October 22, 2011

Quick Reads: Stanford-Washington

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By Willys DeVoll
Stanford-Washington Quick Reads

tanford recovered from one its least impressive performances last week to turn in on Saturday night what is likely the Card’s best showing of the season thus far. In destroying Washington by a 65-21 final score, Stanford notched its first 2011 win over a ranked team and proved that–until more games are played–there are Stanford, Oregon and then everyone else in the Pac-12. Here are your Week 8 Quick Reads:

  • A school-record 446 rushing yards from the men in red is the story of the weekend for Stanford football. Stepfan Taylor picked up 138 yards on the ground and another 14 receiving, but the performances of the two backs behind him stand out more, if only because Taylor has spoiled Stanford fans with several 100-yard games this season alone. Tyler Gaffney is clearly a favorite of the coaching staff, and the junior took 9 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown. And Anthony Wilkerson, who has regained a spot in the running back rotation in the past couple of weeks, took 14 carries for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns.
  • It’s worth restating that Stanford nearly had 3 distinct running backs rush for 100 yards each. The 446 yards on the ground bests Stanford’s total offensive production in the UCLA game and the San Jose State game and nearly equals the total offensive yards gained by Stanford last week against Washington State.
  • Washington has a pretty good runner of its own. Junior running back Chris Polk led all players with 144 rushing yards–including a 61-yard run–and 2 touchdowns. And he did all of that on just 15 carries against a defense that has stopped the run as well as any team in the Pac-12 has this year.
  • Washington had various difficulties over the course of the night–some of which will appear in greater detail in this post–but none was so problematic for the Huskies as the run defense. Stanford had no problem moving the ball even though Luck threw just 21 times and earned only 169 passing yards. The running game–which ordinarily helps teams slow the game down and control offensive tempo–led Stanford to 38 points in the first half alone. The three Stanford players that had more than 6 carries–Taylor, Gaffney and Wilkerson–each averaged over 6 yards per carry and Taylor and Gaffney each averaged at or above 13 yards per carry. There’s only so much that scheme, playcalling and preparation can explain when there is that kind of dominance by one team. Washington’s front seven was clearly overmatched by the Stanford offensive line and running backs.
  • Stanford had managed a surprisingly low number of interceptions for a top-notch defense before tonight, but the Card intercepted 2 passes before Washington left Foster Field. Stanford never turned the ball over while Washington threw the two interceptions and tacked on a lost fumble, giving the Card a very favorable turnover differential. Senior captain Michael Thomas’s pick-6 just before the end of the 2nd quarter pushed the lead to over 20 without requiring any additional work from the Stanford offense.
  • The Caridnal tight end group was fairly quiet. Zach Ertz and Coby Fleener combined for 3 catches and 30 yards, but Fleener’s lone grab was a touchdown at the point when Stanford led by only 3 points. Levine Toilolo did not catch a pass and left the sidelines with a trainer for roughly 30 minutes during the first half.
  • Junior Drew Terrell, who most Stanford fans recognize from his punt-returning duties, caught his first career touchdown as a wide receiver. Terrell tapped his feet inside the endzone before falling out of bounds in the 2nd quarter.
  • While Stanford deserves much of the credit for an impressive win, it also seems obvious that Washington is not one of the top 25–or even 40, perhaps–teams in the country. The Husky defense often looked helpless against Stanford and the offense relies heavily on excellence from Polk.
  • Nonetheless, defeating a ranked team should help Stanford in the BCS rankings, which will determine the team’s bowl fate.
  • Speaking of which, developments around the country on Saturday made Stanford’s win so much sweeter. Michigan State’s last-second win over Wisconsin means the Badgers will drop to below Stanford in the polls. Oklahoma’s loss will also drop the Sooners, meaning that Stanford should improve to at least #6 in the BCS. A full conversation of the scenarios for Stanford and its ranking in the BCS is one for another day–and probably one closer to the end of the regular season–but it now seems much more likely that Stanford could have a shot at the national championship if the Card win out.
  • A 13-0 record–which would be good through a victory in the conference championship game–is more than halfway accomplished. But the second half of the schedule–which includes Oregon, USC and Notre Dame–should be significantly more difficult than the cupcake-full first half was.
  • Mobile data in Stanford Stadium continues to be a nightmare, so sorry for the lack of in-game tweets.
  • As always, keep it here for continued coverage of Stanford football as the conference and national championship races heat up and the weather cools down.

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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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