How you feel about Stanford's home opener against San Jose State may depend on just how late you stayed up Saturday night for the affair. The final score of 63-26 bespeaks the spanking that unfolded in the second half of the game, though the 28-26 narrow lead that the Card clung to in the opening minute of the 3rd quarter was a result of sloppy play on offense and special teams that invoked memories of all-too painful recent losses to the Spartans.
In the first half of the game, the play was frankly sloppy from both teams. Stanford quarterback Chris Lewis threw two interceptions on Stanford's first two series, and the Card later added two more turnovers with a Teyo Johnson INT and a fumble on a hard-hitting sack of Chris Lewis. Stanford's turnstile kickoff coverage also gave up a 99-yard return for a score. San Jose State answered in kind with even greater gusto, throwing three picks and coughing up the ball.
The end analysis of the day is that Stanford controlled this game completely with the offense. When they played cleanly, they could not be stopped; when they mucked something up, they handed San Jose State their scoring opportunities. That conclusion is best borne out with the punting numbers on the day: Stanford punted the ball only once in 17 possessions in this game. Drives predominately ended in Stanford touchdowns or turnovers.
The good news is that a clean Stanford offense showed just how potent BuddyBall can be, especially given that the offense was opened up much more compared to last week's game at Boston College. The bad news is that this offense right now is not clean, with an unacceptable number of turnovers. Stanford likely just played its weakest opponent - possibly its only weak opponent all year - and should not expect to surge to a 37-point win in the face of so many gaffes.
But when it was good, it was very good for the Card in this game, with the 63 points the most from Stanford since 1981. Just look to the second half where Stanford reeled off five unanswered touchdowns. In fact, those five scores came on the first five possessions of the second half. The streak only stopped when quarterback Ryan Eklund threw a pick on his first Stanford career attempt late in the fourth quarter. Sure, Stanford had favorable field position for the five scores, with an average starting point on its own 46 yardline, but this was machine-like precision. And though the aerial acrobatics of BuddyBall get the headlines, it was a punishing and effective running game that spearheaded the second half surge.
And much like Stanford's success running the ball at Boston College in the early goings of the second half, it was a Kyle Matter-to-Casey Moore handoff show that got this thing running. Casey "More and More and" Moore moved the first scoring drive with three straight rushes, including a 35-yard rumble through and around the Sannizay secondary. J.R. "Just Run" Lemon picked up a lot of running slack at the tailback position in this game, after Kerry Carter left the game early due to injury. Lemon made a huge splash with 3 smooth rushing scores in only the second game of his career, totaling 69 yards on 17 carries. Even quarterback Kyle Matter got into the action with two key rushes in the 3rd quarter, the first of which scored from 12 yards out. All told, the Stanford running game netted 258 yards on 47 carries, a 5.5 per-carry average. For those who charge that the running game is gone from Stanford's arsenal, stick that in your pipe and smoke it!
One of the hallmarks of the new Buddy Teevens offense, a deep cadre of players touched the ball. Four players threw the ball. Eight backs carried the ball. Three receivers carried the ball. And seven players caught passes.
As with the BC season opener, Teyo Johnson rocked the party with his second straight receiving game over the century mark. He caught seven balls for 107 yards and two scores in this game, and he did it several different ways: fade pass in the corner endzone, sideline comeback, deep ball down the middle, post pattern, etc. And some of the newer faces to Stanford receiving that we have seen excel in practices got their chances to show it on the field. Big catches were made by Alex Smith, Greg Camarillo and Grant Mason.
Though the Spartans put up 26 points, credit Stanford's defense for a strong showing. They were exposed a few times when the Sannizay speedsters got loose in the open field, but they stuffed most of the Spartan offense. The Cardinal defense held SJSU to a net of 34 yards rushing on 23 carries, just a 1.5 per-carry average. The passing game was held to 177 yards on 18 completions, versus the four interceptions Stanford logged. Matt Leonard tripled his career total by the end of this game, with two outstanding picks, while Stanley Wilson and T.J. Rushing recorded their second and first INTs of their Stanford careers, respectively.
Stanford did lose four starters to injury in the course of this game, though most if not all are thought right now to be minor and not threatening for the next game at Arizona State in two weeks. Chris Lewis could have returned after the hit his leg took, but stayed out. Luke Powell had a minor sprain, but should be back in action this next week of practice. Kerry Carter and Trey Freeman were the other walking wounded.