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Luck Can Throw AND Catch Footballs; Defense Evolving Without Skov; South Pitiful Against North Teams Not Named OSU

When I saw that Stanford was going to be wearing their infamous black uniforms, I shuddered.  Last year's attempt at uniform rotation ended up making Stanford look like they were wearing washed out black dress pants, faded so much that they looked blue.  I thought we had seen the last of Stanford's cringe-inducing experimentation in black uniforms.

I was wrong.  And I'm not afraid to admit that I am happy to be wrong.

The Stanford Cardinal rocked their black uniforms to cruise to a 26-point win over the UCLA Bruins at a sold-out Stanford Stadium (seriously, it sold out and there was a substantially-large Standing-Room Only contingent under the arches at the North Endzone).  Stanford's now patented second half surge helped the Cardinal overpower a surprisingly efficient UCLA passing game.

In fact, if you look at UCLA's stats, the Bruins weren't all that terrible this game.  What hurt them the most were what's hurt them almost all of the past three years -- unforced errors and lack of strength up front.  Nowhere was UCLA's shortcomings and Stanford's strengths more apparent than in the very first drive of the game.

UCLA won the toss and decided to take the ball first, a particularly smart decision given Stanford's sluggish first halves this season.  The thinking probably was for UCLA to come out and score as often as possible, making Stanford play catch-up for the first half.  And for about four minutes there, it seemed like that plan was going to work.  The Bruins managed to travel up the field for 99 yards for a 1st and Goal at the Stanford 4-yard line.  Suffice it to say that there were quite a few Stanford fans in the stadium more than a little tense at that kind of defensive start.

However, when all seemed lost when UCLA managed to the 1-yard line, the defense woke up and decided it was going to take control of the game.  Matt Masifilo, Chase Thomas, James Vaughters, and A.J. Tarpley all combined to prevent UCLA from punching it in on third and fourth and short.  UCLA fans can question the coaching decision to run it up the middle all they want, but UCLA needed to go for the fourth down conversion regardless if it wanted to stay in the game.  It also was a good test of the defense without Shayne Skov.

While Stanford's defense looked shaky at times (especially the secondary), Stanford managed to keep UCLA off the scoreboard for the first quarter while keeping the Bruins to only three touchdowns on the night.  Although the D-line didn't have the same kind of success against UCLA as they did in its previous three games in the running department, Stanford still kept our friends from down south to their lowest yardage per carry this season and their lowest rushing total so far.

But it wasn't just the defense that went out and proved itself.  On offense, the game was perhaps Stanford's best output so far this year.  While Stanford scored more against San Jose State, the glaring deficiencies at the line of scrimmage were mostly minimized this game.  Cameron Fleming, Sam Schwartzstein, and David Yankey started  and kept UCLA from pressuring Andrew Luck for the majority of the game.  Gone, too, were many of the dropped passes that frustrated wide receivers and tight ends alike when in the open field.

I'm not sure what it was, but perhaps Stanford felt more comfortable in this game than in the other three.  It looked more at ease and confident in knowing what it needed to do, and when it looked like UCLA was going to overcome Stanford's power defense, the offense would come out and put the Bruins back on their heels.  Of course, a 35-second touchdown drive to open the second half and a trick play that saw the ball travel from Luck to Tyler Gaffney to Drew Terrell thrown to Luck on a one-hand, one-foot catch (that Luck supposedly called himself) can get any team down.

Looking to next week, what can Stanford improve on against Colorado?  While Colorado isn't exactly known for being a conference powerhouse yet, Stanford can't afford to treat this game as another bye week.  UCLA exposed Stanford's secondary for massive yardage that gave the Bruins ample opportunity to drive up the field on several occasions.  Stanford's corners need to especially work on recognizing man-to-man coverage.  If Stanford were to play Oregon today, I'm not sure that the performance that the defense put on would be anywhere near enough to contain the Ducks' lightning offense.  On offense, while the running game has gotten better over the past month, there's still room for improvement.  Stanford can't afford to fall asleep at the wheel, especially when it still has the meat of its schedule still to come.

Stanford 45, UCLA 19


This week marked the first week in which there were nothing but conference games for Pac-12 teams, and at the end, we can conclude one thing: the South Division is pretty bad.

Arizona 41, USC 48 -- Arizona almost pulled out the upset.  One week after surging from down 21-3 against the Ducks, the Wildcats roared back during the second half from a 21 point deficit to make the game competitive against the Trojans.  Unfortunately for them, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods put on yet another clinic and basically won the game by themselves in front of a 2/3 filled Coliseum.
Washington State 31, Colorado 27 --   Here's how this game went for me.  Colorado led the entire game, and when they scored their final TD to go up ten 27-17 with just under five minutes left to go in the fourth quarter, I decided to go take a shower and get ready for the Stanford game.  When I came out, there was just over one minute left in the game and Wazzu was up 31-27.  WTF?
Washington 31, Utah 14 -- Speaking of newbies falling on their faces at home, Utah was arguably not even competitive against the Huskies.  When you get the ball to start the game and then nine seconds later you're down 7-0 after a fumbled kickoff that's returned for a TD, you know it's going to be a looooong game.  Washington showed that it is perhaps the best team in the conference not named Oregon or Stanford.
Oregon State 20, Arizona State 35 -- But how can Washington be the third best team in the conference?  Easy.  Turnover the ball twice in the first half to the Beavers that get converted into Oregon State points and keep the only winless team in the conference in the game for almost 60 minutes while at home.