Kyle Terada/USA Today

Stanford Football Takeaways From Oregon State

Key Takeaways from the win at Oregon State.

Stanford overwhelmed yet another staggeringly underwhelming defense yesterday, and it did so by being completely one dimensional.  The Cardinal returned to its glorious, physical best, rushing for 365 total yards and unapologetically overdosing Oregon State on Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love. Stanford ran the ball on its final 29 offensive plays, bringing Coach David Shaw’s wildest dreams to life.

Even in a 26-15 win that wasn’t exactly a masterpiece of the game, there were still a number of things to think about.  Here are the biggest takeaways for me:

  • It’s not easy to parse the Cardinal’s undeniable improvement from the stunning putridity of the defenses it’s faced the last two weeks. WSU put an unholy beating on Arizona, inflicting far more damage than the 34 points Stanford put on the Wildcats a week before. This has to be making legit evaluations a challenge for the coaching staff. For the record, here are the rankings of Arizona, Oregon State, Oregon, and Cal in terms of points per drive allowed: (101, 99, 126, 115).

  • This brings us to Keller Chryst.  Coach Shaw made it clear Chryst is being evaluated through the lens of a starter making his second start, not a player who has been in the program for three years, both of which are true.  Chryst finished with 60 yards passing and a 3.5 Yards Per Attempt, which is what he had last week in Tucson and what his season average is as well. Ryan Burns has a right to be frustrated, because Chryst has yet to do anything in the passing game that Burns couldn’t have done, and handing off to Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love takes no great skill. I do believe Chryst distinguished himself on that 44-yard run, but given the chance to play against this defense, there is no evidence to suggest Burns couldn’t have been as productive against these opponents.  I’m resigned to the fact that it’s gonna be Chryst from here on out.  I stand by every case I made for K.J. Costello, but the denial and anger have given way to acceptance at this point.  It’s just gonna make for an even more muddled QB competition in 2017.

  • Stanford ran the ball on First Down 23 out of 32 times. That’s very much in line with their season profile, in which they have run on 65% of standard downs. Stanford really imposed its will on this down against Oregon State. 257 of the team’s 365 rushing yards came on first down. The Cardinal averaged 11.2 YPC. It’s hard to beat Stanford, or any other team, when you are getting beat that badly on first down.

  • That first down success was crucial, because the Cardinal was only 4-15 on third down, and struggled mightily to finish drives, as Conrad’s Ukropina’s five field goal attempts clearly illustrate. Stanford rushed the ball 12 times on third down, and gained 12 yards.

  • Stanford’s targeting ratio was a bit peculiar compared to its season profile.  Michael Rector was targeted on 35% of Chryst’s throws, making two catches on six targets.  Trenton Irwin was only targeted three times (and made two catches for 31 yards) and Dalton Schultz was also only targeted once.  He and Taboada were plenty busy run blocking, but this is a strange allotment of targets for Stanford.  On the year, Irwin is the Cardinal’s most targeted receiver at 26%, with Rector behind him at 20%, and Schultz hasbeen targeted on 13% of passes.

  • Lance Anderson continues to marvel. Stanford has major deficiencies at safety, linebacker, and the depth of D Line, and he has cooked up yet another outstanding defense.  The Cardinal was outstanding in closing out Oregon State, limiting the Beavs to 2-11 on third down.

  • The Cardinal lost two more offensive linemen over the course of the game:  Brandon Fanaika and Casey Tucker.  Hopefully they can come back, because Stanford has been significantly hamstrung by the absence of continuity on the line due to injury.  I was very pleased to see Nate Herbig remain a starter as well.  As Coach Shaw said, “whoever’s healthy” is going to play.”  That being said, After nine games, it seems clear that the best version of Stanford’s offensive line has Herbig and Fanaika at the guards.  David Bright, originally intended for only a few series by his own admission, filled in for Tucker, and should probably be manning one of the tackle spots full-time.

  • Francis Owusu was also lost to what appeared to be some sort of left leg issue.  More on that from Do this week as it becomes available.  

After watching the Cal and Oregon defenses, it could very well be that Stanford need not throw another forward pass the rest of the year. You’d think that playing at home would muster up some spunk and resistance from Cal and Oregon, at which point it might become relevant that Stanford can’t really expect anything from its passing game. Time will tell, but with a ten-win season still in play, Stanford still has work to do if it’s going to get there.

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