Hitting the Reset Button: Stanford's second half brings both concerns and optimism

George Frey

After getting upset by Utah, where do David Shaw and the Cardinal go from here?

We've returned to that magical part of the season in which David Shaw discovers he cannot cheat death anymore.

If there's anything comforting about that, it's that Shaw always does the right thing -- after exhausting all of his alternatives. Hence shuffling Brian Polian off and replacing him with the highly effective Pete Alamar; hence the Nunes-to-Hogan shift. So there's some hope Shaw can shuffle again and draw a better hand; the man has done it before.

But, oh geez, if we had to blow our perfect record, did we have to do it in this way? The defense was especially concerning -- it got blown off the ball seemingly every conventional running play and its refusal to follow Utah's motion man, allowing itself to get outflanked on every swing pass, remains puzzling. (It's especially concerning considering the team that loves the tactic the most -- and was the first to really kill us with it -- plays in baby blue and gold and is an unwelcome visitor for Homecoming.)

And the future looks ugly for the defensive line: with Henry Anderson out, the coaches trust three and only three defensive lineman. This is, you know, a problem.

Offensively, well -- it's been said before, hasn't it? Hogan's transformation has been strange. In 2012, he was good short and intermediate, a resourceful runner, and yet weak in going downfield. This year he seems exclusively able to pass downfield; so-so at best in throwing intermediate and short, and looks tentative in running. (If I had to change anything about the offense, it'd be the abdication of Hogan runs. He's good at it, he's comfortable at it. Why renounce it? I do not know.)

Here's the surest sign of optimism. You have impressions that the team was totally outplayed. I did too -- until I looked at the box score. One team had 6.9 yards per play and gave up 5.6 defensively. That team, oddly, is Stanford. It also had a special teams touchdown. If you'd told me before the game that this'd be the statistical state of play, I'd predict a 14-to-17 point win or so. The reasons this didn't happen are pretty obvious: Jordan Williamson missed FG (which is the biggest turning point of the game: instead of going up 17-7 and being in control, the team misses and gives up the tying touchdown); two fumbles lost; the final empty possession.

If you think sloppiness and wastefulness on offense will continue, feel free to remain concerned. If not, well, everything's still in front of this team. Go forth.

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