September 10, 2011

Quick Reads: Stanford-Duke

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By The Daily Axe Staff
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After a rough first half in Durham, the Card bounced back and produced the kind of second half expected of them. With the crisis averted, Stanford can now revel in a comfortable 44-14 win on the road. Here are your Stanford-Duke Quick Reads:

  • Andrew Luck got hit as much as he has in a long time, and perhaps in his entire collegiate career thus far. He struggled for brief stretches during the game, but turned in a great final stat line: 290 yards on 20-29 passing with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. The lone turnover was tipped before Duke turned it into a pick-6.
  • The offensive line will have to improve its pass blocking to keep Luck on his feet when the defenses get stingier and the pass rushes get fiercer. It’s no secret that the Duke pass rush does not stack up to that of the average Pac-12 team.
  • Theory: Johnny Dawkins, a Duke alumnus, coached the Card during the first half. It would explain a lot. Full investigation pending.
  • Of Luck’s 4 passing touchdowns, 3 went to tight ends Coby Fleener (2 TDs, 2 catches, 63 yards) and Zach Ertz (1 TD, 3 catches, 44 yards). The other went to WR Chris Owusu (more on him further down).
  • The Stanford defense had an up-and-down day, and allowed Duke to produce several surprisingly efficient drives down the field. The final numbers for the Card D aren’t so hot: Duke piled up 305 passing yards, only turned the ball over once, held the ball for over 34 minutes, converted 4 of 6 fourth down attempts and, considering the Blue Devils’ incompetent kicking game, should have scored at least 23 points. Then there are the encouraging numbers: 6 Stanford sacks and a stout run defense that allowed just 34 Duke rushing yards.
  • Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov suffered a mysterious injury and stayed on the field, with assistance from team trainers, for a minute or two. He then walked to the sideline without help and went on to rejoin the game and record a sack. All seems to be well healthwise.
  • The Card enjoyed a much improved run game and got 205 of the team’s 504 yards on the ground. Stepfan Taylor took 14 carries for 75 yards while fullback Geoff Meinken picked up 61 yards on 3 carries. The junior’s big day was highlighted by a 40-yard carry roughly halfway through the 4th quarter.
  • Senior wideout Chris Owusu had a nice outing with 7 catches, 106 yards and a touchdown. Owusu easily led the team and all players in receptions and receiving yards and looked like a comfortable target for Luck.
  • Duke receiver Conner Vernon pulled down 6 catches for 98 yards. This should come as no surprise: Vernon is often, and often has been throughout his career, the best player on the field for the Blue Devils.
  • Pressure and hard hits on the Duke passers forced head coach David Cutcliffe to play three quarterbacks. Starter Sean Renfree and back-up Brandon Connette were both forced out of the game, leaving freshman Anthony Boone significant snaps as the Duke quarterback. Boone capitalized on his chance by completing 7 of 9 passing attempts for 70 yards along with a rushing touchdown. His success did come in garbage time against Stanford’s defensive reserves.
  • The game changed dramatically at halftime. Stanford came out for the third quarter looking better both in scheme and in execution, and turned the improvement into a game-breaking, 13-point fifteen minutes of football.
  • Cutcliffe deserves praise for the nerve to attempt an onside kick, a fake punt and game-long dedication to try whatever it would take to keep the Blue Devils competitive with a vastly more talented Cardinal squad. The second-quarter onside kick, which came out of a regular kickoff formation and gave Duke the momentum before the half, was a stroke of genius.
  • The sluggish first half likely won’t hurt Stanford’s reputation outside of the Bay Area. National voters will likely see the final score and keep the Card right around the 5-7 range in the national polls.
  • Wallace Wade Stadium started out fairly empty and was virtually a ghost town by the final whistle. Duke’s a basketball school through and through, but you’d think more people would attend football games if only to enjoy a nice Saturday in the sun with music, friends and excitement. Oh well.
  • Thursday’s prediction wasn’t far off.
  • More game recap comes your way Sunday with Weekend Reflections.

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The Daily Axe Staff
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