View from the Press Box: San Jose State

Daniel Novinson was up in the box and at the top of his game during the Card's first home shut out since '72, a surprising 37-0 win over San Jose State that did justice to the "Bill Walsh Legacy Game", ended a painfully-long non-winning streak at the New Stanford Stadium, and served notice that the building can legitimately be referred to as "Our House" (and more emphatically as "C-House!"

Pregame - Bad Omen: Utah 44, UCLA 7. UCLA was actually outgained in their victory over BYU last week. Utah had scored 19 total points in season-opening losses to Oregon State and Air Force. All this to say, Stanford's defense might be in more trouble than we thought, given the yardage they hemorrhaged in the season opener.

Pregame - Talk about a slap across the face. America's newspaper of record calls Notre Dame "a third-tier team, Stanford with a national television contract." Ouch.

7:08 p.m.San Jose State returns the opening kick and will scrimmage from the 26. Estimated actual attendance: 23,000. Estimated SID-announced attendance: 32,000. (9:32pm edit: Announced at 36,144. I'm speechless.)

7:09 – Bad Omen #2 on San Jose State's opening handoff as Stanford whiffs on two tackles, Clinton Snyder most egregiously.

7:12Bo McNally brings San Jose State's opening drive to a close, fighting off a blocker and making a third-down tackle of speedster Domi Hunsucker at the Spartan 47 on a sweep left. After the punt, corners Wopamo Osaisai and Spartan Christopher Owens are jawing and shoving each other. Something to keep an eye on as Stanford starts from its 14.

7:15 – Really poor 2nd-and-4 run from Anthony Kimble gains just a yard. The holes were there; Kimble's vision wasn't as he plowed straight into three defenders at the Stanford 20. Mark Bradford bails out Kimble on a third-down crossing route, dragging corner Jonathan Harris for a 17-yard gain to the Cardinal 37.

7:17 – He's baaack... A five-yard Toby Gerhart run gives Stanford a first down at midfield, its third of this opening drive.

7:18 – San Jose State is selling out to the run in a major way. They're putting eight in the box on this drive, rushing five or six, and all 11 defenders are usually within 10 yards of the line.

7:21 – Sure enough, San Jose State brings six on a third-and-five at the Spartan 46 after a timeout, the line does a great job of picking up the rush and buying T.C. Ostrander time, and an uncovered Richard Sherman turns a dump into a 29-yard gain. Offensive pass interference wipes out the yardage, but a late out-of-bounds hit on Sherman is an automatic first down. This line isn't good at run blocking but is much better at pass protecting than last year's team.

7:25 – Sorry to say it, but the Spartan fans' "F--- you Stanford" is MUCH louder than the student section's "Let's go Stanford" from my seat. Classiness notwithstanding, visiting fans have consistently made more noise than the home fans in my four years here. Slowest game ever, as Stanford's burnt two timeouts on this drive. There are nine minutes left in the first quarter still.

7:26 – Exactly the right call when the Spartans are clogging the box – a quick flare to true freshman Doug Baldwin on the right sideline. It goes for 11 and a Stanford first at the Spartans' 35.

7:29 – After Ostrander floats what needed to be a line-drive third-down play-action cross (and gets Evan Moore popped), a 52-yarder from Derek Belch is the 10th-longest in Stanford history, and the longest since 1999 (Mike Biselli). 3-0 Stanford. Drive: 13 plays, 51 yards, 5:58. 6:51 to go in the first.

7:34 – Delayed blitz works like a charm for the Cardinal on a third-down. SJSU puts seven up front, with one receiver and two slot backs. Even with all that protection, a blitzing Fred Campbell is unaccounted for and pops QB Adam Tafralis right as he releases his throw. Give the Card front seven credit, but the Spartans really are not playing well. (As I type this, they line-drive a 34-yard punt.) If Stanford does go on to win this, let's not draw too many conclusions. The way Oregon's playing, I'm afraid next Saturday will be a sobering wake-up call. 4:34 left in the first, 3-0 Stanford.

7:43 – Ostrander overshoots a wide-open Bradford on a play-action go route on a 2nd-and-7. His third-down checkdown to Doug Baldwin is behind Baldwin, changing a would-be first down into a 4th-and-2. Like last week, Ostrander has good numbers because most of his throws have been short checkdowns to open receivers, but his lack of accuracy worries me.

7:43 – The Spartans really cannot run the ball, despite loading the line with two tight ends. Here, a 1st-and-10 right off-tackle goes for three, and the same play on second goes for just one (only to be called back for illegal formation).

7:49Pannel Egboh's first to the scene, but it takes six Stanford guys to sack Tafralis at the Spartan 23. Unfortunately, only five were legal – Bo McNally's late dive over the pile is whistled for unsportsmanlike and brings a fitting end to a chippy, ugly first quarter. Stanford 3, SJSU 0.

7:52 – Anyone else just see a guy with a Bank of America card picked for the Wells Fargo promo? [Editor's Note: Anyone notice that current Bank of America ads are touting that their card allows you an option to earn money for the University of California at Berkeley?]

7:55 – McNally comes through with a great breakup of a third-down crossing route. After the punt, Gerhart busts two up the middle, the first for 14 and a first down, the second for another five. He's hitting the holes harder than any Stanford back I've seen in my three years here. I wish our other backs ran as north-south as he did. Of course, Kimble gets the next first down on a six-yard sweep left.

7:56 – Ostrander has time on a 2nd-and-10, but misses a wide-open Dray on a crossing route. Awful throw, and another awful half from Ostrander, but give the big bellies up front credit – they are protecting really well. Really well, as in if Tom Brady had that kind of protection, he wouldn't have to worry about fathering illegitimate children.

No matter, an open Dray catches the same pass for 13 and a first down on the next play. Then, a good throw from Ostrander to a curling Evan Moore sets up 3rd-and-1. Next play sees a great spin move by Gerhart turn a would-be 4th-&-4 into 4th-&-2. Belch on for a 37-yarder – good! 6-0. 10 plays, 46 yards, 4:15. 9:54 left in the second.

8:04 – Bad enough that a San Jose State reverse goes for 14 as junior Kevin Jurovich has more speed than the entire Stanford defense. But Wopamo Osaisai, the one guy who can keep up, hits him three yards out of bounds. After offsetting 15-yarders on the next play, "enthusiasm unknown to mankind" is looking like "personal fouls unknown to mankind". Big Game 2004 flashbacks, anyone?

8:10 – This year's mascot looks like a post-global warming tree. Only things left in the world will be the cockroaches and that thing.

8:11 – Stanford takes over on its 27 after SJSU pulls a 44-yard field goal wide left. First play sees Gerhart shed a tackle and rumble down the right sideline for a 49-yarder, only to be caught from behind (that whole lack-of-speed thing).

8:12 – Ostrander throws into triple coverage in the back left corner of the end zone, and the gift is picked off by corner Chris Owens. Next play, San Jose State picks up 36 yards on a drag route to Jurovich in a huge hole in the Cardinal defense. Where are the linebackers?

8:18 – Good adjustment by SJSU on a 2nd-and-7 from Stanford's 41. They see they can't power through the Stanford front, so they use a speed option look and Ekom Udofia is late to fill the hole. The result is a six-yard gain that sets up a 3rd-and-1 at the Stanford 35 with six minutes left in the half.

8:20 – Two observations: 1. Osaisai's now jawing with receiver Terrance Williams after the play – someone has to take him out and calm him down. 2. Bad tackling is much more obvious than good tackling, so it bears mentioning that Stanford's wrapping up pretty well today.

8:23 – Great noise from the crowd on a 4th-and-1 and great diving break-up by McNally, who gets one hand on Tafralis' bootleg right tight end pass. That is two drives McNally's ended singlehandedly, in both senses of the word.

8:24Allen Smith is beaten like a drum and Ostrander's hit from the back for a fumble, which he's very lucky to recover at the 24.

8:26 – Ostrander can't make two good passes in a row. Low throws to an open Bradford and Sherman sandwich a 21-yard out route to Moore . Hard for Bradford to get drafted when no one is throwing it to him.

Word in the press box is that linebacker Clinton Snyder has a pinched nerve and will be evaluated at halftime.

8:29 – Two positives from this first half. 1. The Card have found a running back in Gerhart. 2. Stanford's found a field goal-kicker in Belch, who sneaks a 50-yarder over the crossbar for a 9-0 lead with 25 seconds left in the half. Stanford 9, SJSU 0 after a nine-play, 46-yard drive in 3:02.

8:31 – Freshman Chike Amajoyi gets faked out of his jock strap on a Tafralis pump. 11 yards on the scramble and the Spartans are at their 38. No harm though, as a last-second Tafralis Hail Mary is knocked down, so it's 9-0 at the half. Ostrander's 11-19 for 102 and an interception, Gerhart has 95 on eight carries, Kimble 32 yards on nine touches. Bradford has three catches for 32 yards. Stanford's first home halftime lead since the UCLA collapse of 2005.

8:49 – Oh, the band. They ran with the premise that they finally cleaned their act up and were now a traditional marching band in the USC-mold, playing "Tribute to Tribute to Troy ." Then the tree escaped from his cage, knocked over the band and they were their old selves. Anyone else notice they seemed a little slow forming the N in F – U – N?

8:59 – After a looong halftime, Gerhart starts off where he left off with runs of 12, 8 and 12. That's a Stanford back's first 100-yard game since J.R. Lemon against Washington in 2004. If I'm the coaching staff, I name him the starter and wean off Kimble – Gerhart has shown me instincts as a tailback Kimble hasn't in his three years here. Kimble's got great speed, so maybe I move him to returner with McGraw, because Chris Hobbs hasn't shown me much at all? What about lining him up at running back and then splitting him out wide to create mismatches?

9:03 – It's official. Beautiful run, Stanford's best single play of the season, as Gerhart runs off right tackle at the Spartan 13 and sees a lane. He hits the hole just before it closes, makes another cut as several defenders whiff and uses a stiff arm to ward off the last defensive back and jog into the end zone. He needs to start and maybe the running attack is decent after all. Stanford 16, SJSU 0. Eight plays, 66 yards, 3:56. 11:04 to go in the third.

9:07 – Lorig runs down a sweeping Hunsucker and collars him down for no gain at the Spartan 47. I don't think there's another Stanford defensive lineman that could make that play. The Spartans then down a punt at the Stanford one, and the Cardinal can't get outside the five on its first two tries. Harbaugh shows some courage, considering Ostrander's inconsistency, by calling a slant to Bradford on third down, and the call pays off for a first down at the 13. Gerhart seems a little gimpy after a running play on the series though, and limps off.

9:20 – Good drive for Ostrander. A second-down slant to Bradford is on the money but dropped (Stanford's first drop of the day, by my book), and then Ostrander finds Ladner, probably his third or fourth option, under pressure on third down. It's an 11-yard gain to the Stanford 30 that moves the sticks. Ostrander's behind an open Bradford on the subsequent third down though, forcing a punt. Bradford jumps up and down – his frustration is visible. Jay Ottovegio punts for 41 yards and San Jose State scrimmages from its own 25.

9:28 – After forcing a quick Spartan punt, Stanford is again moving the ball, advancing to the Spartan 46 at the end of the third. The nickel-and-dime attack is working today – and good thing. The next four opponents (Oregon, Arizona State, TCU and USC) could each win ten games, so thank goodness Stanford has a game like this as tangible proof that they really are improving, for the fans, for the recruits, and most of all for themselves.

9:33 – SJSU bites really hard on a play-action fake, and Ostrander finds a wide-open Sherman for 46 yards and a touchdown. The Spartans have major problems with pass coverage. 76 yards, five plays, 1:36. 14:52 to go, Stanford 23-0.

9:35 – Hunsucker torches Austin Yancy and has a touchdown dead to rights, but Tafralis' throw is so short Hunsucker actually does a spin move waiting for it. Yancy recovers to distract Hunsucker into dropping the thing. On the next play, McNally, who's the defensive MVP in my book, snuffs out a sweep left for a five-yard loss. He's come on ever since last year's game up in Seattle .

9:37 – From my keyboard to God's ears (or at least Tafralis' arm). Tafralis overthrows his receiver by a good 10 yards, but hits McNally right between the 2s. McNally returns it 28 yards to the 14, hurdling a would-be tackler in the process, and Kimble takes the next carry off-tackle left for the score. San Jose State's kind of quit here, but 30-0 is 30-0! 13:36 left, one play, 14 yards, six seconds.

9:39 – Enter San Jose State backup quarterback Sean Flynn. He doesn't do much better than Tafralis though, as the Spartans go sack, false start, fumble, run up the gut, 4th-and-27 punt.

9:48 – Okay, San Jose State's definitely quit. Backup tight end Austin Gunder is WIDE open – as in, "no one within 15 yards open" – and Ostrander finds him with a wobbly throw on the left sideline for a 27-yard score. It's 37-0 with 9:40 to go. 43 yards, four plays, 2:00.

9:59 – After another Spartan three-&-out, Tavita Pritchard is in for Stanford, and shows nice wheels on a bootleg right for 18 and a Stanford first down. Jeremy Stewart's in at running back, too, getting two touches for three yards. I'm headed down to the field to prep for the post-game interviews. It should be a more talkative, more festive locker room than I have seen in awhile.


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