October 9, 2011

Quick Reads: Stanford-Colorado

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By Willys DeVoll
Stanford-Colorado Quick Reads

olorado’s first visit to the Farm as a conference rival went almost as poorly as it possibly could have for the Buffs, who fell to Stanford by a 48-7 final score. The Card continue to roll, and will remain in the national top 10 and improve their overall record to 5-0 as Colorado falls to 1-5 overall and 0-2 in Pac-12 play. Here are your Stanford-Colorado Quick Reads:

  • It would be disingenuous to pretend that there was much to analyze, speculate and argue about regarding the game that began on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and spilled into the evening. Stanford-Colorado, at least in 2011, was a case of a nationally elite team taking on a rebuilding squad with a new coaching staff and clearly less talented players. Crazy things can happen in sports, but such mismatches most often yield lopsided and fairly uninteresting games.
  • On the topic of talent, let’s talk about Andrew Luck (whose popularity is likely responsible for a good chunk of this site’s non-Stanford-fan traffic). The all-everything team captain turned in an exceptional night–even by Luckian standards–by completing 79% of his passes and throwing for 370 yards and 3 touchdowns. His only interceptions went through the hands of Stanford wide receiver Chris Owusu before landing in those of Colorado safety Terrel Smith. In other words, the major flaw in Luck’s final line was hardly his fault.
  • Luck’s passing yardage was the second-highest of his Stanford career. Only his 423 yards in the October 2009 loss at Arizona best his performance in Stanford Stadium against Colorado.
  • Was Luck left in too long? You decide. The leading cause of Stanford’s success was still taking snaps in the 4th quarter, and back-up quarterback Brett Nottingham didn’t throw a pass until Stanford’s penultimate drive. Nottingham entered when the score was already 48-7.
  • Stanford continues to have special teams problems, made particularly apparent by the fumbled opening kickoff. Stanford also missed an extra point and a field goal, while a 3rd-quarter whiffed fair catch gave Colorado a decent chance (albeit an unrealized one) to recover another Cardinal special teams fumble.
  • Turnovers became a surprisingly compelling storyline as the game progressed. Despite the virtually comical final score, Colorado committed 1 turnover to Stanford’s 2. CU’s only turnover, though, was the first interception of the season for the Stanford defense. Safety and team captain Michael Thomas returned a weak Tyler Hansen pass 27 yards to the Stanford 30.
  • For both teams, Saturday was all about the passing game. Passing yards accounted for 73% of the game’s total offense (77% for Colorado and 71% for Stanford), while the playcalling was almost perfectly balanced on both sidelines. Stanford called 35 runs and 35 passes; Colorado called 27 runs and 30 passes.
  • No running back ran for 100 or more yards, and none came even close to the milestone. Stanford 2-sport standout Tyler Gaffney led all rushers with 61 yards on 9 carries and Stepfan Taylor picked up 58 yards on 13 carries. Each had a touchdown on the ground. Tailback Rodney Stewart led Colorado with 21 rushing yards on 11 carries.
  • Despite far fewer carries on the season, Tyler Gaffney has nearly as many rushing touchdowns (4) as Taylor does (5) in 2011. Gaffney has produced a touchdown for every 6.25 carries he gets; Taylor scores once every 16.8 carries. Although Taylor is the workhorse of the running back ensemble and his ratio is understandably not as impressive as Gaffney’s, the statistic indicates how comfortable head coach David Shaw is with handing Gaffney the ball close to the goal line.
  • 11 Stanford players caught a pass, but no one performed as well as Griff Whalen, whose 4 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown led all receivers.
  • Colorado’s back-up quarterback, who entered the game to throw 1 pass for the Buffs, might sound vaguely familiar to recruiting junkies. Nick Hirschman, a high school Class of 2010 recruit, entertained interest from Stanford, Harvard, Tennessee, UCLA, Cal and ASU before committing to play his college ball in Boulder.
  • The game was reported as a sellout with an official attendance of just over 50,000. Whether that many fans actually attended is another matter. Stanford Stadium never looked completely full, although the various attractions inside the stadium gates might have made the legitimate sellout look otherwise by attracting attendees away from their seats throughout the game.
  • Technical difficulties once again hampered live tweeting, but WiFi in Stanford Stadium was dramatically better than it was last week against UCLA. Live tweets on @DailyAxe will be up again for the Washington State game next Saturday.
  • Stanford alumni John Elway and Tiger Woods were seen watching the Card from the sideline.
  • By the time Colorado has to come back to Stanford for a football game (at least 2 years, and probably more) head coach Jon Embree may have turned the program around.
  • Until then, it looks as though Colorado has a long, long season ahead.
  • Stay tuned for more Stanford-Colorado coverage and a final wrap on Week 6.

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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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