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Stanford Dispatches Arizona State, Reminds Us They're Good

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Stanford had a bit more trouble than expected keeping the Arizona State offense out of the end zone in the second half, but they came away with a big win on a big stage. Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images.
Stanford had a bit more trouble than expected keeping the Arizona State offense out of the end zone in the second half, but they came away with a big win on a big stage. Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images.

Keep Up The Pace

Kelsey Young turned his head, ready to bust upfield with 11:03 left in the third quarter. He was so ready that he forgot to catch the ball. That sums up much of the Arizona State/Stanford matchup. Stanford got ahead of themselves. They looked like the best team in the nation going into the half 29-0, but the final score was 42-28.

Coach David Shaw must have come away from this victory with a renewed understanding of how quickly teams can score. The Pac-12 has offenses fast enough to beat you while you tie your shoe. At the very least, he should tell backup quarterback Evan Crowder to put in his mouthpiece. It served as a indicator that Crowder didn’t plan on passing, which resulted in 10 men in the box, two unsuccessful drives and the return of Kevin Hogan.

Uncharacteristic Moments

Though his white flag went up a bit early, I respect Shaw’s decision to stick to a game plan: Run out the clock, don’t bother running up the score. But it makes me wonder, would Stanford have played Crowder if they were playing Oregon? The Ducks will make note of the secondary’s performance, which allowed 367 passing yards. Perhaps this defense is more porous than we thought.

Two Arizona State touchdowns came off missed tackles in the middle of the field, where punishers Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richardson usually thrive. While they allowed stud Marion Grice only 2.9 yards per carry, they let the ASU wide receivers shake tackles. As a result, Jaelen Strong finished with 12 receptions for 168 yards and a touchdown. Though the ASU bubble screen game proved ineffective, the no huddle moved down the middle of the field easily.

Stanford’s cornerbacks need to check their ankles out. They may have been broken in the process. And again, the Sun Devils offense isn't as effective as upcoming opponents Oregon, UCLA and Washington.

Reynolds' ejection came as a surprise. His hit was illegal and he deserved the newly-enforced targeting penalty. Still, the Cardinal captain should have known better. He will be missed during the first half of the Washington State game.

Impressive Offense

When Stanford starters needed to chew up clock and end the game, they did so. Hogan's return in the fourth quarter breathed relief into the offense. ASU made the game interesting, but the offense got key contributions from the big t(h)ree in Hogan, Tyler Montgomery and Tyler Gaffney. While none of them had tons of yardage, each of them had two touchdowns. Anthony Wilkerson and Devon Cajuste even showed they can be counted on. The running back and receiving tandems make Stanford’s offense one of the most consistent in the country, which is what everyone thought we'd say about the Cardinal defense. Having graduated their top rusher and top five receivers, Stanford has to be happy with the offensive production.

No Harm, No Foul

It was odd (and unwarranted) to feel dissatisfied about a 14-point win over a ranked opponent.

Stanford is recognizing flaws early while winning games. Not bad. They played an excellent second half against Army and a championship-caliber first half yesterday. Put those together and you’ve got a team that could beat anyone in the nation ... but actually put those together. Next week may be Washington State, which shouldn't be a problem, but in two weeks Stanford faces a vintage Keith Price. His Washington Huskies want to beat the Cardinal two years in a row and prove they belong in the upper echelon.

Kevin Hogan is still undefeated against ranked opponents. The win keeps Stanford ranked second-best in the Pac-12 behind Oregon.