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CFN Take: Stanford Mistakes Costly vs. USC

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Sep 6, 2014


Stanford Cardinal 2014 ... Head Coach: David Shaw


Stanford Cardinal

2014 Schedule
Record: 1-1

Aug. 30 UC Davis W 45-0
Sep. 6 USC L 13-10
Sep. 13 Army
Sep. 20 OPEN DATE
Sep. 27 at Washington
Oct. 4 at Notre Dame
Oct. 10 Washington State
Oct. 18 at Arizona State
Oct. 25 Oregon State
Nov. 1 at Oregon
Nov. 8 OPEN DATE
Nov. 15 Utah
Nov. 22 at California
Nov. 28 at UCLA
Sept. 6 USC 13, at Stanford 10
And You Care Because … Andre Heidari nailed a 53-yard field goal with 2:30 to play for a 13-10 USC lead, and the Trojan D held on with J.R. Tavai blindsiding Kevin Hogan deep in to force a game-sealing fumble on a deep Stanford drive. The game was all about missed opportunities for the Cardinal with two missed field goals, two key turnovers, and stalls in the red zone. Stanford had a 10-7 lead at halftime with a Patrick Skov two-yard touchdown run and a 33-yard Jordan Williamson field goal, but USC’s defense managed to bend but not break in the second half. Two Heidari field goals in the second half were enough for the Trojans.
What Else? Stanford outgained USC 413 yards to 291 and held on to the ball for close to 34 minutes. The Cardinal dominated this game at times, but couldn’t seem to score, with missed field goals and penalties proving deadly.
- The USC running game worked. Javorius Allen ran 23 times for 154 yards, and Justin Davis pounded for 20 yards and a score on eight carries. Stanford won its share of battles, did enough to stay alive offensively.
- Red zone chances: USC 2-of-2, Stanford 2-of-5. The Cardinal got the ball on the green, but couldn’t putt.
- Welcome to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. USC DT/DE Leonard Williams made 11 tackles with a sack on a gimpy ankle.
Game Rating: A

Aug. 30 at Stanford 45, UC Davis 0
And You Care Because … The Cardinal started out the scoring on a Ty Montgomery punt return, and Kevin Hogan took over from there with three touchdown passes including a 44-yarder to Montgomery in the second quarter on the way to a 38-0 lead.
What Else? The Stanford defense never let UCD breathe, allowing just 115 yards of total offense and six first downs while forcing three turnovers.
- Kevin Hogan threw a pick, but he completed 12-of-16 passes for 204 yards and three scores with a rushing touchdown. There were a few misfires, but he didn’t have any problem moving the offense in the first half.
- The rushing wealth was spread around in the blowout. Barry Sanders led the way with 43 yards.
- Any questions about Ty Montgomery’s health appeared to be answered – he was his normally quick self, leading the team with 77 yards and a score on five catches and returning two punts for 74 yards and a score.
Game Rating: D

2014 Preview 

The Cardinal is entering their most challenging season since before Jim Harbaugh arrived at the Farm in 2007.

Stanford has won at least 11 games, and appeared in a major bowl game, in each of the last four seasons. Maintaining that torrid trend, though, will require head coach David Shaw and a new-look staff to seamlessly insert first-time starters into the lineup. This program is either going to take a step in reverse or it’ll showcase just how skilled it is at signing and developing blue-chip high school athletes.

The Cardinal has faced hurdles during their current run. Yet, they've always found a way to overcome the departures of cornerstone figures, like Harbaugh, Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart. This season’s challenge? Retool a roster that lost ten All-Pac-12 performers to the NFL, five on offense and five on defense.

The encouraging news around campus is that the coach and the quarterback—junior Kevin Hogan—remain the same, which will serve as a stable foundation entering 2014. Shaw has been magnificent in three seasons since replacing Harbaugh, going 34-7, with back-to-back Pac-12 titles. Plus, he and his assistants continue to reel in top-tier talent from around the country, which will greatly aid in the rebuilding effort.

Just because Hogan doesn’t figure to be challenged this summer doesn’t mean he’s been tearing it up. In fact, the Cardinal needs their third-year starter to raise the level of his game to help offset the losses of 1,700-yard rusher Tyler Gaffney and four-fifths of the starting O-line. That running game, a staple in these parts, could be tested, as little-used backs Kelsey Young, Barry Sanders and others prepare to run behind a heralded, yet largely unproven front wall.

The D, another cornerstone to the program’s recent success, is undergoing its own facelift. Not only have a slew of all-stars departed, but so has coordinator Derek Mason, the architect of those physical, well-coached units. Still, Stanford won’t dip as far as many assume. The mix of veterans, like DE Henry Anderson, LB A.J. Tarpley, CB Alex Carter and SS Jordan Richards, and up-and comers is enough to ensure that the Cardinal will be one of the Pac-12’s saltiest defenses for a fifth year in a row.

Stanford has been a resilient squad in recent years, thriving in the face of those doubters and skeptics patiently waiting for the program to slide back into mediocrity. Academic institutions of this caliber can’t possibly maintain on Saturdays as well, right? The Cardinal aren’t going away anytime soon, or at least as long as Shaw is in charge, but they'll face more than the usual number of hurdles in 2014 as they try to remain among the Pac-12—and national—elite.

What to watch for on offense: Who’s this year’s 1,000-yard back? The Cardinal has produced a 1,000-yard runner in each of the last six seasons. But who’ll be this season’s Toby Gerhart, Stepfan Taylor or Tyler Gaffney? The favorites are versatile junior Kelsey Young and elusive sophomore Barry Sanders. Both are exciting, but neither fits the mold of the traditional Stanford battering ram between the tackles. The ground game’s success could hinge on the development of the new starting linemen, C Graham Shuler, RT Kyle Murphy and guards Joshua Garnett and Johnny Caspers, who have two career starts among them.

What to watch for on defense: Shittu happens. The Cardinal staff has been raving about junior lineman Aziz Shittu throughout the spring in what could be a harbinger of things to come this fall. While the top recruit from the 2012 class has yet to contribute, that’s about to change. At 6-3 and 280 pounds, he has the size to start next to David Parry on the inside, yet he’s also quick enough to play on the outside. Even if Shittu fails to unseat Parry or ends Blake Lueders and Henry Anderson, he’s going to play a key role for the rebuilding Stanford D-line.

The team will be far better if… it trades more three-point attempts for touchdowns. The Cardinal ranked No. 12 nationally in field goals and No. 83 in red-zone touchdown percentage, signaling a complete lack of offensive efficiency. Stanford needs to play with more pop and precision in 2014, especially if the short-yardage running game and the defense take a step in reverse. Even when Andrew Luck was around, Stanford didn’t demand as much from its quarterbacks as other schools. But a slight shift in expectations could take place in 2014.

The Schedule: The Cardinal gets to ease into the season - at least for a week - with UC Davis. And then it's on with USC coming into Palo Alto for a must-win game before going to Army. The Cardinal doesn't get many breaks from then on with three road games in the next four going to Washington, Notre Dame and Arizona State and hosting Washington State. If that wasn't rough enough - especially after the USC game early on - the Oregon showdown is in Eugene and there's a date with a loaded UCLA team to close out the regular season.

Best offensive player: Senior WR Ty Montgomery. There isn’t a playmaker at Stanford who can stretch a defense—or a kick coverage team—the way Montgomery can. In fact, there aren’t many in the country who can match the senior’s big-play knack. In the methodical Cardinal attack, Montgomery is the jackrabbit capable of changing a game’s tempo with a single explosive play. In stark contrast to the team’s ground-and-pound philosophy, he led the FBS in 2013 with 20 all-purpose plays of at least 30 yards.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Henry Anderson. Not too many people outside of Palo Alto know Anderson. But that’s going to change in 2014. The senior is about to go on a salary run season that opens eyes across the country. The 6-6, 295-pounder is country strong, yet he’s also athletic enough to beat his man off the edge or through the gaps. Anderson is going to match his production with his immense skill set, and not a moment too soon. Stanford needs the third-year starter to erupt into a handful to take some of the heat off a defense inserting new starters at all three levels.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Kevin Hogan. Hogan is a winning quarterback, with the record to back it up. Not only is he 16-3 as a starter, but he’s a pristine 10-1 vs. AP Top 25 opponents. But being the offensive caretaker won’t be enough in a year that the Cardinal has lost so much talent and veteran leadership to the NFL. Hogan has to be more of an accelerant in 2014, the kind of quarterback who makes those around him better. If Stanford is going to overcome its personnel losses, it’ll be up to No. 8 to get beyond a middling sophomore year by performing at an overall higher level in the pocket.

The season will be a success if ... Stanford three-peats. Go ahead and blame the lofty expectations on David Shaw, who’s making Pac-12 championships the norm on the Farm. Yeah, this third title in a row would be the toughest one, from the roster holes to a road schedule that includes trips to Seattle, Tempe, Eugene and Pasadena. But the Cardinal has the secret sauce for stopping the Ducks, and it’s unlikely another team will win the North Division. Stanford probably isn’t playoff timber, but it has enough remaining talent to remain atop the Pac-12.

Key game: Nov. 1 at Oregon. What else, right? This has become a 21st century rivalry with a lot of juice, in and outside of the Pac-12. The Cardinal has had the Ducks’ number the last two seasons, delivering upsets behind a bare-knuckle ground game and defense. The winner at Autzen Stadium gets a huge leg up on capturing the North Division, which has housed all three Pac-12 champions. Plus, this could be Oregon QB Marcus Mariota’s Heisman moment, as he gets another crack at that physical Stanford D.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Average yards per rush - rushing: Stanford 5.0 – Opponents 2.9
- Third-down%: Stanford 50% – Opponents 32%
- Sacks: Stanford 44 - Opponents 16

- 2014 Stanford Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players


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