When Randy Fasani was in the game, he played some of his best football of his Stanford career. Very accurate throws that gave his receivers, in tight coverage, chances to make plays. In less than 2 quarters of work, he threw 7 of 11 balls for a total of 141 yards, with no turnovers and no sacks. He didn't throw any touchdowns, but that was a matter of playcalling by Bill Diedrick, who went to the run in goalline situations. Randy's toss on 4th and 12 from the 31 yardline to Teyo Johnson was a picture perfect placement in double coverage, but Teyo had it come off his shoulder right as he was popped. Randy made things happen on the ground, with 24 yards on 3 carries, but his last carry is the one that impacted the game. He was leg-tackled akwardly while he was hit high, and was lost for the game. The decision to put himself in those risk situations helps to bring down the QB grade, as the team leader continues to play roulette with his body and the team's season. Chris Lewis came in with a very tough start, missing receivers and making a lot of quick throws out of bounds. In contrast to Fasani, "Hollywood" avoided risking his body, but he looked shaken and incapable of making plays. The turning point for Lewis' confidence and performance came on the TD pass to Teyo Johnson. That was a long, tough 28-yard throw that resulted in a key score. Chris hit his receivers thereafter, and Bill D was able to call him a better game. By the way, how about the jump that Hollywood took from three yards out on the right sideline late in the 4th quarter? It was defended perfectly, but the effort and desire CL gave said a lot about this maturing QB.
In Stanford's wins this season, there has seemingly been a rotating cast of receivers who have stepped it up. From Ryan Wells to Luke Powell, now to Teyo Johnson. Teyo caught a team-leading 95 yards on 5 receptions, scoring 8 points. Here's the scary part, though: Teyo is making these big plays in tight coverage and has yet to learn how to run his routes as well as he will. He's dominating largely on freakish talent and size, but will continue to improve with experience. I am beginning to believe a case can be made to say that Teyo's upside may be at least as large as U-Dub's Reggie Williams. Luke Powell ran a fantastic flag pattern for his touchdown score, and came up with another big play in that fourth quarter on a sideline grab at the 6-yardline that set up the final score. We need the receivers to get open more consistently, though, to keep Stanford and the QBs from having to make "big plays" just to move down the field. Underneath that concern, we need a healthy Ryan Wells. Without him, and with Nick Sebes dormant since his breakout start to the season, the receiving game is too thin. I don't like living on the edge with this group.
It may be hard to imagine how Kerry "Canuck" Carter can score a school record-tying 4 rushing TDs with clutch power running in the red zone, yet receive an A- with his position unit. The two gripes I offer are the mere 2.5 yards per carry he picked up on a season-high 26 carries, as well as the fumble by Brian Allen. For all of his power running, KC never picked up a run longer than 7 yards, which kept the running game from ever breaking loose. BA got only half the work, but was integral in picking up first downs outside the redzone. Brian continues to impress me in running through tackles, despite his stereotype as an "outside the tackles open-field" back. In the game's opening drive, BA also stretched a modest pass on 3rd and 7 into a drive-defining 31 yard pick-up. Add Casey Moore into the equation, and this group totaled 5 TDs, 122 yards rushing and 76 yards receiving.
Despite just one catch from this group, a spectacular diving grab by Brett Pierce for 12 yards, they grade out pretty fair. Sure, Matt Wright dropped an undroppable pass, and Pierce lost a Chris Lewis TD when he got popped in the endzone, but these guys excelled where the stats don't reach. In the red zone, the mere threat of Pierce, Darin Naatjes and Alex Smith created opportunities for the offense on several occasions. The group, led by Wright, also did an oustanding job blocking throughout the day. They get part of the credit with the o-line for keeping Cardinal QBs sack-less, and paving the way for key runs. Whether Matt "If lovin' you is wrong, I don't wanna be" Wright was a key player in moving Kerry Carter and the pile across the goalline on the go-ahead 4th quarter TD... we'll leave that be.
I proclaim this unit the tops in this game, and this game tops on the season for this unit. Time will tell this season how much the line benefitted from playing a mediocre Oregon front seven, the Gangly Green, but the results are undeniably fantastic. The one stat to bear this out is of course the complete absence of sacks suffered by Stanford QBs. In the wake of a 7-sack assault by the Cougs, we have reason to give thanks. A healthy Zack Quaccia means the world, and a dominating Eric Heitmann wins games. On what I believe was Stanford's second drive and second touchdown, in the first quarter, Kerry Carter practically moonwalked into the endzone behind Eric. He was double teamed, but flat-out destroyed both defenders. I mean, he put them down! I was a few rows behind Papa Heitmann, and saw him erupt in pride and celebration on that play. In a game where Stanford won the possession game, and ran relentlessly, this line got stronger and more dominating as Stanford went deeper into the second half. In Stanford's final two drives, both touchdowns, the Cardinal line coupled with the running backs for 13 of 16 plays on the ground. Oregon and Belotti knew it was coming, too, but couldn't stop it.
Difficult to grade this unit recognizing that unquestioned star DT Matt Leonard didn't even make the trip, and NT Trey Freeman was unable to go more than the first few plays. While they struggled to put on a solid pass rush, and recorded nary a sack, they held their own and benefited from the improvements in the back seven as the second half played on. Travis Pfiefer was around the ball often, and Marcus Hoover made a great play on that critical interception. Discouraging to see no tackles from Craig Albrecht, though the defense was in the nickel in much of the game. If there's good news, it's that Harrington couldn't hurt Stanford in the second half, and this is the best QB the Card will see this year. I'm elevating this grade in light of Leonard's and Freeman's absense.
How blessed are you to get Tank Williams in your starting unit when one of your own is out with injury? Truth be told, though, when Anthony Gabriel did return in the second half to OLB, and Tank moved back to FS, the defense was darned-near rock solid. Kent Baer let Coy blitz more in the second half, which was largely responsible for the hurries and low percentage we saw from Hype Harrington. Still, the Joey Billboard had a fortnight on every passing down in the first half, which is unforgiveable with Coy, Matt and Tank on the field.
The loose and missed coverage early in the game by this group gave Joey the opportunities, and he seized every one of them. I don't enjoy singling out individual players, but this is one position unit where individual mistakes stand out for the world to see. #45 had several in this game, ranging from coverage to safety help to missed tackles. Tank Williams broke up two passes, made one huge pick, and caused the biggest turnover of the season. Recruiting should give way to cloning, for Stanford's future in the secondary.
Special Teams: C
Let's forego the formalities and rename this group the Rollercoasters. They oscillate between 60-yard runbacks and Keystone Kops coverage, yielding 80-yard runbacks. Osclillate between blocked placekicks/punts and blocking punts/kicks. One missed PAT here, a made 2-point conversion there. The only thing we know is that you should not head to the restroom for a special teams play. For this game, I'll first heap on the credit to Coach Zacharias for seeing the flaw in Oregon's punt protection, and exploiting it in the form of Amon Gordon and Alex Smith. Back-to-back blocks, no less. Mike Biselli's onside kick was perhaps the most beautifully executed play I have ever seen in my years of watching onside kicks in both pro and college ball. All these plays came at clutch times when we needed them the most. Miss one of those plays, and we're mumbling to ourselves about the possibility of a 3-4 record after November 3rd. But I cannot overlook the fact that Stanford's deficit, for the second straight week, was derived directly from special teams mistakes. Giving up 391 return yards and 14 points is unthinkable. Granted, the Keenan Howry punt return was a blown call by the refs, but this was ugly stuff. A mixture of low kicks and miserable tackling. Tack on a blocked PAT and the worst hooked FG of D-I football this year, and a "C" is a gift for this unit.
I was sick to see what Stanford's _efense mustered in the first half to stop Harrington, and it took a while to get the gameplan in place for Chris Lewis. Maddening play of the game goes to the FUBAR call on 3rd and goal in the 4th quarter from the 3 yardline, when the play never got in clearly. We had been seeing that throughout the game, but with the pressure on, no timeout was called, and Chris Lewis was left scrambling for a 5-yard loss. But the comeback this team put forward, truly one of the most incredible in modern Stanford football, goes right to the coaching staff. They maintained their composure, and carried the team on their backs. The preparation seemed better than against Washington State, and the decisions to adapt to injuries and opponent strengths looked better. Loved the halfback pass from Kerry Carter on the first play of the game. Set the tone without ambiguity. Hard to argue against a staff that moved Stanford down the field to score on their first two possessions and last two possessions of the game. Hard to argue against a staff that got more time for Chris Lewis as the game wore on, and more pressure on Joey Harrington. Hard to arge with a staff that gutted out a win against the worst and most damaging officiating I've seen in Pac-10 football in my time, on the road at the house that owned the longest winning streak in the nation. Inspirational stuff.