Stanford Kills First Half, Struggles To Finish In Win Against ASU
Saturday’s game was a tale of two halfs for the Stanford Cardinal as they downed 23rd ranked Arizona St 42-28. The Cardinal were unbelievable in the first 30 minutes of the contest, putting up 29 points (4 touchdowns and a blocked punt resulting in a safety) while shutting out ASU, allowing a mere 83 yards of offense for the Sun Devils.
The 5th ranked Cardinal playing in the only game of the week that featured 2 ranked teams squaring off, Stanford looked to finish the second half and make a statement to the college football nation that they can be considered as a BCS contender. However, the Sun Devils didn’t go away without a fight.
Stanford’s defense held strong in the 3rd quarter, only allowing 7 points after a quick score on the second half kickoff. Stanford answered the score with a field goal and a one play, 16 yard rush by RB Tyler Gaffney for his second score of the game. The Cardinal entered the 4th quarter with a 32 point lead, their biggest all night long. But that lead would vanish quickly in the last 15 minutes of play.
After 3 touchdown passes from ASU Quarterback Taylor Kelly, the Sun Devils were only down 11 points with over 6 minutes left in the game. After the ensuing onside kick was recovered by Stanford, there was never really any danger of the Cardinal blowing the lead they built in the first half. But the win was no longer as sweet as it should have been.
The comeback by the Sun Devils could have been due to the fact that David Shaw perhaps got a little too conservative towards the end of the game. ASU out-gained the Cardinal 417 to 391 yards with Arizona St QB Kelly throwing for 367 yards on 55 attempts. QB Kevin Hogan for Stanford only attempted 17 passes, completing 11 of them for 151 yards and 2 touchdown passes, both to WR Ty Montgomery.
Shaw’s biggest mistake came when early in the 4th quarter he replaced Hogan with backup QB Evan Crower. The Cardinal did not even ATTEMPT a pass in the 4th quarter, something that the Sun Devils picked up on and was able to contain the run. Stanford only had one play over 7 yards in the 4th quarter; a 27 yard bootleg by Hogan (who came back into the game for the final possession of the 4th quarter) that fooled everyone in the Stadium. He even fooled his own team, who thought the ball was once again going to be handed off to RB Anthony Wilkerson.
Stanford kicked a field goal at the end of that drive to move up by 14 points with just 30 seconds left to play. An interception by Alex Carter (his first INT of his career) on a final play, hail mary attempt sealed the final score at 42-28, moving the Cardinal to 3-0 and nothing their first win in PAC-12 play. The second half might not have been what Stanford wanted, which also included senior safety Ed Reynolds to be ejected because of the new targeting rule this season, forcing Reynolds to also miss the first half of next week’s game vs Washington State in Seattle.
Only being 3 games into the season, the Cardinal still have time to adjust for a schedule that really pressures them late in the year. And if they find a way to play an entire 60 minutes like they did in that first half, they will definitely be in the mix to be considered for that game on January 6th.