September 11, 2011

Stanford-Duke: Player Analysis

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By Connor Huchton
Stanford-Duke Player Analysis

We’ve already covered what happened during the game in Durham on Saturday, so I thought I’d take a look at some of the individual performances offered by various Stanford players during Saturday’s game. I could probably just write about Stanford’s (approximately) 300 quality tight ends, but I’ll do my best to expand beyond that.

Andrew Luck

Luck’s play is the main aspect of this game that’ll be focused on by TV pundits, and that’s fine. Luck seemed out of rhythm (in relation to his normal play) during the first half of this game, mostly because of the effective effort the Duke front line managed to initially produce. Usually Luck is indescribably good at dodging pressure before he’s sacked, but he was occasionally unable to do so during this game. He took some hits and barely missed some throws he would usually make, but he managed to quickly break out of his “funk” (again, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception and just under 200 yards in one half wouldn’t be considered a funk, if the opposing team wasn’t Duke and he wasn’t Andrew Luck) during the last drive of the first half and throughout the second half. He finished with a typical Luck line of 20-29 for 290 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception.

Chris Owusu 

What impressed me most about Owusu’s game today was its lack of similarity to any game I’ve seen him play before. He finished with 7 catches, 106 yards, and a touchdown, which is great, but the most encouraging ability he displayed was making different types of catches. Owusu is one of the fastest receivers in the Pac-12, and has always maintained a great YPC. While simply looking at his stat line doesn’t really help you ascertain any difference in the way he played, the difference was apparent. The majority of Owusu’s catches were made near the line of scrimmage or on intermediate routes, though he was targeted deep several times (and managed to catch one of them, on an early flea-flicker) in typical fashion. Why is that encouraging? He looked terrific after he made the catch. He accelerated quickly, made effective moves, and consistently extended short gains. Stanford needs Owusu to be a dynamic receiver who makes various catches all over the field, and he displayed himself to be capable during this game.

The Beautiful Plethora Of Tight Ends

Coby Fleener caught two passes, both for touchdowns. Zach Ertz caught three passes, though only one went for a touchdown (Fleener was likely disappointed in Ertz for his catch-to-touchdown rate). It was a very tight end-y day for Stanford, and it’ll be a very tight end-y year. When you have the best group of tight ends in the country (three of which are starting-caliber), this tends to happen.

Chase Thomas 

Chase Thomas is one of Stanford’s best defensive players (along with Shayne Skov, Delano Howell, etc.), and he showed it against a Duke offensive line that struggled mightily throughout the game (this was not a fun day to be a Duke QB). I’m not sure how many sacks Thomas had (it wasn’t immediately available in the box score), but he certainly had more than one. He, like the rest of Stanford’s linebackers, found himself in the pocket within a second or two of the snap more than once, and he capitalized on those opportunities.

Jordan Williamson

While Williamson wasn’t exactly crucial to the team’s victory, I was interested to see how he’d fare in only his second game as the team’s kicker. Despite his extra point miss in the second half (5-6 on XPs), his confidence (one of the most vital attributes a kicker can have) appeared vibrant and he managed to easily make a 40-yard field goal. Though Stanford doesn’t have a good history of kicker play during the last decade (pretty abysmal, really), Williamson is replacing stalwart kicker Nate Whitaker. As long he plays close to the level of Whitaker, Stanford’s kicking game should be acceptable going forward.


Some Random Notes

  • Stanford’s run defense looked fantastic, but the coverage itself was often suspect when blitzes weren’t effective.
  • Anthony Wilkerson had only 2 carries for 6 yards. Stanford will presumably have 4 running backs splitting time each week (Taylor/Wilkerson/Stewart/Gaffney), so I expect this was mainly a product of the reality that one RB is bound to be lost in the shuffle from week-to-week.
  • Stanford’s offensive line looked more adept as the game continued, but they struggled to protect well at the beginning of the game. Against tougher opponents, it’s important that the OL cohesively maintains the ability to remain solid from the beginning to the end of the game.
When a team with high expectations (like Stanford) plays against a relatively easy opponent (like Duke), it’s hard to gain much perspective. A decisive victory is always a positive, but it means virtually nothing in the context of a long season. The real tests for Stanford lie during the coming weeks. Until then, be content that Stanford has managed to progress past the easiest part of its schedule with a 2-0 record and an almost entirely healthy team.

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About the Author

Connor Huchton
Connor Huchton is on the Internet. He also writes for ESPN True Hoop's Hardwood Paroxysm and SB Nation's Rufus on Fire. Other than that, he can often be found on Twitter and dislikes writing third-person bios.


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