"The 2009 Report Card-inal": First-Third
Editor's Note: The following commentary offers the
author's personal views of the on-field performances of some of Stanford
University's exceptional student-athletes. In no way should
constructively-intended criticism be deemed as a lack of respect or admiration
for our players' obvious desire and commitment.
Stanford is one third of the way through the season. Any fair-minded fan would have to say 'so far so good'. The Cardinal sits at 3-1 for the season and is in first place in the Pac-10. They are undefeated at home, 2-0 in the Pac-10, and halfway to earning that elusive post-season bowl bid that they crave.
As the Stanford Football team prepares for UCLA and yet another huge Pac-10 game, it is time to pause and rewind and breakdown the performances of the Stanford Cardinal for the first third of the season.
The overall theme is just what a team wants: Pretty good start and getting better every game.
Anyone who is overly critical of the way Andrew Luck is playing has clearly forgotten that he is just a redshirt freshman. Luck has opened his Stanford career 50-83 for 742 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions (and that awkward pass/lateral to Jim Dray that the Huskies returned for a touchdown). Luck has also shown an ability to scramble with the ball and has a touchdown on the ground. Furthermore, he has managed the team "flawlessly" as Coach Harbaugh pointed out. There have been no delay-of-game penalties, the team is crisp getting in and out of the huddle, he is making the correct calls at the line of scrimmage. For the most part he has done everything that the team has asked of him. In the last two games, that has not been too much to review as the running game has been dominant. But Luck showed in the first two games that he has the "tools" and he has shown in the last two games that he has the leadership abilities to run this team even when the ball is being handed off. The future for Luck certainly looks bright. That is good, because as teams try to crank down on Toby Gerhart, the passing game will be needed to pick up the slack.
RUNNING BACKS: A
This is an obvious one. Toby Gerhart
set a career-high with 200 yards rushing against
Backing up Gerhart has been Jeremy Stewart. He has been
impressive. He appears to be running much harder and faster than last year.
There has not been much of a drop-off when Gerhart goes out. Stewart has rushed
for 107 yards and is averaging over six yards per carry. After that
there are true freshmen Tyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor. Each has
looked sharp and has played well. Especially against
Owen Marecic continues to impress at fullback. Coach Harbaugh declared him the best fullback in college football this week. And when it comes to making contact he said, "he does not just like it, he loves it!" Marecic has taken his game to another level, getting into the passing game with four receptions for 72 yards. Back-up nJosh Catron has been a very underrated member of the blocking scheme, providing some nice holes when he is filling in for Marecic.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B
At this point the grade is dropped mostly due
to lack of opportunity. Against
TIGHT ENDS: B
Senior Jim Dray has struggled in the passing game. He had
two drops at
OFFENSIVE LINE: A
This could be the best offensive line on the Farm in 20 years. It is certainly the best we have seen since the Rose Bowl. The combination of veterans and redshirt freshman have blended perfectly. The right side of the line, Chris Marinelli and David DeCastro had a few run plays where they completely crushed the Washington defense left of center. That is the way it has been. The run blocking is opening up huge holes for the run game. On the left side Jonathan Martin showed his ability by actually running in motion twice against the Huskies. Andy Phillips and Chase Beeler have both been solid. All this and Stanford lost starting tackle Matt Kopa in Game One. Now they get sixth-year senior Allen Smith back and it sounds like he will be working into the rotation at left tackle starting this week. The pass defense has been very good, only allowing Luck to be sacked twice this season. There have been a few issues with penalties that still need to be worked out, but so far one has to be impressed mightily with the big men up front.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
This is a group that had huge expectations coming into
the season and maybe because of those expectations they seemed to underachieve
those first couple of games. But as with most of the defensive units, the line
has continued to improve each game. Sophomore Thomas Keiser has been dominant at
one end. He has six sacks, but he has pressured four different quarterbacks out
of the pocket multiple times in each of the four games. He has been a bigger
factor against the run this year as well. Senior Erik Lorig may not be
showing up in the stat sheet as much as expected, but #80 is
constantly applying pressure on the pass rush. The middle of the defensive line
has taken hits with injury. Sophomore Matt Masifilo is out with a knee injury
Another unit that just seems to be getting better. In the
first couple of weeks, team co-captain Clinton Snyder was making tackles
but he appeared to be playing out of position in the middle. SLB Will Powers was
struggling on the outside especially against sweeps. And WLB Chike Amajoyi
looked a bit tentative. That was then, this is now. After Harbaugh challenged
his defense with playing time after the
So many question marks with this unit coming into the
season and so far, they have surprised. There have clearly been some growing
pains. Corey Gatewood got beat on the big pass down to the two yard-line at
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Here is another easy one. Three kickoff returns for
touchdowns for Chris Owusu. They are first in the Pac-10 in kickoff coverage and
in net punting. They are second in the Pac-10 in punt returns, which includes a
It is hard to argue with too much here. Stanford
fans may nit-pick the decision at
If someone would have told you at the beginning of the
season that Stanford would be 3-1 to start the season, you probably would have
taken that. Sure, Stanford easily could have won at
Dave Fowkes is a longtime Stanford Cardinal fan. Born at Stanford hospital and raised on the Peninsula, he has been a football season ticket holder since 1981. In that span he has only missed three home games, but of course never a Big Game. Dave currently works in media both on the air and behind the scenes in advertising sales. He has covered sports on and off since 1992. Currently he works as a traffic, news and sports man on several Bay Area radio stations under a few different on-air aliases. Dave blends the passion of being a fan with the perspective of being a reporter in his stories. For more Stanford football coverage by Dave Fowkes, you can read the "Stanford Football Examiner" at www.stanfordfootballreport.com
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