Why is Luck regrowing his beard?
As soon as I heard that former UW quarterback Brock Huard was going to be calling this game, I knew Stanford fans were in for a looooong night. At least no one had water bottles thrown at them as they left the field. That would have resulted in yet another injury to Stanford.
The Stanford Cardinal, the most balanced offense in the Pac-12 and arguably the best defense as well, won a game that resulted in the loss of our best tight end, our best wide receiver, and most painfully, our best linebacker for the season. To say that the trip to Tucson was bad would be an understatement.
Yes, Stanford won, and yes, Stanford looked like the complete team that they are capable of being in the second half. However, the loss of Coby Fleener, Chris Owusu (again), and Shayne Skov makes the win against the Arizona Wildcats a bittersweet one at that. In fact, if there's one thing that Stanford fans are grateful for after last night's victory, it's that Stanford has a bye week next weekend, giving at least Fleener and Owusu 14 days to recover from a concussion and a hard hit, respectively.
As for Skov, though, it looks like he may be out for the season, but we won't be sure until Stanford releases a note about his health, most likely Monday afternoon after the Stanford medical staff evaluates Skov. The loss of our lead tackler and best defensive lineman is certainly a blow to Stanford's defense. If it's anything to do with his ACL, at this point, no Cardinal fan will put any sort of pressure on him to return anytime soon to help the team win. While we like winning, we much prefer someone avoiding permanent ligament damage as a result of a rushed return.
An interesting thing happened last night, though. With all the players out due to injuries in the first half, Stanford could have easily folded and played the rest of the game with a lackluster effort. In fact, that's almost exactly what they did in the first half. Like the Duke game, though, this game was a tale of two halves -- a poor first half followed by a dominating second half.
Stanford had little reason to worry about the defense, though. Without Skov, they still got the job done without any further injuries. And in reality, there's no cause for Stanford fans to lose sleep on the Cardinal's defensive play in the future. If anything, playing without Skov showed that Stanford has an extraordinary amount of depth potential on the defensive side of the ball, including several extremely talented freshmen on defense who last year were debating between attending Stanford and SEC teams.
On offense, the loss of Fleener was unfortunate. A bad hit that resulted in a concussion is serious enough as it is, but there's no blame in the hit. Having a concussion is not a fun experience for any football player, and as Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby can tell you, they can have a devastating season-long impact. The hope is that he can return this season, but as Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz proved, Stanford is capable of waiting as long as Fleener needs to fully recover from his concussion-like symptoms.
For Owusu, his injury is most despressing. A year after sitting out nearly the entire season because of an injury after a stellar sophomore season that included several kickoff returns over 50 yards, Owusu was expected to be a star this season. In fact, coach Shaw admitted that much of Stanford's success would be dependent upon Owusu. For him to be injured again certainly puts Stanford's offensive output in question, at least on paper.
But never discredit Andrew Luck. After a first half that saw a discombobulated offense, a shell-shocked defense, and a 'Zona Zoo that was licking its lips at the prospect of a top-10 victory, Luck fixed his first half flatness and came out roaring with the rest of his teammates. Like last year, Stanford and Luck employed a seven-man front line, forcing the defense to think a run was coming. Instead, Luck would pull back, one or both of the TEs would circle behind the stacked defense, and a classic Luck-to-TE touchdown would result. There was nothing new about it, and as Arizona can now admit, nothing new about the result.
Thankfully for Stanford and its frazzled fans, the team heads back to Palo Alto for a two week respite from intercollegiate football. In fact, with the UCLA Bruins now solidly in disarray, Colorado looking at this season as a rebuilding year, and Wazzu reverting to it's old self, Stanford enters a few weeks now of decidedly less stressful football. That's not to say that the Cardinal should overlook any of these conference foes, but given the results of these first three weeks of non-conference play, few opponents on Stanford's schedule have made enough of an impression to elicit any worries from the Stanford staff, even with the injuries, and thankfully, none of them are on the schedule for the next month.
Stanford 37, Arizona 10
Utah 54, BYU 10 - After a week that saw many Utahans questioning Jordan Wynn's ability to lead Utah to consistent victories, the Utes come out and absolutely throttled the Cougars in Provo. A second half explosion by the Utes was much appreciated by the conference, given BYU scared ranked Texas in Austin just a week prior.
Syracuse 17, USC 38 - Who would have guessed that a win over Syracuse would qualify as a quality win for the Pac-12 this week? The Trojans have made no doubt about it -- Matt Barkley to Robert Woods is going to be the staple of the offense for the rest of the season.
Arizona St. 14, Illinois 17 - One week after defeating ranked Missouri, ASU goes to Champaign and flags their way to a loss to yet another Big Ten opponent. Dennis Erickson, in 4+ years in Tempe, has been unable to reign in his teams' lack of discipline.
Washington State 24, San Diego State 42 - They Coug'd it again. The Cougars were leading the Aztecs by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter only to gave up 28 unanswered points to San Diego State.
Presbyterian 12, California 63 - Yawn. Of importance to Stanford fans -- in order to add any sort of credence to Stanford's strength of schedule this year, we have to hope that Cal, in addition to Notre Dame, USC, and Oregon, continues its winning ways for as long as possible. Try to wrap your heads around that, Cardinal fans.
Missouri State 7, Oregon 56 - Ever notice that since the Oklahoma debacle a few years ago that the only "quality" football team the Ducks have been able to lure to Autzen has been Boise State? Another yawner of a game.
Washington 38, Nebraska 51 - The third game of three in one year between the two teams, the officiating in this game was absolutely terrible. It was unquestionably the worst officiating in any game featuring a Pac-12 team this season (and surprise, the officiating crew was from the Big Ten this time). If some of those questionable calls had been reversed, Washington could have easily pulled to within three in the final five minutes of this game. Instead, it's a 13-point loss and another bad mark on the Pac-12's resume.
Colorado State 14, Colorado 28 - Major congratulations to an emotional CU head coach Jon Embree for his first collegiate victory. While the Buffs were always favored to win this game, CU played its most complete game of the season as they prepare to travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State.
Texas 49, UCLA 20 - Both the Longhorns and the Bruins had questionable quarterback situations as it was, but UCLA as a team looked like they forgot to even play football in front of an announced crowd of 55,000 at the Rose Bowl. (Heck, Bruins, USC had more people show up at the Coliseum and they weren't even playing a storied football program.) That said, UCLA fans have got to be some of the most ridiculous fans in the conference. We all knew they want Neuheisal's head on a platter if they failed to make a bowl this year. But to call for the AD's dismissal after ensuring the renovation of Pauley (which Bruin supporters couldn't even stand united for)? Criticizing the Chancellor for focusing on more than just athletics? This reeks of desperation and delusion that even USC fans don't stoop down to. And we're not even a quarter of the way through the football season.