View from the Press Box: Arizona

Injuries, offensive offense and a renewed display of defensive futility against the run. Saturday's 20-7 loss to Arizona was the worst performance seen from Stanford Football since the UC Davis debacle of '05. If you have the stomach, here is the blow-by-blow account of events and observations.

Pregame - What I did not have time/space to discuss in this morning's article on the offensive outlook for Stanford today against Arizona is the field position battle.  The Cardinal edged Notre Dame last week by one yard in average starting field position, which is a result of offense, defense and special teams play.  If this is a low scoring slug(ly)-fest, field position (and turnovers) could be they key difference between the winner and loser.  Here is the bad news: Arizona punter Nick Folk is ranked ninth in the nation with a 45.4 average.  He also mans kickoffs and has 15 touchbacks in 19 kicks.  Stanford is improving but still greatly lags in both categories.  Redshirt junior punter Jay Ottovegio is eighth in the league in average (39), and redshirt junior kicker Derek Belch for Stanford has the fewest touchbacks in the Pac-10 (six) in addition to the eighth kickoff coverage (38.7 net yards).

Pregame - We talked to you this week about the switch at right tackle on the Cardinal offensive line - redshirt freshman Chris Marinelli will get the starting nod ahead of 32-game starter and fifth-year senior Jeff Edwards.  What we did not tell you, due to Stanford's injury media policy, was that fifth-year senior right guard Jon Cochran was out with an ailment and did not practice this week.  He is not in pads today and will not play.  In his stead, fifth-year senior Ismail Simpson moves into that starting role (fifth-year senior Josiah Vinson will start at left guard).  Simpson has started or played at left guard all year.  A brand new right side of the offensive line today is cause for concern and something to watch.

Pregame - Stanford has just three game captains today: fifth-year senior quarterback Trent Edwards, redshirt junior cornerback Tim Sims and redshirt sophomore cornerback Wopamo Osaisai.  The Cardinal QB needs no introduction, but the latter two are the current feel-good stories for this beleaguered team.  Sims has been reborn a completely new player these last three games, exhibiting confidence and making plays against Washington State, UCLA and Notre Dame.  He's an unrecognizable player.  Osaisai has been a special teams coverage standout this year, but last week in South Bend he broke out on defense.  It was a revolutionary game for him, transforming from a "track guy" into a playmaking defensive back...  Stanford has won the toss and elected to defer the football until the second half.

2:01pm - Belch hits the opening kickoff short to just the six-yardline, and the coverage looks poor.  Devin Ross has room to run and heads toward the right sideline.  He has 32 yards before being brought down, and he nearly broke it all the way.  As I mentioned before the game, Stanford looks to be the loser in the field position battle this afternoon, but they don't need to go down that quickly and that easily!

2:02 - The Stanford defense opens with its "magic" defensive set of six defensive backs, two linebackers and three defensive linemen.  Arizona throws a quick pass to Michael Thomas for him to operate in open space - a pattern we have seen against Stanford all year.  Redshirt junior cornerback Nick Sanchez makes a move I cannot explain, in precisely the wrong direction, that lets Thomas run by him easily.  That's a 11-yard gain right off the bat.  Here we go...  Where's the Maalox?

2:04 - After two running plays, it's 3rd & 4.  Adam Austin has time to sit back and hits Anthony Johnson behind the coverage of senior cornerback Brandon Harrison.  24-yard gain.  This is an inauspicious beginning for the defense.

2:05 - It's 3rd & Inches just outside the Stanford 15-yardline.  Arizona is moving with ease.  This game may have higher scoring than we imagined...  Chris Jennings takes the handoff and cuts back left on a misdirection play.  He has a wide open run to the endzone - not even senior inside linebacker Michael Okwo can catch him.  Touchdown Wildcats.  Arizona 7, Stanford 0.

2:07 - That was a fast drive for Arizona, especially considering they are statistically the worst offense in the conference.  Seven plays and 67 yards in just four minutes.  That by the way was just the fourth rushing touchdown in Arizona's seventh game of the year.

2:08 - Stanford is already in a hole in the field position game.  Redshirt sophomore Ray Jones takes the kickoff in the endzone and hesitates before coming out.  He runs just short of the 20-yardline.  I guess that's approximately a touchback, but it looked ugly and forecasts problems.

2:09 - First down for Stanford on offense is a double-tight look with both redshirt freshman James Dray and redshirt freshman Erik Lorig on the field.  No fullback.  The hand-off to redshirt sophomore running back Anthony Kimble is met at the line of scrimmage, and he twists ahead to get three yards.

2:10 - 3rd & 6 is not where Stanford wants to be.  Note that the Cardinal's two wideouts are redshirt sophomore Kelton Lynn and true freshman Richard Sherman...  Trent Edwards takes off on a scramble and is tackled after picking up four yards.  Three-and-out.  Not a good answer to Arizona's drive, and certainly not a continuation of how Stanford opened last week in South Bend.

2:11 - Ottovegio booms a nice spiral punt that forces Syndric Steptoe to catch the ball moving backward over his shoulder.  But he gets outside the coverage and races up the right sideline.  He gets 16 yards before Osaisai catches him from behind and forces him out of bounds.  Once again, Arizona has superior field position, which could let this game get away from the Cardinal awfully early if the defense does not come up with a stop.

2:13 - Stanford opens this defensive series in its base defense of four linebackers and four defensive backs.  Note that the two cornerbacks are the same who walked out to midfield pregame as captains: Osaisai and Sims.  Harrison is playing safety and not cornerback...  Arizona's first down running play gets three yards.

2:14 - Arizona runs again, and two defenders in pursuit whiff trying to tackle from behind - redshirt junior defensive end Chris Horn and senior inside linebacker Michael Okwo.  But the play goes for just three yards on the right side.

2:14 - 3rd & 4 brings the "magic" defense onto the field...  Fifth-year senior safety David Lofton has good coverage against tight end Brandyn McCall and makes a great break-up on the pass attempt.  No doubt that Lofton this year is the best we have seen in his Cardinal career.

2:15 - Folk has a bad punt.  There's a break.  That goes only 24 yards off the side of his foot before rolling out of bounds.  But he was operating with a short field, punting from the 50.  Not too different at the Stanford 26 from a touchback.

2:16 - Redshirt junior quarterback T.C. Ostrander is on with the offense for this second series.  Stanford doctors are working on Edwards on the training table.  It looks like his right foot...  Freshman running back Toby Gerhart is in the backfield, though that is a rotation decision and not an injury issue as with Edwards at quarterback.  Lorig is in again for a two-tight looks.  Starting receivers Lynn and freshman Austin Yancy are wide...  Gerhart gets two yards.

2:16 - Sherman substitutes for a three-wide formation, but it's actually a screen pass to Gerhart.  He has Vinson and Lorig out blocking for him, and Gerhart makes a nifty cut to pick up a first down and 12 yards out to the Stanford 40.

2:17 - Stanford calls a time out.  I think Ostrander was slow getting the huddle and play rolling.

2:19 - We have split backs of Gerhart and redshirt junior fullback Emeka Nnoli.  Dray is at tight end, with Yancy and Lynn split wide...  Now Sherman is on for Lynn while we wait for the time out to conclude.  Ostrander has loads of time but is late to step up in the pocket.  As he attempts to scramble and is wrapped up, the Cardinal reserve quarterback fumbles the ball.  Arizona recovers on the 40.  Huge blow and a costly mental mistake by Ostrander.

2:21 - Arizona does not throw down the field like I expect after the turnover, but why bother when you can gobble 14 yards running on first down?  This smells like trouble.

2:22 - Another quick pass outside to Steptoe, followed by a good run for yardage.  This goes for eight yards.  Way too easy.  Folks, this game is going to be bad.  This feels like the 2005 UC Davis game, but against markedly better athletes.

2:23 - There goes the air from the Cardinal balloon.  Austin hits Chris Henry past the line of scrimmage on a quick slant, and he has only Harrison to beat to get to the goalline.  Harrison reaches but cannot wrap.  Touchdown.  Arizona 14, Stanford 0.  That took just 1:23 to go 40 yards in three plays.  Holy schnikes.

2:24 - Folk's kickoff goes deep almost out of the back of the endzone for a touchback.  Stanford will start at its 20.

2:25 - A quick-hitting inside run by Nnoli on first down picks up nine-plus yards and nearly moves the chains.  Nice play...  Kimble picks up the short-yardage first down the next play on a two-yard run up the middle.

2:26 - Arizona feigns a blitz and the offensive line (Vinson) jumps for a false start.  1st & 15.

2:28 - Stanford picks up those five yards on a quick pass to Yancy.

2:29 - On 3rd & 10, Ostrander scrambles left and then back to his right.  He has visions of making the great play after evading defenders, but instead he digs a deeper hole for Stanford with a 12-yard sack back at the 19-yardline.  The way Stanford is playing on defense, this looks like trouble.  Add this stuff on offense, and we have the early makings of the worst Stanford game of this season.  And that's saying a lot!

2:30 - Before Arizona can snap their first play, the quarter expires.  Three more to go.  Oh my...  Edwards has been taken to the locker room, by the way.

2:33 - Arizona helps out with a holding penalty downfield on first down, negating a gain and setting up 1st & 14.

2:34 - After a three-yard gain by Xavier Smith, the Wildcats have another penalty.  False start sets up 2nd & 16...  But they pick up 16 yards right away on a pass to Thomas.  Arizona is back in business.

2:35 - Arizona picks up five yards on a Smith run, but Okwo makes a great stop, hitting the ballcarrier and stopping him right in his tracks.

2:36 - After a Smith run of three yards, we have 3rd & 2 on the Stanford 42.  Smith takes the ball outside to the right, and he's quick.  Okwo tries to dive for a tackle but cannot get there.  Sims makes the stop and was the only man separating this from becoming a 21-point game.  But Arizona is at the Stanford 31 and cruising.

2:38 - Nice run stuff by redshirt freshman outside linebacker Will Powers of Henry on second down for no gain.  That sets up 3rd & 7...  Redshirt sophomore defensive end Pannel Egboh gets a pressure, and Austin throws wide of Thomas with Lofton right on his hip in good coverage.

2:39 - Folk hits a 45-yard field goal.  Arizona 17, Stanford 0.

2:40 - During this timeout, I think Walt Harris has a decision to make.  Can you climb back into this game, or will this just continue to go badly?  If you think that 20 minutes into the game is too soon to give up, and this depleted roster has a chance to claw back, I would think hard about putting Evan Moore on the field this next series.  Stanford needs a spark, and this offense needs serious help.

2:42 - No such luck.  It's Sherman and Yancy wide with two tight ends.  Ostrander throws to Gerhart coming out of the backfield, but the pass is behind him and he has to slow up.  The play only picks up three yards.

2:43 - False start makes it 2nd & 12.  We have Lynn on for a three-wide look...  Play looks like a bubble screen while my eyes follow the receivers, but instead it's a draw to Kimble.  Two yards.  I was fooled, but Arizona was not.

2:44 - Delay of game penalty on the offense?  Wow.  Welcome to 3rd & 15!

2:45 - Backs and receivers go out in patterns, but Ostrander freezes and takes a sack of eight yards back on his own six.  My Lord, this is ugly.

2:45 - Ottovegio has to punt from his endzone, but he boots it 44 yards and has Osaisai immediately there to cover for no gain.  That is just about Stanford's best play they can produce on offense right now.  Quick kick, anyone?  Edwards is not on the field, but Ostrander was a very good punter in high school and is Stanford's back-up to Ottovegio.

2:47 - Arizona opens from the 50-yardline with a wide receiver screen, but Stanford is there with fifth-year senior safety Trevor Hooper to wrap it up before it can pick up anything.

2:48 - On 2nd & 10, it's a shotgun draw by Jennings.  Okwo is the first man with a chance at the tackle, but Jennings runs by him.  All in all, I don't see the same Okwo out there today that we had seen the last four weeks.  Cats have a first down (11 yards).

2:49 - Arizona loses a shotgun snap over Austin's head, and Sims is there to tackle him after he picks up the ball.  That's a 16-yard loss.  Arizona takes a timeout.

2:50 - Can you believe there is just 4:39 left in the second quarter?  This game is moving mercifully swiftly...  I suppose the optimist would examine this as an opportunity for Stanford to get the ball back and have one shot at a scoring drive before the half.  Can the defense get off the field with a 2nd & 26, though?

2:51 - Arizona calls another time out.  This is excruciating to watch.

2:53 - Despite the long down-and-distance, Stanford has its base defense on the field...  Arizona runs and picks up seven yards before redshirt freshman outside linebacker Clinton Snyder wraps up.

2:54 - There is the speed and playmaking of Wopamo Osaisai!  Stanford brings pressure (Snyder plus somebody up the middle) on 3rd & 19, forcing a long throw by Austin that sails over his target's hands.  Osaisai snares the ball, and after initially colliding with a Cardinal teammate, he races through a maze of Arizona jerseys.  His blinding speed is breathtaking, and he reaches open green by the Arizona 35-yardline.  That all told is a 72-yard interception return for a touchdown.  The crowd has a reason to go wild for the first time today.  Arizona 17, Stanford 7.  Again, Osaisai's speed was absolutely awesome on that return.

2:56 - Belch boots this one deep into the endzone with just a little tailwind.  Arizona will start on their 20, and we have 3:38 to go in the half.  If Stanford can make stops and use its timeouts, they could still have another offensive possession...  Cats quarterback Austin was on the ground holding his knee after the Osaisai interception return, and now Kris Heavner is in the game under center...  Arizona runs on first down.  Smart.

2:58 - Second down is a run to the left sideline, but a five-yard face mask gives a first down.

2:59 - There is a better example of Stanford swarming on defense.  Redshirt freshman defensive end Matt Kopa and Okwo hit Henry behind the line of scrimmage and stuff him for a loss of less than a yard.

3:00 - Stanford and Egboh stop the run on second down, setting up 3rd & 8 on the Arizona 35.  Stanford uses a time out.  There is 1:25 to go in the half...  Arizona has the lead and their third-string quarterback in the game.  They should play it safe and run here.

3:01 - They do, and Henry runs straight ahead for nine yards.  He is tackled by Snyder.  There goes the chance for the offense to touch the ball again this half.  That's a first down and will let Arizona get safely to the locker room - maybe even take a crack at a field goal...  Snyder is slow to get up and has to be attended by trainers.  He jogs off under his own power and is replaced by redshirt junior outside linebacker Udeme Udofia.

3:04 - Arizona runs for five yards and calls a timeout with 44 seconds to go in the half.  They are just shy of midfield at the 49...  Snyder come back onto the field, while Udofia plays the other OLB position.

3:05 - Henry runs for four yards.  It's 3rd & 1, but Arizona is taking lots of time.  They kneel it out and take their 10-point lead to the half.

3:26 - Stanford's quarterbacks are on the field as we wind down this halftime.  In addition to Ostrander we have redshirt freshman Tavita Pritchard, redshirt sophomore walk-on Garrett Moore and true freshman Alex Loukas.  No Trent Edwards anywhere to be found.  The Cardinal will receive this kickoff and start with the ball to open the second half.

3:27 - It's another touchback for Folk.  Stanford will start at its 20.

3:28 - We again have two tight ends and Kimble in the backfield, with Sherman and Yancy split wide.  Sherman appears to have displaced Lynn, who started today, in the "Z" wide receiver position...  Kimble runs for a difficult half-yard on first down...  Nnoli comes in for Dray for a two-back set, and he runs for one yard.  Quite a bit of double-tight formations of Lorig and Dray today.

3:29 - 3rd & 9, and we have three-wide with Lynn onto the field.  Ostrander is pressured and scrambles ahead for two yards.  Three and out.  At least the clock is ticking.

3:30 - Nice punt by Ottovegio, traveling 44 yards but more importantly pinning Steptoe against his sideline.  Redshirt junior linebacker Landon Johnson is the first man there, but he freezes and makes no play near the ball.  Steptoe is able to manage 14 yards on the punt return, bringing the ball out to the Arizona 47.

3:32 - Adam Austin is out for the rest of the game for Arizona, putting Heavner under center the rest of the way.  Expect lots of running from the Wildcats this half...  It's a three-yard run on first down, stuffed by Okwo.

3:33 - Arizona runs again, and Okwo is there again.  This play gets three yards of forward progress before Okwo carried Jennings about 15 yards backward after the stop.  Okwo looks stronger to start this half.  He might excel in an environment with assured running plays on almost every down.

3:34 - Arizona had Steptoe under center on 3rd & 4, with Heavner out wide.  A little trickeration?  But the Cats have to call a time out.

3:36 - Austin is now where he belongs, and a shotgun formation with an empty backfield shows us he will pass for the first time today...  He hits tight end Brandyn McCall on a quick hit for six yards and the first down.

3:36 - Jennings runs the ball outside to the left and beats Sims in the open field, then able to pick up 16 yards and another first down.  Arizona is at the Stanford 25.  After apparent progress the last two weeks against UCLA and Notre Dame, it looks like the Stanford defense once again is unable to stop or contain the run.  That means trouble the rest of the way this season.

3:38 - Jennings runs on first and second down pick up just five yards, setting up 3rd & 5 inside the Stanford 20.  Arizona calls another time out.

3:40 - Arizona sets up with two tight ends and a single back, one tight end in motion.  It'll be a running play... and Jennings runs through a huge hole on the right side for a seven-yard gain.  That's 1st & 10 at the Stanford 13.  The defense has to come up with a stop there, but they are being run all over today.

3:42 - Another two runs and it's another third down - three to go.  This time they put Steptoe in the backfield again with Heavner wide.  Steptoe takes the shotgun snap and runs straight ahead.  Redshirt junior inside linebacker Pat Maynor shows no hesitation and reaches him in the blink of an eye - loss of a yard.

3:43 - That forces another Arizona field goal, which minimizes the damage but does put the Wildcats up two touchdowns.  Arizona 20, Stanford 7.

3:45 - Folk kicks another touchback out of the back of the endzone.  Stanford will start at its 20, and Gerhart is on in the backfield.

3:46 - It's a pass to Nnoli out of the backfield for a gain of 13 yards, but a flag for holding calls it back.  That was a smart playcall to help Ostrander's confidence and get him an easy completion, but the Cardinal undo the good.  Too many penalties today.

3:47 - Ostrander has 1st & 20 at his 10, which is a difficult position, but he still looks like he is exceptionally out of sorts.  He freezes completely and takes a nine-yard sack just outside his goalline at the one..  This is clearly the worst performance of Ostrander's Cardinal career and not at all expected for a redshirt junior.  Time for a quick kick if there ever was one!

3:48 - A quick hand-off to Nnoli picks up two yards and moves the ball out to the three-yardline...  On 3rd & 17, there is the quick kick!  The low punt rolls to the Arizona 43 for 54 yards.  The crowd loves it.

3:49 - Edwards is out of the locker room on crutches with his right foot in a boot.  Put down the pencil and write it in pen, folks.  Stanford is headed for 0-12.

3:51 - Stanford has fifth-year senior inside linebacker Mike Silva in the game in place of Michael Okwo, with the "magic" defense on the field.  Okwo looks fine on the sideline...  Arizona gains eight yards on first down.  Stanford calls its first time out of the second half.

3:54 - Stanford blitzes and stuffs Jennings for no gain...  3rd & 12 and a delay of game for Arizona.  They have no time outs.  3rd & 17...

3:55 - Hooper blitzes from the right side of the defense, which leaves open room for Jennings to run, but Powers sheds his blocker for a nice solo tackle.  Arizona has to punt.

3:56 - Folk boots only the second punt of the game for Arizona and the first that is returnable.  Redshirt freshman cornerback Chris Hobbs runs ahead with the ball for 16 yards, a new high for his young career.

3:57 - Ostrander is on with the offense at the Stanford 39.  He has Nnoli open in the flat and stares him down but doesn't throw.  The crowd immediately moans and wails as Ostrander instead rolls right and throws the ball into the ground.  What is wrong with Ostrander today?

3:58 - A play-action roll-out has Ostrander all alone with Lorig in front of him.  That's an easy high-percentage pass, which nets immediate excitement from the crowd, but he throws the ball low and behind his tight end.  Lorig has to fall down to the grass to catch it and picks up only four yards.

3:59 - Ostrander is swallowed as soon as he takes the ball on third down, and this one is not his fault.  That's a four-yard sack and time for a punt - after we start the fourth quarter...  Any interest in a fake here?  Or is this game just so hopeless with what is happening on offense that you don't want to "waste" the play?

4:01 - Ottovegio punts it and crushes it.  That's a 50-yard kick, and sure enough Osaisai is there.  He is blocked at first, but Landon Johnson is there to head off Steptoe long enough for Osaisai to recover and make the tackle after a mere four-yard return.

4:02 - Silva is still at linebacker...  Arizona runs for four yards on first down.

4:03 - Henry runs on second down in a strange play.  He is stuck by Hooper on a run into the second level of the defense, but his knees never touch the ground, so the Wildcat runner twists around and starts running again.  He is finally tackled by Harrison after 11 yards.  That is a little reminiscent of the long touchdown run in 2001 by Kenneth Tolon in Tucson, albeit this one not going the distance.

4:05 - I think Osaisai will be an obvious interview focus after today's game.  Arizona attempts a wide receiver screen, which Osaisai blows up in a flash for a big stick behind the line of scrimmage.  That loses three yards, and he celebrates wildly with his teammates.

4:06 - The defense is sparked and coming alive.  Redshirt freshman defensive end Tom McAndrew races into the backfield and hog-ties Henry for a three-yard loss.  3rd & 27 is upcoming...  Silva wraps up Henry after a harmless seven-yard run.  The clock is ticking down to 11 minutes, and Arizona is playing it safe to try and get out of here with their first Pac-10 win.

4:07 - Hobbs lets a punt roll, and it takes a good Arizona bounce.  That goes for 54 yards and sacrifices some of the field position Stanford should have expected after that strong defensive series.

4:09 - Ostrander drops back to pass and has running room, but hesitates.  He gets four yards but takes a hit.  This game is still within reach, and in almost any other situation, you would change quarterbacks.  But Ostrander may be playing for a while this season, and he needs to play through this - however he fares...  Kimble runs for two more yards on second down.  This offense has just 23 yards on the game.  My goodness!...  Stanford time out.

4:13 - Ostrander hits Yancy on a quick pattern to the right side for eight yards and a first down.  The crowd gives hearty applause for the first first down completion in three-plus quarters of play for Ostrander...  Notice that fifth-year senior wideout Marcus McCutcheon is in the game.  We last saw him on September 2 in Eugene.

4:15 - After an incompletion (throw-away) and delay of game penalty, we have 2nd & 15...  Ostrander throws a little screen pass to Dray, which is complete.  Arizona is right there, though, and it picks up just five yards.

4:16 - Arizona blitzes on third down and two defenders devour Ostrander up the middle for a five-yard sack.

4:17 - Ottovegio and Osaisai team up for another great punt and coverage, this time forcing Steptoe into a fair catch after a 47-yard punt.  Aside from Osaisai's interception return (a season highlight), that duo is the best/only good thing going on for Stanford today.

4:19 - Okwo is back on the field alongside Maynor for the defense...  Smith runs and spins his way to 17 yards.  With under six minutes to go, Arizona can either run out the clock or maybe pad the final tally with another score.

4:21 - 3rd & 1 for Arizona at their 46, and Henry squirts through for an easy four yards and the first down.

4:21 - Time for me to head down to the field for post-game interviews.  This won't be fun.  See you all on the flip side!

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