Stanford Cardinal preview

Partly because he's simply the quarterback but mostly because they lack a strong running game, Trent Edwards is the constant focus of the Cardinal offense as well as their opponent's defensive game plan.

Stanford couldn't have asked for a better bye week as they've had two weeks now to get ready for a visit from the number one ranked University of Southern California Trojans.  The Cardinal started this season with blowout wins over both the San Jose State Spartans as well as the Trojan's most recent opponent, the BYU Cougars.  Not to take anything away from this Cardinal team, but the 37-10 score against BYU that flashed by on your ticker may be a little deceiving, as BYU built a 10-0 lead and then simply imploded to the tune of seven turnovers and 14 penalties for 125 yards.  Stanford put up 369 total yards, including 297 through the air against the Cougar defense.  While they didn't dominate by any means on the ground or through the air, Stanford proved that they are more than capable of capitalizing on their opponent's mistakes.



The Cardinal on Offense:


Quarterback –


#5 Trent Edwards


            Partly because he's simply the quarterback but mostly because they lack a strong running game, Trent Edwards is the constant focus of the Cardinal offense as well as their opponent's defensive game plan.  As he goes, so goes this Stanford team.  The main reason that this Stanford team finds themselves at 2-0 on this young season is because Edwards has thrown five touchdown passes and has yet to be intercepted.  He has completed 54% of his passes on the year for 484 yards.  Edwards earned the starting nod in the third game of the 2003 season and started the next four games until an injury forced him from his post.  He's got the skills and the smarts to be an excellent quarterback.  The 5-0 touchdown to interception ratio as well as his success against the confusing Cougar defense proves that.  The Trojans will have to apply pressure and see if they can rattle him, because he's capable of picking apart a defense.


Running Back –


#26  Kenneth Tolon and #9 J.R. Lemon


            Stanford utilizes a tandem of talented tailbacks in Kenneth Tolon and J.R. Lemon.  Tolon was the Cardinal's leading rusher in 2003 with 522 rushing yards on 150 carries while splitting carries with J.R. Lemon (who piled up 467 yards on 118 carries).  Lemon got the start in the San Jose State game, but it was Tolon who put up the big numbers in that contest (96 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns).  Because of that game, Tolon earned the start for the BYU game but was completely shut down while Lemon relieved him and had some success (61 yards on 14 carries).  It's anyone's guess as to who will get the starting nod against the Trojans.  Both runners are capable of making defenders miss as well as taking it strong between the tackles.


Wide Receiver –


#8 Evan Moore


            If there is one weapon that opposing teams can use to attack this Trojan defense, it's a tall, athletic wide receiver.  At 6'7" with Velcro hands, Evan Moore could prove to be a nightmare for the Trojans.  Moore's biggest game in 2003 came against USC where he caught 5 passes for 52 yards.  In this season's first two games, Moore has caught eight passes for 133 yards and a team best three touchdowns.  A true sophomore, Moore is just getting in rhythm with his quarterback and the rest of the Cardinal offense, which is a very scary thought.  The Trojans will have to take advantage of his youth and confuse him with their defensive schemes.


#7 Justin McCullum


            McCullum is another tall receiver that Stanford will utilize as they try to move the ball through the air.  He's been their leading receiver this year with 146 yards on five catches including a touchdown reception against BYU.  At 6'4", he'll be ready to go after these smaller Trojan defensive backs. 


#4 Mark Bradford


            Last year, Mark Bradford inserted himself into the Cardinal record books as the most prolific freshman receiver in Stanford history.  He caught 37 balls for 587 yards and three touchdowns.  Proving last year was no fluke, he's made an impression this year with seven catches for 116 yards, including breaking loose for a 76-yard reception against BYU.  Also a basketball player, Bradford sees the field well and is excellent at getting himself into open areas between defenders. 


Tight End -


#81 Alex Smith


            After allowing Virginia Tech's tight ends to get open, the Trojans did a much better job against the tight ends of Colorado State and BYU.  However, they'll have to be even better against the Cardinal's dangerous tight end, Alex Smith.  He's established himself throughout his career as a top tight end and already has ten receptions through the first two games.  The Trojans better have an eye constantly on Alex Smith, because you can bet Cardinal quarterback Trent Edwards will.


Offensive Line –


From left to right, the Cardinal offensive line reads: #78 Jon (Not Johnny) Cochran, #79 Ismail Simpson, #71 Brian Head, #Josiah Vinson and #70 Jeff Edwards.  This line is quite tall, with tackles Cochran and Edwards standing at 6'6" and 6'7" respectively.  However, there are no real stand-outs here and each of these men will have to play the game of their lives in order to keep Edwards protected for 60 minutes. 


The Cardinal on defense:



Defensive Backs –


FS - #21 Oshiomogho Atogwe


            A valuable asset to this Cardinal defense as well as Scrabble players everywhere, Oshiomogho Atogwe sets the tone for everything the Stanford defense wants to do.  He is one of the best safeties in all of college football and can do everything asked of a free safety.  He plays well against the run as well as the pass and can bring the heat on a blitz.  He has already accounted for 12 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception this year.  The Trojans will want to keep their eye on #21 and keep the plays running away from him.


CB - #29 Leigh Torrence, #2 Stanley Wilson and #35 T.J. Rushing


            The most experienced and talented aspect of this Cardinal team is its secondary.  Besides the always dangerous Atogwe lurking around the defensive backfield, the cornerback rotation of Leigh Torrence, Stanley Wilson, and T.J. Rushing is formidable.  Both Torrence and Wilson are red-shirt seniors and have excelled throughout their careers.  Wilson has racked up 11 tackles in two games while Torrence has six, including two for a loss, while also picking off a pass in the BYU game.  Rushing, a junior, is quick, agile and capable of keeping up with any receiver who lines up opposite him.  The Cardinal will look to this experienced defensive backfield to neutralize the young Trojan receivers and step up to make plays in the running game.


Linebackers -


#17 Jared Newberry, #48 David Bergeron and ##37 Jon Alston


            Not far behind the secondary in terms of experience and value to the team is the linebacking corps.  One of the team's co-captains in 2004, Jared Newberry is the emotional leader on the field for the Cardinal.  He's got seven tackles this season, 2.5 of which have come in the opponent's backfield.  David Bergeron was the rock in the middle of the Cardinal defense for all of 2003 and looks to provide that same leadership during this season.  While Newberry and Bergeron look to lock down the middle of the field, Jon Alston's job is to simply run wild.  He flies to the ball, whether a running back is bringing it around the outside or a quarterback has it on a five-step drop.  He's racked up seven tackles including a quarterback sack on this young season.


Defensive Line -         


              The defensive front for the Cardinal is anchored by #96 Babatunde Oshinowo Jr.  He's one of the top nose tackles in the Pac-10 and can get to the quarterback as well as play well against the run.  He hauled down BYU runners five times during the last game.  Lining up on either side of Oshinowo will be #98 Scott Scharff and #94 Julian Jenkins.  #93 Nick Frank and #92 Casey Carroll will be rotating in on the line as well.  The Trojan offensive line will be tested, but should in no way be outplayed by the Cardinal defensive front.


Special Teams –


K – #15 Michael Sgroi


Place kicking and field goal duties are carried out by the foot of athletically gifted but phonetically challenged Michael Sgroi.  He's a perfect nine-for-nine on extra point attempts, which is something few kickers around college football can say.  He's missed two of three field goal attempts from beyond 40 yards but it's not from lack of leg strength. 


P - # 27 Jay Ottovegio


            Jay Ottovegio inherited the punting job for the Cardinal in 2004.  Through two games, he's been asked to punt nine times and he's responded with a 37.6 yard average.  He's maxed out at 48 yards and while he's not going to be booming any punts 70 yards downfield, he might not allow the speedy and elusive Trojan return men much room to work with. 


Kick Returner - #35 T.J. Rushing and #34 Marcus McCutcheon


            Stanford will send back a pair of dangerous kick return men in T.J. Rushing and Marcus McCutcheon.  Both have the ability to break one and Rushing has already proven that with a 99-yard return to turn the tide against BYU.  Ryan Killeen's ability to boom kicks out of the endzone will be an invaluable asset in the field position game. 



            While Stanford has started the season 2-0, they are still a far cry from the USC Trojans in all aspects of the game.  The Trojans will wear down the Cardinal starting units and start to pour it on in the second half (if not sooner).  Stanford looks like a team that could be on the rise in the Pac-10, but this game will prove how much separation USC has on the rest of the conference.  This game will serve as the Trojan's final game-speed preparation for the all-important showdown against Cal in two weeks.  Look for the Trojans to fell the Cardinal and get out of Palo Alto with a win.


Erik McKinney is a junior majoring in creative writing.  He can be reached at Top Stories