CARD-INAL": STANFORD 51,
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, dedication,
sacrifice and commitment.
Stanford beat the seventh-ranked team in the country 51-42. The grade seems pretty obvious on that one. Would anyone not award an A+ for that win, given the circumstances? It was certainly the biggest win for the Cardinal at Stanford Stadium in many years. But some of us do exist in this world to nit-pick, and that is where I come in.
RUN GAME: A
rushed 38 times for a school record 223 yards. That seems "A"-worthy to me. His
longest run was only 31 yards. This was not a cheap and easy 223 yards. This was
a pound-it-out, gutsy performance. Gerhart was the difference-maker against a
PASS GAME: A
When the season started everyone knew that Gerhart was the real deal, but would the passing game force defenses to play honestly and leave the field open for Gerhart? That was exactly what happened on Saturday. Andrew Luck made some incredible throws, and his receivers made all the catches. The Cardinal moved up and down the field nearly at will. Luck's statistics may not be eye-opening. He "only" completed 12 passes in a mere 20 attempts. He "only" threw for 251 yards. He "only" threw for two touchdowns. He "only" played one of his best games of the year! His passes went for more than 20 yards per completion! He played error-free football with no interceptions. When they needed a big play from the passing game, it was there. Lucks downfield strike to Chris Owusu for 40-yards was perfection. A well-covered Owusu turned just in time to see the ball arrive in his hands, chest-high. Owusu also made a great catch on the touchdown pass, turning his head from one side to the other to adjust to the ball. Ryan Whalen was solid again with four catches for 72 yards. Jim Dray and Coby Fleener both made important catches. The other key? The receivers made all the catches. The only real dropped ball was by Konrad Reuland in the end zone in the first quarter. But on a squad that has been plagued by frequent drops, it was a mighty fine performance. And another mention here of the offensive line, which did a great job of keeping Luck upright. Left tackle Jonathan Martin struggled a bit early, but he settled down as the game went along. If you are making a pass protection video, use Marinelli from this game. He appeared to be "text book" in his technique and his skill.
RUN DEFENSE: B
defense was pretty good overall. The unit did give up a couple of big runs. But
as a whole they were able to contain a squad that ran right through USC.
LaMichael James rushed for 125 yards on 18 carries. But if you take out his
60-yard touchdown run, that number is not too bad. QB Jason Masoli was
unstoppable the week before. Yet Stanford was able to slow him down to 55 yards
on 10 carries. The defensive line did a very nice job. When you hear coaches
talk about "playing the gaps," Stanford did a very good job of that. Freshman
Chase Thomas was often in the
PASS DEFENSE: C
This is the
unit that has struggled the most. Masoli threw for 334 yards and three
touchdowns. Had it not been for some dropped passes these numbers would have
been even higher. Thomas had a big sack but for the most part the pass rush was
not there. The scheme though seemed built less on rushing the passer and more
about staying in a gap to reduce the run risk on Masoli. When
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
are the unsung heroes of the game. Nate Whitaker was named Pac-10 Special Teams
player of the week. He was 3-for-4 on field goal kicks. He again missed an
important fourth-quarter kick, but he more than made up for it by icing the game
with his 48-yarder with 11-seconds left to play. Maybe more important were his
The game plan was solid. The game plan was easy. Control the ball with Gerhart, plan to score a lot of points, and then make just enough defensive plays to win the game. It worked out perfectly. I know there are a lot of Stanford fans that questioned the decision to kick what turned into the game-icing field goal with seconds left, but the reality is the decision worked.
Stanford beat a very good Oregon Duck football team. It did it on a national stage. It did it convincingly. It will go down as one of the great victories for Stanford in this decade. (Granted there have not been many of them.) The victory is a "building-block" win that sets the stage for a potential big run here in November.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME:
OFFENSE: When a team scores 51 points and has over 500 yards in offense, everybody gets a game ball. But a few who stood out: RB Toby Gerhart (the Pac-10 Player of the Week), QB Andrew Luck, the entire offensive line with bonus stars to senior OT Chris Marinelli, the attitudinal leader of the Tunnel Workers Union.
DEFENSE: The reverse is true, when a team gives up 42 points and 570 yards you would think it is hard to find many deserving, but a few stood out: Chase Thomas, Ekom Udofia, Shayne Skov (I bet he never gets a taunting penalty the rest of his career).
SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Nate Whitaker (Pac-10 Player of the Week), KR Chris Owusu
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
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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