Last week's matchup at UCLA was billed as a crossroads game for the Cardinal. I thought we'd have a lot of answers about this year's team after that game. But judging from my e-mail inbox, the outcome down in La-La Land raised many more questions. So many questions in fact, that this week's Clardy's Corner is devoted strictly to my…
Phil from Campbell writes: "I'm just about fed-up with this coaching staff… Where are the adjustments? Why can't this team make in-game adjustments and keep the other team guessing?"
I remember talking with Stanford offensive coordinator Bill Cubit after the U$C game when everyone wanted to know why the Card supposedly went conservative in the second half. Coach Cubit told me, in effect, that they didn't make any major adjustments because what they were doing was working. And that was true… what stopped the Cardinal offense in the second half that day was the execution, not the scheme. If it works, why stop doing it?
That said, what I found most galling about the loss last week was that the offense was decisively outschemed by the Bruin defense. UCLA had totally predetermined Stanford's playcalling by the middle of the second quarter. They guessed right on most of Stanford's running plays, totally shutting down that facet of the game.
Then, once it was established that the Card would not be able to run the ball, UCLA had no reason to play the play the pass honestly. With Stanford consistently forced into second-and-long and third-and-long situations, the Bruins could afford to drop as many defenders into coverage as they could. Trent Edwards was forced to scramble so much not because the pass rush kept flushing him out, but because all of Stanford's receivers (save for Alex Smith) were on lockdown.
Give UCLA's defensive players and coaching staff credit. They looked like they knew exactly what was coming, when it was coming, and where it was going. And you can bet every single defensive coordinator that Stanford faces for the rest of the season will analyze that game film like it was shot by Zapruder.
To make a long point short, if there's any week to gripe about offensive adjustments (or the lack thereof), this is it. Then again, it would have been a lot easier for the passing game to flourish if the running game had been able to get going. That was the key to everything.
Michael from parts unknown had this to say: "I like your analysis of the PAC-10. It seems fair, reasoned and objective except for the U$C thing. It makes you appear like a UCLA ‘homer'. Get over it and leave the cutesy, dumb symbols out of your ‘objective' analysis."
Well, what can I say? There are some things ingrained in you as a Stanford follower from day one that you never quite let go... I guess old habits die hard!
I'll assume that Michael is a U$C fan here, and I remember a U$C fan getting on me last year for stating that Trojan football hasn't always been the cleanest program on the planet. I can't understand this… The Trojans are #1, a place they hadn't been in over 20 years. They've got a great program once again. 90,000 people are filling the Coliseum every week (that's never happened). They get to watch Reggie Bush. In all likelihood, they'll be playing for an undisputed national championship this January. And they get all riled up by my one-liners? Don't you have bigger things to worry about, like trying to find a hotel in Miami for New Years'? Jeez.
And by the way, if I was a UCLA homer, I certainly wouldn't have been sitting at the Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles in Pasadena all depressed after that game!
Gary from parts unknown just had this simple question: "Where's Ray Jones?"
I wish I knew. I did see him at practice yesterday. During 11-on-11 drills, he hit one hole and blasted through the other side so quickly it was breathtaking. Given the struggles of the running attack since the Huskies game, I'd love to see what he can do on the playing field. J.R. Lemon and Kenneth Tolon are good backs, but I'd love to see what new dimension Jones could potentially bring to this offense.
Here's an exchange with Kevin from parts unknown. Before last week's game, he wrote: "Brother, T.C. Ostrander should be the starter - he gets rid of the ball in less time and throws the ball faster and farther than Edwards can. The guy was damn good against Oregon. Sure he needs to learn to step up into the pocket so he doesn't get sacked from the end-around rusher, but that's ticky-tack - and the coaches should have been telling him that all along anyway. It's a shame if he only ends up with one full year as the starting QB."
Then, after the offense got bageled at the Rose Bowl, Kevin wrote back: "NOW are you convinced that Edwards isn't the guy to lead Stanford to victories over anything except cupcakes? If Teevens is serious about winning any more games this year, he's got to put Ostrander in. Arizona State and Oregon State are winnable games, and Ostrander could at least make a contest out of big game.
Any coach in any conference focused on winning games would have realized that (1) Edwards wasn't going to be effective after seeing him play in the first half against UCLA, and (2) would have switched QB's to see if the other guy could get something going. But at Stanford the coaches are worried about hurting the poor soft, relatively brainy student-athlete's feelings, so they'd rather continue with personnel that isn't getting it done.
I'm in favor of seeing Stanford put up a good offensive fight in the final three games. We're not going to do with that with the recent scoring production."
Good stuff. Obviously, there's plenty here… some of which I agree with, and some of which I don't. For starters, I don't think anyone can dispute Kevin's final paragraph. Stanford can't win if it can't score. As long as the defense continues to hold up, the offense is going to be the key to the rest of the Card's season. Not much dispute there.
Handling quarterbacks is obviously one of the more difficult tasks a head coach and offensive coordinator can face, especially when the backup signal-caller shows some promise. Fans love quarterback controversies because they can debate over it. The media loves quarterback controversies because it gives them something to write and talk about. But for coaches and players, quarterback controversies can be divisive and disruptive to team chemistry.
We've all tried to erase this game from our memory banks, but think back to that Arizona State game in 2002. Midway through the first half, Buddy Teevens suddenly yanked Chris Lewis and sent in Kyle Matter. Then, somewhat inexplicably, Lewis was sent back in when the game was well out of hand. Lewis's health was never an issue. The curious handling of the quarterbacks in that game sent the 2002 season into a tailspin from which it never recovered. Teevens lost the game, his starting quarterback, and perhaps the team that very day. That's the tightrope a coach walks when yanking the starting quarterback becomes a possibility, and that's not a decision to be taken lightly.
No, I'm not convinced that Trent should not be the starter. I still don't think there's any reason, other than health, that Edwards should not start. That said, Trent looked like his health was affecting him. And quite honestly, it should have, with all the hits and scrambles he was forced to take early in the game.
I'm not a head coach, but I sometimes play one on the radio and the internet. Given the fact the Trent did not look effectively healthy, I would have seriously considered putting T.C. in midway through the second quarter and letting him finish the half. Then at halftime I would have made a decision based solely on Trent's health.
The two areas I wanted to improve in this year's Corners were the content and the E-mailbag. The jury's out on whether this year's content is better (heck, the jury's out on the author!), but the E-mailbag has been active all season long. Thanks for dropping me the e-mails, and keep them coming. Hopefully we have some good things to exchange over the final weeks of the season.
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
So the axe falls on Keith Gilbertson. No surprise there, unfortunately. What might be the most shocking thing about the Washington Huskies right now is that they don't have any players. The talent level is nowhere near what it has been at UW over the past 30 years. That's a proud program that has a lot or rebuilding to do…
So Arizona State's coming off embarrassing losses to U$C and cal, plus an embarrassing win over UCLA. Why does that worry me?
This might be the best cal football team of all time. The more I think about it, I realize that's not really saying much, but still…
I can cross this off the list of things I never thought I'd see: stone-footed Derek Anderson actually showed some mobility in their win over Arizona last week, slithering around the pocket, and even leaping over two Wildcat defenders for a fourth-quarter touchdown…
Fresh off of watching his team lose to U$C, Washington State head coach Bill Doba trudged to a Pullman motel the next morning for a 7:30 am meeting with some recruits. Unfortunately, no one was there. Coach waited, and waited, and waited. Then finally it dawned on him… he had forgotten to set his clocks back an hour! Such is life when you're the head coach of a struggling team…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… don't look now, but here comes Mike Price and UTEP. 6-2 overall, #25 in the AP, and #24 in the BCS standings. I've always been a fan of Coach Price. He's a good coach, a good guy, and it's hard to find a coach that cares about his players more than he does…
TV programming note: just one airing of the Farm Report this week…Saturday at 8:30 am on FOX Sports Net Bay Area!
Arizona @ Washington. Well, someone has to win this game! I like Arizona by 5.
Oregon @ cal. The Ducks are quietly getting themselves in position for a bowl bid… Oregon's defense will keep the Ducks in this game longer than most folks may think. The Bears are going to have to scrape and claw for this win. I like cal by 10.
U$C @ Oregon State. Last week's game at Pullman was probably a great dress rehearsal for the Trojans, as they'll be facing a similar atmosphere and similar playing conditions in Corvallis. The Beavers are on the rise, and unlike the Cougars, they can hang with the Trojans. Until the second half. I like U$C by 21.
Washington State @ UCLA. Will the UCLA defense revert to its former self? Or will they play like the 1985 Bears again? Who knows? I do know this, though… I like UCLA by 16.
Last week: 4-0 (straight up), 3-1 (ATS).
This year: 16-4 (straight up), 11-9 (ATS).
-- Got a thought on this column or on Stanford sports? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org! The ones I like best will end up in next week's E-Mailbag.
Troy Clardy is a reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, which airs Saturday mornings on Fox Sports Net Bay Area. Clardy hosts "Stanford Sports Weekly", which airs Wednesday evenings at 8:00 pm on KNTS (1220 AM) in San Francisco. He also hosts Cardinal men's basketball pregame shows on Stanford radio network flagship station KNEW in San Francisco, and "College Football Today" on KNBR 1050 in San Francisco.
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