Some initial thoughts on the UCLA game, in no particular order. I didn't see the whole game, so some of the observations might be a bit off--let me know.
Also wow. He had a career day: 171 yards on 36 carries (4.75 yards/carry). Most importantly, he held on to the ball, which he's had some trouble doing this season.
The defense is back
This is what I expected the defense to look like all season. Smothering downfield coverage combined with a ferocious pass rush, and coming up with huge plays when the situation called for it. It helped a lot that UCLA inexplicably abandoned the run after the first series. Even so, Hundley escaped a couple times for big gains. Our defense let Keith Price do that, too. I realize that it's very tough to play good pass coverage, stop the run, and spy the QB. But we're playing Oregon in a couple of weeks, and they have a guy named Marcus Mariota who's better than either Hundley or Price at running the ball himself.
Kevin Hogan is back
He looked great. On pass attempts he was 18/25 (72%) for 227 yards (9.1 yards/attempt) with a TD. When he ran the ball himself, he carried it five times for 33 yards, for a 6.6 yard average. That's more yards and a higher per carry average than any UCLA player. The one blemish on his stat line was the interception, but that was hardly his fault. He made a good throw to Cajuste that would have been a huge play, but Cajuste juggled it into the hands of a UCLA defensive back. Speaking of . . .
A couple of huge dropped passes: Cajuste's juggling that turned into an interception, and Ty Montgomery dropping a pass that hit his outstretched hands that almost certainly would have been a touchdown. Both of them have been solid this year, so I'm willing to hope for now that they were just flukes. Even the best receivers drop balls sometimes. Additionally, I feel like Whitfield's unbelievably spectacular catch pretty much wipes the karmic slate clean. It's dangerous to get too greedy. And a related point . . .
The game was closer than the final score, but it shouldn't have been
Stanford never trailed, but it was tied or a one score game almost the entire way. But it shouldn't have been. Stanford went into halftime up 3-0, but if Cajuste hadn't juggled Hogan's pass into an interception, Stanford probably would have led 10-0. Add in Montgomery's drop and a couple of drive-killing penalties, and Stanford might have won this one 38-10. The offense will need to clean up those mistakes as we travel to face a very tough Oregon State squad in Corvallis and then take on the Ducks in Palo Alto.
Ouch. Stanford has been remarkably good at avoiding injuries during the Harbaugh and Shaw eras. Definitely credit the training and conditioning staff for that, but they're starting to add up this year. Henry Anderson has been out for a while. Alex Carter is hurt. Devon Cajuste left the game in the third quarter with a leg injury. Ben Gardner has been playing through an arm injury he sustained at Washington (and was, ridiculously accused of faking during that game) and had to miss a few plays yesterday. We need those guys on the field. Let's hope none of those injuries are too serious.
Pac-12 officials get a lot of criticism, including quite frequently from me. I didn't see the whole game yesterday, but I think they called a pretty fair game. UCLA fans are complaining that the officials were flag-happy and killed some of their drives. The truth is, UCLA was flagged only 7 times, and UCLA (and Mora teams in general) are know to be penalized a lot. Stanford fans, including me, are also griping about some drive-killing penalties. And Stanford was flagged six times, but for a lot more yardage (65 yards to 43). So yeah, the officials might well have been flag happy, but it's hard to say that they were inconsistent or unfair.
The rest of the Pac
Some really interesting games yesterday. The Utes are who we thought they were, and might actually be worse. They looked like a mediocre to below average team in the South yesterday. I actually thought they were an above average team that had an outside shot at contending for the weak South division. After playing UCLA tough (despite some big mistakes) and beating Stanford, Ute fans were ardently calling for more respect. On this very blog, they called me out for not giving their team enough respect last week. But after losing to Arizona, it looks they're probably the fifth best of the six teams in the South. Stanford came out listless, played a lousy game, and was the victim of a couple of bad missed calls. But now it's pretty clear that there's no excuse for losing that game.
And I don't really know what to make of Washington. They played out of their minds against Stanford, then hung with Oregon for a while before losing in the fourth quarter. But they got absolutely demolished by ASU. Playing Stanford at Stanford, then playing Oregon anywhere, and then playing ASU in Tempe is an incredibly tough three game set. But it really looked like Washington might be ready to throw in the towel on the season, especially if Keith Price is seriously hurt. And what did ASU do to contain Bishop Sankey? No one's been able to do that all year (including Stanford), but ASU absolutely stuffed him. Certainly makes Stanford's victory over ASU look more impressive, but it makes the victory over Washington look a lot less so. There was some concern that the depth of the Pac-12 could hurt the conference this year, and that may well be the case.
The USC/Notre Dame game went about as well as we could have hoped. I was really, really hoping that they're two evenly matched, not very good teams. And that's what it looked like on Saturday. Stanford has a tough remaining schedule, and we absolutely need to beat both of them. Neither team has any offense, and I think their defenses might be vulnerable (see ASU putting up 62 points, USC's hapless offense missing some critical opportunities deep in Notre Dame territory). Neither will be a cakewalk, but I hope that both will be less tough than either Oregon or OSU.
Finally, the North owns the Pac. The only teams undefeated in conference play in the North (Oregon and OSU, though hopefully there will be no undefeated Pac 12 teams after Stanford plays both of them), and Stanford just beat by far the best team in the South.