In front of a national audience, the Stanford Cardinal put on a performance for the ages in their 56-35 victory over the UCLA Bruins.
The Cardinal produced another offensive explosion on Thursday night by putting up 441 yards of total offense and scoring the most points against a Jim Mora coached UCLA team in his tenure.
Sophomore Running Back Christian McCaffrey was dubbed the nickname the "Ginsu Knife" because he carved up the Bruins defense with precision and power for a school record 243 yards on the ground and 4 touchdowns.
Stanford could not be stopped on the offensive side of the ball as QB Kevin Hogan made the big passes when necessary, and completed a "Catch of the Year" with WR Francis Owusu that Coach David Shaw still can't believe was completed.
The Cardinal were dominant on offense, and the defense stepped up enough to slow down the high flying Bruins when it was necessary.
Here is a complete report card of the match-up:
Overall Offensive Grade: A
The offense of the Cardinal continues to get better every week. If they cut down on mistakes and continue their path of smash mouth football; it will be an interesting second half of the season for all Cardinal fans.
Kevin Hogan did not put up video game like numbers; but made the big plays when necessary. He managed the clock well, and went back to his bread and butter with his passing to the Tight Ends. Hogan would have gotten a higher grade if he did not throw that interception deep in Cardinal territory. After the game, Hogan had intimated that throw would make him study harder this week, as something like that could haunt the Cardinal in the future.
Running Backs: A+
What else can be said about the performance of Sophomore Christian McCaffrey? The young athlete was phenomenal on the national stage. The Bruins had no answer in stopping or even slowing him down. McCaffrey is getting better by the week, and may just break every rushing record for the Cardinal that have ever been posted. Barry J Sanders also contributed well as he made a few crucial first downs for the Cardinal down the stretch. If the play of the Stanford Running Backs continue in their upward trend; the rest of the PAC 12 and the FBS need to be put on notice.
Wide Receivers: A
The offense was primarily centered around the run game on Thursday night, but the play of the WRs was key to the overall success. The downfield blocking, and ability to separate was key for the Cardinal offense. WR Devon Cajuste made several big blocks to help spring Christian McCaffrey for big offensive gains, and also made a great catch for a TD. Of course, how could we ignore possibly the "Catch of the Year" made by Francis Owusu which was absolutely amazing. The Cardinal offense does not center around one facet to be successful, but relies heavily upon everyone doing their job to be successful.
Tight Ends: A
Stanford is quickly becoming Tight End University as the Cardinal continuously produces some of the best TEs in the country. Austin Hooper and Greg Taboada were phenomenal on Thursday night, as the Bruins did not have a defender that could match up with their size and speed. The TEs at Stanford are a matchup nightmare for most schools, and is a huge reason for the success of the offense for the last five games.
Offensive Line: A
The growth of the Stanford Offensive line has been nothing short of spectacular, and on Thursday night, their growth was on full display. Cardinal Head Coach David Shaw has stated on many occasions that the play of the Offensive Line is the reason for the success of the team, and that the offensive explosion was created by the play of the Offensive Line. Tackle Kyle Murphy and Guard Josh Garnett were stellar on Thursday night, and have been dubbed the title of "Smash Brothers" as both players have developed into strong prospects for the next level. After RB Christian McCaffrey's record breaking performance, the Sophomore could not give enough superlatives about the play of the line, as he raved that if it was not for them, he would never have even come close to the record. An A+ grade would have been given, but even Coach Shaw said there is improvement to be made, as the Offensive Line needs to cut back on the penalties.
Overall Defensive Grade: B
There were several bright spots for the Cardinal on defense, but also too many lapses in judgment that produced huge gains for the Bruins. The Cardinal employed the bend but don't break philosophy on Thursday night, and were able to ride that to victory. The Cardinal will have to shore up those mistakes in the future, or the games could tilt the other way.
Defensive Line: B
The Cardinal are very thin up front this season as several key athletes have been injured to start out the season. The Cardinal did not get a great pass rush up front to start the game on Thursday night, and it took adjustments at the half to get the men up front a shot at the Bruins QB. Azziz Shittu and Brennan Scarlett were constantly double teamed, and it took the blitzing capability of the linebackers to get the Defensive linemen freed up to make the plays. The Defensive Line will need to work on shedding the blocks as the Cardinal are most successful on defense when the Defensive Line is able to get penetration.
Blake Martinez is flat out a tackling machine. The Senior LB made several big plays on Thursday night that deflated the Bruins offensive attack. Outside Linebacker Peter Kalambayi was able to get solid pressure on Bruins QB Josh Rosen that forced him to make several errant passes. The only drawback was that Bruins RB Paul Perkins shredded the Cardinal on a few big runs that should have been stopped at the line. Perkins broke off a 43-yard gain in the 1st quarter that was due to fact that both linebackers made incorrect judgments and were not able to wrap up Perkins at the line. The Cardinal are nursing a few injuries at this position, and once healthy, the LBs should become the strength of the defense.
The Cardinal Secondary stepped up and made a few big plays on Thursday night including the interception returned for a TD in the 1st quarter by Alijah Holder. However, Stanford was torched on several big plays by the Bruins receivers, and allowed an egregious 70-yard touchdown reception when the secondary was confused at the coverage package. The Cardinal Secondary did not play horrible as their must be credit given to the Bruins passing offense, but the Cardinal will be facing a few tests coming up from Oregon and California that specialize in slinging the ball around the field. Senior Ronnie Harris has been special, and is the leader of the Secondary, commented that the Secondary needs to continue to improve every week and will be tested in the coming weeks.
Special Teams: A-
The Special teams were solid this week with the fantastic 96-yard return made by Christian McCaffrey. After the big returns, UCLA knew that they could not cover the returns made by McCaffrey, so they employed the "Poison Method" of making sure every kick to him was short and not able to be returned. The Special Teams would have been given a higher mark if not for the kick out of bounds and other penalties accrued during kickoffs.
On Thursday night, Stanford Head Coach David Shaw continued his dominance over Jim Mora and increased his record against the Bruins to 6-0. David Shaw is fast making fans a believer in this team. Shaw has turned the tables on what many would consider to be a disastrous start into a team that is a contender for the PAC 12 title. Many College Football pundits are praising Coach Shaw's smash mouth style of play, and how he has gotten his team to buy in on his style. Coach Shaw has developed a program at Stanford that is almost impossible to replicate; he has created a machine that delivers "intellectual brutality".