The Stanford Cardinal opened up their season reasonably strong against the Washington State Cougars but as all first games go, there are always things that need to be worked out and addressed.
The Cardinal offense made an impact early. They ran the ball well and were not afraid to let the prodigy quarterback, Andrew Luck launch a few.
Stanford’s defense proved that there are still several areas that require much improvement. These areas will have to be fixed quickly if they don’t want a stronger and more talented team to absolutely blow them away.
In Andrew Luck’s first series as a collegiate player, he showed that he is more than just the accurate arm that Jim Harbaugh has been touting through training camp.
After starting the game 0-for-2 in passing, Luck dropped back a third time and found some running room. He scampered 31 yards down the field, setting up his offense for their first successful red zone trip of the year.
Luck would scramble four more times racking up a total of 54 yards
Luck had a productive day passing as well (11 of 23, 193 yards, 1 TD) but often displayed signs of a young star that is still in need of fine-tuning.
Running Backs: A-
Toby Gerhart appeared to have picked up right where he left off last year, quickly blasting his way through the Cougar defense for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Gerhart mimicked a pinball on most plays, bouncing off any type of first contact and fighting his way for that extra yard like there was no tomorrow.
Jeremy Stewart also found his way into the end zone on a nice counter play and managed to average 11.4 yards on five carries, complementing Gerhart quite nicely
Wide Receivers: B
Whalen and Owusu created open space in Washington State’s secondary early and often, making Luck’s first start as a Cardinal much easier.
Owusu made an astonishing shoulder juke off of a WR screen that catapulted him into a 63-yard touchdown reception, recording the only passing touchdown by the Cardinal. Whalen racked up 74 yards on four receptions with all four catches resulting in Stanford first downs.
Offensive Line: B+
The boys up front started off the season on the right foot. They did an excellent job controlling the line, giving the young quarterback enough time to go through his progressions and allowing Gerhart to power through into the second tier of the Cougars defense.
The O-line only permitted one sack, three tackles for loss, and rarely allowed any penetration.
Defensive Line: B-
Thomas Kaiser, Erik Lorig, and Chase Thomas all recorded a sack on Saturday, putting extensive pressure on whichever quarterback Washington State decided to play. The three linemen also combined for 6.5 tackles for loss, creating a total loss of 20 yards.
The line started off quite shaky allowing 83 rushing yards in the first half, all stemming from the first drive where the Cougars ran the ball 12 times for 55 yards. They would bear down in the second half though, giving up only 19 more rushing yards
Chris Snyder was all over the field as usual, lassoing loose runners and powerfully collecting 7.5 tackles.
The linebacker corps got caught several times on blitz packages where Washington State would hit their safety valve running back in the flat, resulting in a large gain. They would eventually adjust to this but not until after several first downs.
Cornerback Richard Sherman and strong safety Delano Howell often looked lost in the secondary, giving the sub-par Washington State receivers enough space to rack up 247 yards. Seven of the 19 pass completions were for 15 yards or more and Howell got beat twice on plays that added 87 yards onto the overall passing total.
However, Howell did do a good job coming up to stop the run and preventing any passes that he let in from entering the end zone. He led the team in tackles with 8.5.
Special Teams: A-
The special teams showed off their speed and coverage ability in Pullman, gathering 210 yards and a touchdown. Both the punt and kickoff squads were able to get into the action.
Sherman returned a punt 53 yards to Washington State’s five-yard line that disappointedly ended in a turnover on downs.
Following a Washington State touchdown that could have totally changed the momentum, Owusu took a kickoff 85 yards for a score, taking the mo right back.