensive line? He seemed fine in mop-up duty, though even this old “last guy off the bench” must admit that mop-up duty is not the same as playing against the opponent’s big guns.
On the injury front, let’s hope the interception that resulted in Cajuste heading to the locker room does not turn out to be costly in the long term. It was not costly in the short term, as Trenton Irwin’s hustle play in tracking down the CU defender, combined with a solid defensive stand right in front of us, kept CU from scoring. Like Cajuste, Holder and Brandon Simmons had helmet-free trips to the locker room, which are always scary. I noticed Aziz Shittu taking himself out of the game in the second half. We Stanford fans are mighty nervous when it comes to defensive line depth, so let’s hope that was a case of the altitude getting to him, not an injury.
On a side note, when our guys come out of the locker room without shoulder pads, one has to be impressed with how ripped they are. Stanford’s strength and conditioning program is impressive, even to a parent of recent Division I football player who has had quite a few college football players over to watch sports in the living room.
The playcalling was, in my opinion, mighty good. I have not been a fan of the jumbo package, but now that we are occasionally passing out of it, and when I think about how often it is successful, I am starting to come around. My only concern about playcalling is that we tend to get more predictable when behind than when ahead. But we were ahead most of the day in Boulder (and never behind), so it was fun to see our offense click.
Joshua Garnett is a hoot during timeouts, dancing to the piped-in music and interacting with the Stanford crowd. Overall, the team seems to enjoy each other and have fun. If you are going to work that hard, you might as well have fun while you are doing it.
After he crossed the goal line at the end of the first half, it looked like Hogan was looking for someone in the Stanford crowd. Given what happened to him last year, that made me a bit sad for a moment, though I undoubtedly read too much into it (unmitigated sap that I am).
Saw muiron and his son and friend, and met some fun Biz School grads who go to one away game a year. Overall the Stanford crowd was reasonably sizable for a game as far east as the Pac-12 plays.
This was a workmanlike Stanford win where an overmatched opponent hung with us for a while, only to succumb to Stanford’s physical and athletic superiority. It showcased the fun Stanford offense we have come to know and love. Of course, CU is at the bottom end of the conference, not nearly as scary as our foe next week, but they have shown flashes. After the nail-biter last week, I agree with muiron: This was a very enjoyable, relatively stress-free (other than potential injuries) day in beautiful Boulder.
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