Randy and Chris each threw a costly pick, resulting in 14 points of deficit between a TD return for Wazzu and a TD lost for the Card. Overall precision wasn't enough to carry the day, just below 50%. Perhaps most hurtful by the quarterbacking was the seeming lack of "sense" of the pass rush from the back side, which was a large contributing factor to the 7 sacks. To Randy's credit, he lost his center midway through the game and lacked his big play receiver. I am still pleased with his progression over last season, where he is still looking to throw first, and run only when he has no options. And when he does take off, he's lethal. We just have to hope that the hits he takes don't prove the same.
This was easily the most disappointing game from this group this season, though with Luke Powell banged up, our top candidate for the big play was muted. Still, the passing game struggled often with receivers that weren't getting open. Other than the infamous 3rd down attempt late in the 4th quarter to Bowman, the receivers didn't give Fasani deep targets. The group combined for just 9 receptions totaling 87 yards. Anemic. And Caleb's drop will tragically play in the minds of Cardinalmaniacs for a long time.
Caesy Moore's fumble was the only real blemish for this unit, though a non-trivial one. But it's hard not to tell a glowing story about a group that ran 34 times for 189 yards. That's a 5.6 yard average and would have been the talk of the West Coast if not for the errors elsewhere in the game that gave away the game. Brian Allen delivered his second game over the century mark in this young season, racking up 133 yards on 20 carries. Both he and Kerry Carter ran over and through a defense that had been rated the 7th best in the country against the run. They did it with speed and with power. If KC hadn't been knocked out by the helmet-to-helmet hit from a Wazzu defender, even better things may have come. Also consider that Brian, Kerry and Casey Moore combined for 5 receptions totaling 90 yards, better than the receiving corps! There is a reason Stanford is running the ball so much this year, and why that was the core of this game plan. These guys, and the run-blocking they're getting up front, are very good.
You couldn't help but be overjoyed for Darin Naatjes, as he pulled down 2 scores in the first half, also his first 2 catches of the season. Nacho has fought through injuries his entire time at Stanford, and now both he and the team are getting the chance to benefit from his abilities. Tack on a key first down throw for 15 yards to Brett Pierce, and there are no complaints about the tight ends. These guys are making the big blocks and they get open when asked. The only question is whether they are getting "asked" enough in the passing game...
It's more of the same story, but even more pronounced than before. The run blocking gets as much credit as the backs in getting over 200 yards of rushing rolling, but 7 sacks is more than any QB can bear. And countless times, Fasani was sent scrambling. One very important piece of context, though was the injury to center Zack Quaccia. The decline of Stanford's offense in the final drives is an unsettling look into the Card's future with just one injury upfront.
A similar story can be told for the injury impact on the defensive line, with Matt Leonard lost early and a pass rush that couldn't bring down Jason Gesser. Compounding the damage was a banged-up Marcus Hoover, who was absent or played gimpy through much of the second half. Austin Lee played well at DE, fortunately, wrapping up 8 tackles (4 for losses, 1.5 sacks). Injuries are a part of football, though, and on this day Gesser had all the time he wanted to find his receivers or to bolt downfield on his own.
Injuries hit the linebacking corps, as well. Anthony Gabriel was out several days ago, already puting a dent in this unit, but Matt Friedrichs was hobbled and Jake Covault was lost. The overall speed for the LBs thus took a hit, and that allowed Gesser to survive the blitz well enough in the shotgun. Probably the most telling sign of this damage and its effects was seen in Wazzu's 4th quarter drives. 73 yards on the ground in two drives resulting in 10 points. That after running for just 41 total yards in the previous three quarters of the game. Coy Wire picked up a sack and team-leading 11 tackles
Other than soft cushions on short balls, the coverage wasn't really problematic in this game. Ruben "Hurricane" Carter picked up a key INT, and Tank Williams had 10 tackles and a forced fumble. The one glaring mistake was Simba Hodari going for the ball instead of Mike Bush on a halfback pass that went the distance instead of being stopped at midfield.
Special Teams: C-
Two special teams plays standout as great positives: Luke Powell's 46-yard punt return to the 6 yardline and the option run by Brian Allen for the 2-point conversion on that same drive. However, the poor blocking on special teams protection has now given a Stanford opponent a TD in each of the last 2 games. This time, it was on punt duty.
Stanford was coming into this game with several putative advantages over Wazzu: an extra week of rest, an extra week of preparation, John McDonnell as an insider and home field. Instead, Stanford was the team that came out and made the bad mistakes that cost the game. The staff didn't look like they took advantage of these dimensions, frankly. On the blocked punt, we are seeing a mistake on special teams that isn't being corrected, which again goes back to the coaches. Injuries hurt this team significantly, and may have played a big part in the 4th quarter fade, but I put at the coaches' feet to have the reserves ready to play and win. I will credit Bill Diedrick for crafting a pretty decent offensive plan, though, as he found a way to pick up 439 yards against a team with a highly rated (though arguably now exposed defense) defense. I also like the 3-TE set that is producing TDs in the redzone. Now, BD has to look to use the TEs in the other 80 yards of green to help move the offense.