This one played almost exactly to form.
Rudy Carpenter, statistically the Pac-10's best quarterback for two years running, put up some impressive numbers on the Cardinal, completing 75 percent of his passes for 345 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. As expected, the secondary was the weakest link in Stanford's defense.
Offensively, the fears Stanford fans had about the passing game were realized, with Tavita Pritchard's 18 completions going for all of 97 yards. His two picks didn't help matters either, nor did backup Jason Forcier's 2-for-6 day. Stanford's best receiver was indeed Richard Sherman (three catches, 54 yards), and if injury forces him to miss upcoming games, the passing attack could get worse before it gets any better.
Stanford lost by 24 points and was more than doubled up in total yardage (472 yards to 233), and ASU's 34:41 of possession also stings. Cardinal fans hoped these margins would be closer (and that Oregon State would look halfway respectable against Penn State), but ASU is one of the top teams in the Pac-10 and Stanford isn't; this was expected too.
However, Saturday night in Tempe did reinforce some strengths we suspected the Cardinal would display. First, the front seven is a bona fide Pac-10 unit, as Carpenter felt pressure (especially in the first half), and it took the Devils 36 carries to reach 127 rushing yards. The Cardinal will win football games if they keep allowing 3.5 yards per carry.
Most saliently, Stanford has a real, functional ground game for the first time in years, and a real, Pac-10-level back in Toby Gerhart. Gerhart ran for 67 yards and two scores on his 16 carries, and as a team, the Cardinal finished with 113 yards on 30 carries. Those numbers don't scream, "Make space in the Hall of Fame Room for a Heisman trophy," but they speak to consistency offensively. Perhaps they speak to a blue-collar mentality that, after years of its conspicuous absence, Harbaugh has managed to return to the Farm. Dating back to last year, Stanford has now ran for 100 yards in six straight games.
That's our take. Here's what scribes from around the country are
Devils defense melts Stanford
Ted Miller, ESPN
"'A couple announcers on ESPN picked them to beat us,' linebacker Gerald Munns said. 'We were a little pumped up for that.'
Things got decidedly better [after Stanford's first drive] in 15th-ranked ASU's 41-17 victory. Stanford managed to gain just 153 yards the rest of the game, with the Sun Devils defense forcing three interceptions."
No. 15 Arizona State top Stanford 41-17
Andrew Bagnato, Associated Press
"The Sun Devils (2-0) had won the last two meetings with Stanford by a combined score of 79-6, but this one was tighter, at least for three quarters."
passed over by ASU
Michelle Smith, San Francisco Chronicle
"Arizona State is an upper echelon team in the Pac-10. Stanford is not there yet. Arizona State is a potent offensive team capable of racking up big numbers. Stanford is not there yet."
Stanford is smothered
in desert heat
Darren Sabedra, San Jose Mercury News
"Despite a temperature of 103 degrees at kickoff, Stanford trailed by three points late in the first half and was within 10 in the final minutes of the third quarter. But every time it positioned itself for a crucial stop, the Cardinal couldn't keep Carpenter from making a big play."
Stanford swamped by the Sun Devils, 41-17, in Tempe
Mark Thoma, Palo Alto Online
"...it's not certain how the Cardinal will distribute its snaps next Saturday against Texas Christian. It hardly mattered here Saturday against the No. 14 Sun Devils.
Heisman Trophy candidate Rudy Carpenter threw for 345 yards and three touchdowns, while Tavita Pritchard, Jason Forcier and Alex Loukas combined for120 yards and three interceptions."
Sun Devils roll past Cardinal
Jeff Metcalfe, The Arizona Republic
"Arizona State was supposed to dominate Stanford in passing.
When the No. 15-ranked Sun Devils also led in rushing Saturday night, the Cardinal had no chance at Sun Devil Stadium."
"ASU Head Coach Dennis Erickson stated in the days leading up to the Stanford game that his team will "come out flinging it." True to his word, the Sun Devils exposed the weak Stanford secondary…"
Carpenter and Arizona State carve up Stanford
East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.)
"The frequent-blitzing reputation and sieve-like secondary of Stanford made unleashing the passing game a shiny, candy-like button to Arizona State.
On Saturday night, Arizona State pressed the button and held it down…"
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