Now that's more like it.
After two wins in which style points were hard to come by, Andrew Luck gave the Stanford students freshly returned from break an extra day of summer vacation, finishing with a career-high 465 passing yards and three touchdowns. Fellow sophomore tailback Stepfan Taylor added three touchdowns of his own as Stanford built a 31-0 halftime lead in a 52-14 thrashing of Wake Forest that was even more lopsided than the final score.
"I could have been better," said Luck, comically humble to a fault, after completing 24-of-32 passes to nine different receivers. "Shouldn't have thrown that pick in the fourth, so I'll have to work on that. But, yeah, I guess you could say I had an okay game."
How dominant was Stanford? The Cardinal (3-0) didn't punt all day, as they faced just eight third downs and produced a first down on seven of those series. The eighth series wasn't a wash either, as Nate Whitaker converted a 38-yard field goal 30 seconds into a second quarter that saw the Card outscore their visitors 24-0.
On the game's opening drive, Andrew Luck alertly shoveled a pass to eligible tackle Moose Martin moments before Luck was himself tackled seven yards downfield on a designed quarterback sweep. With a bevy of his fellow blockers in front of him, Martin rumbled down the left sideline for 38 yards, and Stanford fans had a portend of what was in store.
"I know you're not supposed to read the press, but I was reading this website in the offseason and the fans there were talking about how we would have finished in the Top 25, and Toby Gerhart would have probably won the Heisman if we had closed the deal last year against these guys," Martin said. "They're usually dead wrong, but I thought about it, and you know what, they were right this time. I decided right then and there that we were not gonna lose to Wake in our house. No way, no how."
Martin's rumble set the stage for Luck to cap the opening drive – not once, but twice. After a questionable holding call on Chase Beeler negated a touchdown pass to a wide-open Owen Marecic in the right flat, Luck responded on third-and-31 with a 43-yard pump-and-go touchdown pass to Griff Whalen for Stanford's first touchdown pass of the season.
The Cardinal didn't hesitate to make up for lost time, however. After capping its second drive with Whitaker's field goal, Stanford's defense quickly forced one of eight Wake Forest (2-1) punts on the afternoon, with the Deacons failing to gain a first down until the third quarter. The Card capped its next drive with Ryan Whalen's 11-yard touchdown reception of a Luck fade to claim a 17-0 lead with 7:42 left in the second quarter.
On its ensuing possession, Wake Forest coughed up the first of its two lost fumbles on the afternoon. Luck made the Deacons pay moments later, finding Chris Owusu in the front left corner of the end zone on an impeccably thrown 47-yard corner route with 2:57 left in the half.
Despite its 24-0 edge, Stanford then used all three of its timeouts to conserve time while on defense, and the clock management worked perfectly. Stanford received the ball at Wake's 47 with 1:19 left in the half, and a one-yard Taylor run with 24 seconds before halftime punctuated Stanford's most explosive offensive quarter since the 27-point fourth in last year's 55-21 win over USC.
"Like EA Sports, we were in the game today," said Owusu, who led the Cardinal with 151 receiving yards and a touchdown. "Andrew was Andrew. I had missed that guy the first two weeks."
Eight- and five-yard Taylor touchdowns in the third and fourth kept Stanford comfortably ahead, and then true freshman tailback Anthony Wilkerson sent the crowd home with a smile on their faces. He took his first carry in a Stanford uniform moving toward the right sideline, and after laying a vicious stiff arm to turn the corner, cut back against the grain and sprinted untouched for a 51-yard touchdown with 57 seconds left.
Two fourth-quarter Wake Forest bombs, a 41-yarder to Chris Givens and a 68-yarder to Devon Brown, kept the final margin within 40. Still, a week after holding UCLA on the negative side of the ledger, Stanford's defensive front continued its quiet dominance, as the Cardinal defense yielded the Demon Deacons just 11 rushing yards on 24 carries and posted nine tackles for loss, five from sophomore linebacker Shayne Skov.
The all-around dominant Stanford performance couldn't have come at a better time than on the eve of next week's showdown at No. 15 Notre Dame (2-1). With a stout defensive front and a passing game that has appeared to find its legs – not to mention Notre Dame's 30-18 loss at Michigan State -- the Cardinal look a lot more likely to give the Irish a serious test than they did four short hours ago.
TD Stan: Griff Whalen 43-yard pass from Andrew Luck, 9:09 left. Stanford 7, WF 0.
FG Stan: Nate Whitaker 38-yard FG, 14:33 left. Stanford 10, WF 0.
TD Stan: Ryan Whalen 11-yard pass from Luck, 7:42 left. Stanford 17, WF 0.
TD Stan: Chris Owusu 47-yard pass from Luck, 2:57 left. Stanford 24, WF 0.
TD Stan: Stepfan Taylor 1-yard run, 0:24 left. Stanford 31, WF 0.
TD Stan: Stepfan Taylor 5-yard run, 1:17 left. Stanford 38, WF 0.
TD Wake: Chris Givens 41-yard pass, 14:04 left. Stanford 38, WF 7.
TD Stan: Stepfan Taylor 8-yard pass from Josh Nunes, 5:24 left. Stanford 45, WF 7.
TD Wake: Devon Brown 68-yard pass, 3:50 left. Stanford 45, WF 14.
TD Stan: Anthony Wilkerson 51-yard run, 0:58 left. Stanford 52, WF 14.
|Third down conversions||6-8||3-11|
Key Stanford player stats
QB Andrew Luck: 24-of-32, 465 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
RB Stepfan Taylor: 12 carries, 52 yards, 2 rush TD, 1 rec TD
RB Anthony Wilkerson: one carry, 51 yards, 1 TD
WR Chris Owusu: eight receptions, 151 yards, 1 TD
WR Griff Whalen: five receptions, 134 yards, 1 TD
LB Shayne Skov, six tackles, three TFL
CB Johnson Bademosi three PBU, five tackles
@Stanford 35, Sacramento State 6
Stanford 22, @UCLA 16
Stanford 52, @Wake Forest 14
Stanford at Notre Dame
Stanford at Oregon
Stanford at USC
Stanford vs. Washington State
Stanford at Washington
Stanford vs. Arizona
Stanford at Arizona State
Stanford at Cal
Stanford vs. Oregon State
Inspired by reading stories like this as a kid in the Michigan student newspaper on game days, the author hopes you enjoy reading this series every bit as much as he enjoys writing it. The 2010 season is being simulated on EA Sports NCAA 2011, with the author playing all Stanford games and simulating the rest in a dynasty mode.
All statistics, game summary, rankings, player news and out-of-town scores are reported unchanged from game simulation. (I.e. Don't call the author pessimistic if Stanford struggles. Call him bad at video games.)
Got any idea for future weeks, especially if they're funny? PM dannovi.
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