A week ago, Stanford played a Bay Area game in driving rain and a sea of mud, stiffling the Card offense. Last week, Stanford couldn't complete a thing downfield, and hardly moved the ball downfield until the final 8 minutes of the game.
The table was set Saturday for possibly worse. The field at San Jose State is used for the local pro soccer team, and thus is not crowned - keeping it from draining at all effectively. The outlook was for continuing heavy rain, which set the stage for another day of pulling teeth for points. But worse yet, the Card was lining up against a San Jose State team that had stung Stanford the last three years in a big way.
So for the good guys to come away from Spartan Stadium covered head-to-toe in mud was no surprise. The 41-14 winning score was the detail that caught your eye. Well, that and the 256 passing yards Randy Fasani and the Card were able to put up in the mud & rain-soaked affair.
The key to the scoring and passing yardage was "Cool Hand" Luke Powell, who separated himself from all receivers in the game by getting open deep downfield when nobody else could make their cuts and moves on the field. Luke grabbed 6 balls for an eye-popping 158 yards, including one 27-yard TD reception early in the second quarter. The play illustrated beautifully what is so potent about this offense. The offensive line and blockers gave Fasani loads of time, and Randy moved sideline to sideline to give his receivers more time to get open. Randy put on some nifty moves before Luke broke free, and then hit him with a strike through two defenders.
The big play was a key throughout the day for Stanford's scoring. In addition to Luke's TD catch, scoring drives were boosted by a 54-yard pass to Luke, 27-yard pass to Luke, 47-yard pass to Ryan Wells, and 36-yard run by Casey Moore.
The flow of the game isn't all the interesting, for once this season, as the Card controlled the game pretty well from start to finish. Stanford jumped to a 20-0 lead, and never led by less than two touchdowns thereafter. The only trouble early came from two Kenny Tolon fumbles in the first quarter, which came on back-to-back offensive plays by Stanford. Neither turnover gave Sannizay any points; they merely served to delay the Card's first score of the game. Tolon, though, stood on the sideline until late in the 4th quarter after the fumbles.
Perhaps that was the spark that inspired Bill Diedrick to elevate Casey Moore's role in the offense, which resulted in a game-high 68 yards rushing, on just 6 carries. In addition to the 36-yard run mentioned above, Casey had a 24-yard catch and run on a Stanford scoring drive, part of his 36 receiving yards on 3 catches in the game. Casey pushed over the century mark with these 9 plays from scrimmage, though he could have gone for even more, had a couple of his big plays not been called back for silly penalties.
Brian Allen had a tough day in the muck, picking up 62 yards on 21 carries. This really wasn't his type of game, with difficult footing that inhibits his quick lateral movements as he hits the line of scrimmage. Still, BA picked up 2 scores on short carries. To round out the running game, Justin Faust picked his first career touchdown, for the final score of the day. Randy Fasani avoided breaking out of the pocket to run much of the game, clearly under orders to protect his body against further brutalization. Even so, a few choice plays resulted in 53 rushing yards on 5 carries for Fasani. One of those carries was a designed naked bootleg on an outstanding fake handoff, which covered 34 yards from scrimmage to the endzone. On another scramble, Randy could see the goalline, but took a sharp turn out of bounds to avoid the hit. Great, smart play that helps keep Randy healthy for the Seattle Bowl.
Though the 27-point win was an impressive offensive display in the given conditions, the Stanford defensive front seven locked down on a prolific San Jose State offense. On the game, San Jose ran 38 times for just 30 yards, including 44 negative yards on 5 Stanford sacks. The cynical fan will wave this off as a performance against the measly Spartans, but what I saw with my eyes was a dominating performance, regardless of opponent. Coy Wire was swarming early and often, and displayed very impressive closing speed in the muddy conditions. Coy and Matt Leonard combined for 3 sacks in the game. Matt Friedrichs had maybe his best game of the season, as well. Amon Gordon clearly had his best game of his Stanford career, picking up a sack and 3 tackles for losses. He did benefit from a couple of botched plays by the San Jose State offense, but he put himself in position for his plays by getting into the Spartan backfield - a place he hasn't reached with any regularity this season. Cardinalmaniacs will hope this performance can be a springboard to the Seattle Bowl and 2002 season in the same way that Matt Leonard's great finish last fall helped launch this season (injury-stiffled though it was). Louis Hobson also provided a tough pass rush, and picked off an interception.
It honestly was nice to see Stanford exceed expectations and runaway with a game, especially against a team where Stanford has notoriously underperformed in recent years. The Card's next opponent will be the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Seattle Bowl on December 27th. Tech has dropped 3 of its last 4 games, and comes into the bowl game 7-5 on the season, with 6 wins against D-IA opponents. With the Stanford team as healthy as it has been since the season opener, and with such a strong performance Saturday, the outlook looks bright for a 10th win in 2001.