What They're Saying: Stanford 23, SJSU 10

We predicted Stanford would pass better than they did Saturday, but no one could have called the defensive front shutting down San Jose State's run game and leading the way to eight sacks. What does it all mean for the rest of the Card's season? Plus, we have links to writers from around the Bay and the nation on Stanford's 23-16 win over SJSU.

Stanford 23, San Jose St. 10

Rush D impresses, pass attack disappoints

In my weekly gameday preview, I predict yardage for each team's ground and air attacks. It's good fun, and helps me think and write critically about what to expect each upcoming Saturday, but those predictions also just as useful after the final horn sounds.

My objective with these predictions is not to go out on any limb to be controversial, or don my Cardinal-colored glasses to blend in, but to be as objective as possible, to rely heavily on the teams' performances this year and last to come up with conventional wisdom yardage totals. If you made me the manager of a casino and said keeping my job was dependent upon setting as fair of yardage totals as possible, these are the numbers I would use. And heading into last week, my read of all the data had Stanford rushing for 190 and passing for 220, while allowing San Jose State 210 passing and 150 rushing in a 34-24 win.

So today's question is how did the teams fare in comparison to those numbers, and what does that tell us about Stanford moving forward. Stanford's 204 rushing was pretty close to our expectations, and while the Spartans' 165 passing yards were a bit low, the Spartans only passed 26 times and Kyle Reed completed 23 of those throws.

Our true outliers then are, first, the Tavita Pritchard-led Cardinal passing for just 159 yards, no touchdowns and one interception on sub-50 percent accuracy. I don't mean to imply that the struggles are all on Pritchard's shoulders, but whatever the cause, it is simply inarguable that the passing game's performance against SJSU casts a huge cloud over the rest of Stanford's season.

Show me a pass attack that can't spring a receiver for a 50-yard game against San Jose State, and I'm going to show you a whole lot of eight and nine-man fronts over the next two months. Speaking of which, I like that Toby Gerhart is speaking up in the media about how he's seeing defenses shift accordingly. Some would call it selfish, but maybe it'll force Jim Harbaugh into playing Andrew Luck or otherwise trying something new. Because if the passing game continues to perform at this level, Stanford will win one more game the rest of the way.

The other outlier is the defensive front putting up an insane eight sacks and allowing the Spartans just 54 rushing yards. Most salient to me is that the defensive line was directly responsible for all of those sacks, save for Kris Evans' sack and Pat Maynor's 1.5. I wrote heading into this week about how players in Stanford's back seven like Clinton Snyder, Bo McNally and Chike Amajoyi had been disappointingly quiet. And on the one hand, the point stands, because who would have thought those guys totalled no sacks in a game where Stanford recorded eight.

However, maybe the shift in player productivity is largely a function of a shift in defensive coordinators and philosophy. Scott Shafer blitzed a ton, putting players like Snyder, McNally and Amajoyi in the thick of 2007 plays and onto 2008 preseason award watch lists. With a more conservative scheme this year, the big plays out of the backfield are way down and opposing quarterbacks are posting insane yardage totals and completion percentages. But the run defense and pass rush do seem to have improved, and it seems only fair to point some of the credit in Ron Lynn's direction.

That's my take. Let's see what some other scribes thought about Saturday's final.


Stanford figures out San Jose St.
Associated Press

Even the bright guys wearing Stanford uniforms seemed a bit bewildered early Saturday night while [Kyle] Reed completed 16 straight passes and the Spartans took a 10-0 lead.
There's a reason those players got into Stanford, however. Once the Cardinal figured out how to stop the scheme, they had no trouble rolling past their nearest rivals.


Cardinal pulls it out
By Jon Wilner
San Jose Mercury News

In front of an announced crowd of 33,293, the Cardinal held SJSU to minus-24 yards in the fourth quarter and sacked quarterback Kyle Reed eight times — Stanford's highest total in five years.

Stanford takes chances, shows some attitude
Jake Curtis
San Francisco Chronicle

Why did Stanford go for a touchdown with nine seconds left in the game and a 16-10 lead?
Coach Jim Harbaugh said he thought about just taking a knee, but said, "We really wanted to establish that attitude on the offensive line and the offense, to finish off a drive."  

Stanford pulls away in fourth quarter
Michelle Smith
San Francisco Chronicle

[J]unior quarterback Tavita Pritchard did enough to hang on to the job that could well have been handed over to freshman Andrew Luck had he not performed.  

Against Spartans, Cardinal didn't need Luck on its side
By Darren Sabedra
San Jose Mercury News 

Gerhart finished with a career-best 148 yards in 22 carries after gaining 27 yards in the first half. As expected, he drew a lot of defensive attention because Stanford's passing attack was inconsistent.

Spartans can't crash Cardinal sack party
Bay Area News Group

Back-to-back sacks by redshirt freshman Tom Keiser really sprung Stanford free in this one and started that game-clinching sack spree. (By the way, Toby Gerhardt's 2-yard touchdown run with nine seconds remaining set free those who bet on Stanford.)

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