The game started off well enough for the Cardinal, giving up no positive plays in a three-and-out San Jose State offensive series. Will Svitek brought pressure from the left side to force an incompletion, a sign of things to come. Though Svitek officially recorded just one tackle all night, he was constantly in the backfield pressuring SJSU quarterback Scott Rislov.
Stanford took possession on the San Jose 48-yardline and got their series off on the right foot with a six-yard comeback to Luke Powell in the middle of the field. But Chris Lewis would badly overthrow Powell after play-action on 3rd and 2 to end the brief surge in Stanford momentum, and that incompletion would also be a harbinger of the evening's events.
The Spartans came back on offense and made an adjust to find some soft spots in the Stanford secondary. Consecutive passes of 18 and 20 yards were thrown in the middle of the field against Oshiomogho Atogwe's coverage. The first of those completions came on a 3rd and 12 situation where strangely the Cardinal stayed in their base defense. The Stanford defense would move to their nickel formation for the remainder of the evening against San Jose's many long yardage situations.
"There were a lot of balls in the air tonight," head coach Buddy Teevens commented afterward on the subject of his secondary's performance. "I thought they reacted well. We put a lot of pressure up front, and if you don't get home, you hang your guys out to dry. So there may have been some passes completed beneath our coverages, but that's going to happen."
Whether that early taste of success stayed with San Jose the rest of the evening, or if they simply recognized they could not run the ball, the Spartans went long and hard to their passing game at a record pace. They threw the ball a school-record 67 times, including 66 attempts by quarterback Scott Rislov.
"Stanford did a great job tonight, especially getting to the quarterback," Rislov described. "I'm pretty beat up."
The nine yards rushing that San Jose State could muster in the game was the seventh fewest ever allowed by a Stanford defense, and the least since they punished Cal in the 1998 Big Game with minus-36 yards on the ground.
But early in the game, things did not yet look bleak for the Spartans. They would march 80 yards down the field on that drive, with the key play coming on a 4th and 9 at Stanford's 30 yardline. The defense had brought a blitz at Rislov and forced him to unload the ball early, which fell incomplete in the middle of the field. Atogwe had the coverage and at most rubbed shoulders with the receiver, but the back judge threw a late flag that kept the drive alive. Three plays later SJSU running back Yonus Davis would slice through a hole on the left side of the line for an easy four-yard score and a 7-0 San Jose lead.
Stanford answered emphatically on the ensuing kickoff as Kenneth Tolon ran the ball back 45 yards behind solid blocking and a couple nifty moves in the open field. With the ball just across midfield, Stanford would pick up a first down on a sideline pattern to Greg Camarillo, and then grab another five yards when Lewis drew the SJSU defense off-sides with his cadence. But despite a 1st and 5 starting point, the Card could not move the ball any further. Lewis again missed Powell downfield on a 3rd down throw, this time his classmate wide open 17 yards past the line of scrimmage. Michael Sgroi came up short on his first field goal attempt of the year from 47 yards away.
San Jose drove down the field again on their next series, picking up 31 yards on four completions in their continued aerial attack. Stanford would hold on 3rd and long, but this time were burned on a 4th down conversion of six yards. The bleeding almost exploded when a coverage miscommunication left Spartan tight end Courtney Anderson as wide open as can be, just shy of the goalline, but he dropped the ball for what would have been a sure touchdown. Stanford would blitz their way to a 3rd down stop and force a 39-yard field goal.
Despite very advantageous field position (twice starting in SJSU territory), Stanford trailed 10-0 with three minutes to go in the first quarter. The good guys had mustered just 22 total yards of offense, including just 15 in the air on three completions. San Jose meanwhile had eclipsed the century mark, including 94 yards passing. That would bring redshirt freshman Trent Edwards into the game for his first action of his college career.
After a first down handoff to Tolon for a couple yards, Edwards went to the air and completed his first career Stanford pass to Gerren Crochet for 19 yards. He would then hit his next two passes for 27 and 25 yards, each to an open Luke Powell.
The Trent Edwards Era at Stanford had begun.
Play action would find tight end Alex Smith open at the goalline, but the redshirt junior would drop the ball as he rolled to the ground. Edwards also fired incomplete in the endzone on 3rd down, this time rifling a ball through the upright wickets of Justin McCullum. To turn the series even more sour, Sgroi's field goal attempt was low and blocked. There was an apparent mistiming of the snap count, as Sgroi started his motion to the holder and then pulled back when the ball wasn't snapped. He recovered but lost his timing and struck the ball a little off.
San Jose's players were leaping in the air and as fired up as could be, but perhaps the exuberance was their undoing on the next series. They moved backward in a hurry with incompletions and a personal foul. Then a tipped ball was intercepted by Stanley Wilson at midfield.
The momentum appeared to swing mightily to Stanford's favor, but Trent Edwards would turn the ball back over with an interception on a post pattern intended for Greg Camarillo.
When Stanford regained the ball in the second quarter, running back J.R. Lemon made his season debut in the backfield. He would pick up a first down with 11 yards on his first two carries. A mock cheer was heard in sections of the stadium, but little did they know the day Lemon was beginning...
The joy slipped away quickly with an Ismail Simpson false start followed by an illegal formation (empty backfield, five wide). Faced with 1st and 20, Stanford then burned a timeout. Edwards got Stanford untracked with a first down in the air, however, on passes of 11 and then 13 yards to Powell and Camarillo, respectively. Edwards moved the chains again with passes to Powell (eight yards) and Camarillo (six). A false start penalty would saddle Stanford with 3rd and 12, but Edwards connected to Powell for 15 yards and the fourth first down of the drive.
After already connecting for 90 yards to Powell on six passes, Edwards would go once again to the exciting fifth year senior. This time the quarterback tossed the ball high into the air on a fade pattern to Powell along the right sideline in single coverage. The San Jose cornerback was right on Powell's shoulder, but the diminutive dynamo outmuscled his defender to get the ball for a touchdown in the endzone. The first touchdown of the season for Stanford and first college score for Edwards finished off a 12-play drive that covered 80 yards. With just under six minutes to go in the second quarter, Edwards already had 155 yards on 10-of-15 passing.
The Trent Edwards Era at Stanford was now in high gear.
San Jose State started the next series deep in their territory on the 15-yardline after an Eric Johnson kickoff and bumbling Spartan return effort. But the real disaster struck on the next play when Casey Carroll stripped the ball away from a San Jose running back in the backfield. The ball was recovered by a diving Jared Newberry, and the Cardinal were in business at the six-yardline. It took only one play for Stanford to punch the ball in the endzone, as Lemon took the ball up the middle for a quick six. Ironically it was the first touchdown for the running back since his three-TD performance against SJSU a year ago.
The pressure from Stanford's defensive tackles would continue the next series, with Babatunde Oshinowo enveloping Rislov for a 12-yard sack at the two-yardline on the very first play. The ball was loose in the endzone and recovered by Stanford for an apparent touchdown, but the officials ruled that Rislov had released the ball as he was tackled and marked the play dead with intentional grounding.
After a punt to midfield, Edwards would move the ball with completions to McCullum (12 yds) and Mark Bradford (15) for consecutive first downs, the second catch an eye-catching one-handed sideline snag by the true freshman that brought the home crowd to its feet. Two plays later Edwards connected once again for a score to Powell, this time on a strike from 21 yards out.
"It was an out route," Edwards recalled. "Luke ran it in on his man, and then I saw him take it up the seam. It's not something we've practiced before; I guess you could call it improvisation. And it worked. Luke Powell is a guy who will always get open, no matter what. He's a great athlete who makes my job a lot easier."
In less than four minutes, Stanford had screamed back from a 10-0 deficit to lead 21-10. All three scores came with Edwards in the game; Chris Lewis did not see the field after his initial two series in the game.
Edwards racked up 202 yards passing on 13-of-18 passing in the first half alone, and that came after he stood on the sideline the first two offensive series. He would finish the game with 278 yards on 21-of-38 passing, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. "It was just an awesome feeling going out there tonight," the Los Gatos product beamed. "I've had this date on my calendar all summer. All of our work in the off-season came down to this game, and I think it all really paid off."
The second half started out with the Stanford offense looking to make a statement about its running game, returning to the balance that had been preached since last December. The Cardinal had disappointingly picked up just 27 net rushing yards in the first half, but Tolon immediately picked up 18 yards on his first two carries in the second stanza. The second carry bounced to the right side for a first down, but the Albuquerque product was slow to get up from the play and had to be helped off the field. That brought true freshman David Marrero into the game for his first college action. Marrero was lined up for the remainder of the series in a single back formation, and he would pick up a first down after his second college carry. The drive stalled, though, when the offense went back to the air and failed to move the ball.
The Cardinal would score the next series with a 31-yard field goal by Sgroi, but most notable about the drive was the first two completions of the game to the tight ends. Brett Pierce caught a ball in the middle of the field for a big 21 yards, including the last few dragging a Spartan tackler along. Alex Smith grabbed an acrobatic catch for nine yards the very next play. Smith also picked up a first down when he drew a pass interference call. Pierce would later pull down an eight-yard reception, bringing the tight end total yardage for the game to 42 yards on four catches.
Stanford would return to the running game early in the fourth quarter to ice both the clock and the final score, handing off to Lemon five straight times for a total of 51 yards and another touchdown. The drive also pushed his running total on the game to 73 yards (on 12 carries), which broke his previous career high of 69 yards from the SJSU game in 2002. He would eclipse the century mark by the end of regulation, with 103 net yards on 18 carries.
"Man, I don't know what it is," Lemon said about his exceptional success against the Spartans. "Maybe it's just that I feel good when I start the season. It wasn't anything special out there tonight. I just got behind the line, and we did what we've been doing all along."
The offense leader tonight, though, was fifth-year senior Luke Powell. We've been telling you for the last month that he's back, and he delivered in the season opener in the biggest way. His 12 catches were a career high and doubled his previous high mark of six. He totaled 172 yards (also a career high) and scored two touchdowns. Those numbers were no fluke, as he consistently found separation throughout the evening.
"There's nothing I really did different," he explains. "I was just running my routes the way the I've been coached. I would give a stick move to the cornerback, and he jumped. I think they had problems with me because they didn't have any safety help."
On the other side of the ball, the defense was making things happen as well. After the quick start San Jose State had moving the ball in the air in the first half, Stanford kept the Spartans from crossing the 50-yardline for nearly three quarters. From the time when SJSU kicked their first quarter field goal, they could not find their way into Stanford territory until their final drive of the game. They had their shots at the endzone, but an unrelenting blitz plus some defensive plays made by the defensive backs turned the ball over on downs.
OLB Kevin Schimmelmann and SS Trevor Hooper tied for the team lead in tackles with six. Schimmelmann recorded every one of his wrap-ups in the first half, when he was flying around the field like a veteran. You wouldn't have known it was the first college appearance for the ferocious flyer at linebacker. "I made some plays, and my confidence just grew from there," he explains. "You get your feet wet, and everything seems natural after that."
Injury report: Tolon did not return to the game after he left the field at the start of the third quarter. Two other players knocked out of the game were DT Casey Carroll and SS Timi Wusu. The former sustained an injury to his left arm, while the latter injured his right knee. Both players had smiles on their faces after the game, and with two weeks until Stanford's next contest, it is very possible they will make a healthy return to action.
Recruit sighting: Pinole Valley cornerback Wopamo Osaisai was seen in Stanford's locker room after the victory as part of an unofficial visit. He has an offer from the Cardinal and continues to hold them as his #1 school.
Penalty promise: Cornerback Leigh Torrence was burned on a pass out in the flat where he gave very soft coverage, picking up a first down. San Jose went at Torrence on the next play, this time crossing all the way to the other side of the field. The redshirt junior cornerback Leigh Torrence gave an extra shove out of bounds after a crossing pattern completed against him, and was hit with a personal foul flag. True to his policy on personal fouls this year, Buddy Teevens pulled Torrence off the field and put Stanley Wilson in his place.
Three's company: Up 31-10 and the game in hand, Teevens put redshirt sophomore quarterback Kyle Matter into the game with 9:06 remaining in regulation. The third string slinger solely handed the ball off while he was on the field, but his performance was steady enough to earn mention from his head coach afterward. "It's nice to know we have a couple quarterbacks - three actually, with Kyle Matter performing well - who can get the job done for us," Teevens commented
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