September 17, 2011

Quick Reads: Stanford-Arizona

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By Willys DeVoll
Stanford-Arizona Quick Reads

Stanford once again gave its fans a nerve-racking opening 30 minutes of play before settling in and pulling away in the second half. Stanford fought off several pro-Arizona momentum shifts and three disheartening injuries to win and win comfortably on the road in a hostile stadium. Here are your Saturday night Quick Reads for Week 3:

  • Stanford now has the nation’s longest FBS winning streak following the Card’s win and Auburn’s loss. Revel in the distinction, Stanford fans.
  • Stanford suffered several costly injuries, including significant maladies to tight end Coby Fleener and linebacker Shayne Skov. Wide receiver Chris Owusu also went down, but returned to the game soon thereafter and appears to be fine. For Fleener and Skov, the injuries could keep them out for multiple games. Fleener took a head shot early in the first quarter, and Skov was carted off the field minutes before halftime after incurring what appears to be a knee injury.
  • If Skov misses games, Stanford’s national championship and BCS bowl aspirations will become all but fantasies. Stanford can make a decent bowl without Skov, but they almost surely cannot reach New Orleans or Pasadena without the star junior.
  • Fleener is a valuable player for the Cardinal, and had caught a touchdown pass in each of the past 5 games for the Card before Saturday. Nonetheless, Stanford’s exceptional depth at tight end (Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo) will help lessen the loss if Fleener needs weeks to recover from a hard blow to the head.
  • Next week’s bye comes at an operative time considering the key injuries suffered in Tucson. Having a week to rest and heal will likely do Stanford more good than it does for most teams that have to sit out a week so early in the fall.
  • The first half once again plagued Stanford, which scored 16 points before intermission but went 2-7 on 3rd down conversion attempts and settled for 3 field goals to just 1 touchdown.
  • A bright side of the first half? Luck didn’t take nearly as many hits from Arizona as he did in Week 2 from Duke. Head coach David Shaw also showed once again that he can make effective halftime adjustments and regroup the team at the break.
  • Arizona quarterback Nick Foles started hot and finished the night with respectable numbers: 24-33 passing for 239 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions. That said, Foles and the rest of the Wildcats struggled to turn effective drives into touchdowns, as they have since roughly midway through the 2010 season. 333 total yards for Arizona yielded 10 points, which is not enough to beat Stanford.
  • Andrew Luck finished with a Luckian night. In addition to passing Jim Plunkett for third on Stanford’s all-time passing touchdowns list, the junior star and Heisman favorite accumulated 325 yards and 2 touchdowns while completing 65% of his passes. Luck also chipped in 36 yards on the ground, making him Stanford’s second-leading runner on the evening.
  • The Card’s leading rusher was–surprise, surprise–Stepfan Taylor. The Texan turned in a quiet gem by taking 22 carries for 153 yards. The yardage is a career high for Taylor, whose previous best was 142 yards against Washington State during Homecoming Weekend last year.
  • Arizona was the cause of its own demise on numerous occasions throughout the game. Junior kicker Jaime Salazar made just 1 field goal in 3 attempts, and the Wildcats’ 3 penalties came at some of the most inconvenient times possible. An offsides call on Arizona, for instance, turned a Stanford punt into a first and 10 for the Card just as UA was looking to pull within 6 points of Stanford late in the 3rd quarter.
  • Stanford continues to shut down opponents’ rushing attacks while looking vulnerable in the secondary. Arizona–albeit a very poor rushing team–gained only 51 yards on the ground, but UA receivers Juron Criner and Dan Buckner succeeded in repeatedly testing the Cardinal pass defense.
  • Getting true freshman defensive back Wayne Lyons, who is injured and was tweeting during the game, back will assist in bolstering the Card’s ability to stop the pass. Lyons looked athletic and mature before going down in Durham.
  • Stanford tight end Levine Toilolo, who had a devastating knee injury last season, led all players in receiving with 102 yards. H-back/fullback Ryan Hewitt tied Buckner for second with 71 receiving yards. Stanford’s most successful wide receiver was Owusu, whose 45 receiving yards put him at fourth on the team (Ertz had 58 yards on the night).
  • Stay plugged into The Daily Axe online and on Facebook and Twitter for more updates, including the release of this week’s Weekend Reflections with more analysis of Stanford-Arizona.

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About the Author

Willys DeVoll
Willys DeVoll is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Axe. He writes about Stanford sports for and writes fiction, reviews and commentary elsewhere.


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  • Michael

    I agree that the loss of Skov would be big, and I’m as scared as anyone, but do you really have that little faith in the rest of the defense and the ability for someone to step up big time? Yes, he’s a very important part of our defense, but I choose to have hope that, if he’s out for the season, we’ll be able to overcome the challenge and continue to dominate teams defensively.

    • I understand your point. Here’s my thinking: it would take nearly flawless play and some good fortune for Stanford to make the national championship. The Card would have to go undefeated and hope for losses from (at least) LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma and possibly Boise State in order to have a shot at finishing in the BCS top 2. Going undefeated would likely take everything going right, which means keeping every major contributor healthy for all or the vast majority of the season and executing consistently every week. For my money, Skov is clearly the best defensive player on the team and the guy around whom the rest of the defense functions. It’s not that I don’t have faith in the defense–it should still be good. It just won’t be as good or better without him if he has to miss time, and I don’t think there was much margin for error in the first place.