Stanford kept its opponent out of the end zone for the second straight week as the Cardinal avenged a heartbreaking loss at Arizona last year with a 13-3 victory. Jeremy Stewart's five-yard touchdown run with 3:37 to go to cap a 12-play drive allowed the Cardinal to breathe easy, but the game turned in the late first half, with Arizona facing first and goal from the Stanford four.
The Wildcats ran on first down to get to the two, and ran on second for no gain. On third down, with a sell-out crowd at Stanford Stadium screaming for its defense, a fake fullback dive didn't fool Chike Amajoyi, who sprinted to the left sideline to blow up a screen to Arizona's Nic Grisby in the backfield. The Wildcats had to settle for a field goal on a drive that started at the Stanford 35 after a Stewart fumble, and Arizona never got as close again.
"I've gone through my ups and downs here, both myself as a player and our defense as a whole, but this one is pure upside today," Amajoyi said. "You can find me on the Row, because I'm going to celebrate this tonight."
After Arizona's field goal and the subsequent kick return, Andrew Luck and Chris Owusu completely swung the momentum in Stanford's corner. With 12 seconds left in the first half and the ball on the Cardinal 25, Jim Harbaugh was considering running out the period, but allowed his quarterback and receiver to convince him to take a shot down field. Good thing the Stanford coach listened, as Luck and Owusu needed just eight seconds to connect on a 75-yard fly route, and give the Card a 7-3 lead they would never relinquish.
"I saw a cover-0 look and my eyes lit up," Luck said. "They probably should have been playing prevent in that situation, but they had no deep help. I knew if Chris could beat his guy, I just had to lay one in there for him, and that's what we did."
Luck connected with Owusu on a similar pump-and-go for 57 yards, giving Owusu the surreal stat line of 132 receiving yards, a full day's work, on just two catches. Doug Baldwin added 122 yards on five catches.
"Andrew makes it really easy," Baldwin said. "I don't have to worry about getting a ton of separation, and don't tell the coaches, but I don't really have to worry about head fakes or hip fakes or running an excellent route. All I focus on is going as far as I can, because you know Andrew's arm is strong enough, and as fast as I can, because even if you've got six inches of space, you know Andrew's accurate enough.
"Run as fast as you can and hang on the ball. As I said, he makes it really easy."
Arizona often had six or seven men in the box, and Stepfan Taylor (43 yards), Stewart (32 yards, one touchdown) and Anthony Wilkerson (24 yards) took advantage to combine for the trio's second-straight 100-yard day.
"Whether it's one guy, like it was with Toby last year, or a group like we have this year, who cares as long as we're producing?" Wilkerson said. "Of course I'd like to get more carries, but we can all stay really fresh this way, and I think that helps us close out games in the fourth quarter."
Despite finishing with two interceptions and 53 percent accuracy, Luck had one of his better statistical days of the season, with his 311 passing yards coming on just 15 completions.
"I'm not really a West Coast-offense kind of guy," Luck said. "I watched Brett Favre growing up as a kid, and that's who I model my play after. Yeah, we had two picks and more incompletions than I'd like, but we threw for 300 yards on 15 catches, and we had what, three passes of 40-plus yards, including that touchdown to Chris.
"I'm coming back next year, so I don't care how what they say about me for the draft this April anyway. Right now, I'm focused on this win, tonight I'll focus on celebrating with my team, and tomorrow, I'll go online and focus on the Rose Bowl chase. Those are my goals right now."
Saving Andrew the legwork, Stanford now stands at 4-2 in the conference, behind only Washington (7-2, 5-1) in the league standings, and tied with Cal (7-2, 4-2). As Stanford downed the Huskies last week in Seattle, Stanford would own the tiebreaker should those schools finish tied, and the Cardinal will visit Cal Nov. 20.
FG Ariz: A. Zendejas 21-yd field goal, 0:16 left. Arizona 3, Stanford 0.
TD Stan: C. Owusu 75-yd pass from A. Luck, 0:04 left. Stanford 7, Arizona 3.
TD Stan: J. Stewart 5-yd run, 3:37 left. (Missed XP.) Stanford 13, Arizona 3.
|Third down conversions||4-11||1-11|
Key Stanford player stats
RBs Taylor/Stewart/Wilkerson (combined): 28 carries, 104 yards, 1 TD
QB Andrew Luck: 15-of-28 passing, 311 yards, 1 TD
RB Anthony Wilkerson: 15 carries, 59 yards
FS Harold Bernard: six tackles, three PBU
CB Corey Gatewood: two sacks
@Stanford 35, Sacramento State 6
Stanford 22, @UCLA 16
Stanford 52, @Wake Forest 14
Stanford 30, @Notre Dame 27
@Oregon 16, Stanford 7
USC 31, @Stanford 7
@Stanford 36, Washington State 21
Stanford 21, @Washington 11
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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