The Cardinal looked strong on both sides of the ball with an impressive performance from the offense and defense.
Senior Kevin Hogan pitched a solid game with 290 yards and 2 TDs, and Sophomore Christian McCaffrey posted a "Roger Craig Worthy" performance with 112 yards receiving, 109 yards on the ground and over 300 yards of total offense for the 3rd time this season.
Stanford was challenged by the tough Huskies defense; but this Cardinal program would not be denied as they posted 478 yards of total offense and dominated the time of possession by holding onto the ball for over 40 minutes. The Cardinal have scored over 30 points in 6 games straight, which had not been accomplished since there was a young man named Andrew Luck under center in 2011.
The Cardinal have been impressive on offense, but that should not take away from the growth of the Stanford defense as the Cardinal have steadily improved each week on the defensive side of the ball.
Stanford has developed into the contender that many College Football Insiders believed that they would be for the season, and has garnered the attention of the national spotlight.
Here is the report card for the week:
The overall offensive effort was solid as the Cardinal continued with their journey through the PAC 12 schedule. The Cardinal are a dramatically different squad from what we all saw to start the season, and seem to be improving in all facets every week. Head Coach David Shaw was satisfied with the performance, but commented that the Cardinal need to avoid the mental mistakes that cost crucial yards on a few drives.
Kevin Hogan posted another great performance, and many are now considering him to be a candidate to be drafted to the next level in May. Hogan has developed into a solid passer that just has a knack of throwing his targets open, and making the big play when it is necessary. On Saturday night, Hogan made crucial plays with his arm and his feet when he escaped the pocket a few times to make big first downs to keep the drives rolling. Hogan will be the first to tell you that he did not have a perfect performance as he missed on a few plays, and threw an interception inside the Red Zone towards the end of the game. After the game, Hogan stated that he couldn't make mistakes like that in the future, because it could hurt the Cardinal in a crucial situation. Hogan is his own harshest critic, and I can guarantee that he will be in the film room this week preparing for that to not happen again.
Running Backs: A
Sophomore Christian McCaffrey is fast becoming a dark horse candidate for the Heisman trophy this season as again the young Running Back posted video game style stats with over 300 yards of total offense. The Huskies came into the conference as one of the most dominant defensive units against the run in the PAC 12, and they had little to no answer in stopping the Cardinal rush attack. Barry J Sanders and Bryce Love posted solid games out of the backfield, and Remound Wright has turned into a short yardage specialist that will get that one to two yards every time he is needed. The Cardinal rush attack just seems to keep getting better every week.
Wide Receivers: B
The Cardinal WRs rarely put up huge numbers, but always seem to make the big catch when needed. Devon Cajuste, Michael Rector, and Francis Owusu can be seen as matchup nightmares and are quick to spread the defenders around the field. However, the Cardinal are not a WR-spread focused offense, so we do not get to see the full talents of these receivers on a weekly basis. This week against the Huskies, the WRs made a few solid plays, but were not fully utilized. The WRs as a group are solid blockers downfield, but are not targeted as much as TEs or RBs in the Cardinal offensive scheme. Also, this week, there were a few dropped passes in the flat that should have been hauled in for large gains. The WRs are talented and will need to improve for the stretch run.
Tight Ends: A
Austin Hooper and Greg Taboada have developed into one of the most fearsome tandems at the TE spot in all of College Football, and their skills were on full display this past Saturday night. These two TEs have continued on the great tradition of TEs on The Farm, as both athletes are phenomenal athletes. Hooper made several big catches including a 21-yard TD grab in the 1st quarter, and Tabaoada made several key plays that kept the Cardinal offensive machine rolling. These two TEs are matchup nightmares for opposing defenses, and will be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the season.
Offensive Line: A-
Seniors Josh Garnett and Kyle Murphy have steadily become a dominant force along the offensive line for the Cardinal in 2015. On Saturday, Garnett had one of the most dominant blocks of the College Football season when he delivered the "Flatback Heard Round The World" in the first half that made several highlight reels. Garnett and Murphy played a fantastic game on Thursday along with Center Graham Shuler as they led the way for the punishing ground game. The Offensive Line would have received higher marks, but several penalties cost drives, and also there were several missed blocks that allowed the Huskies to sack Kevin Hogan. After the game, Garnett commented that the Offensive Line is getting better every week, as they want to be seen as an asset-not a liability as they were early in the season.
The Cardinal defense has improved each week and was able to make the big stops when necessary to stymie the Huskies offensive attack on Saturday night. However, The Huskies were able to run the ball with efficiency, and the Cardinal struggled on making tackles at the initial point of contact. The Huskies started a backup QB and were held at bay through the air for a large portion of the game, but the Huskies were able to make big runs and put up 113 yards on the ground. After the game, Head Coach David Shaw commented that the defense will be heavily relied upon in the coming weeks, and will need to continue to improve.
Defensive Line: A-
The defensive front had a solid game of pressuring the Huskies young QB, and made life difficult on every drop back to pass. Azziz Shittu and Brennan Scarlett seemed to be in the backfield on every play, and were able to make life difficult for the Huskies. The Defensive Line has come together, and become a strength for the Cardinal.
Blake Martinez was a tackling machine on Saturday with 10 tackles, and Peter Kalambayi is developing into a force on the outside. However, the Linebackers were caught off guard by the Huskies, and missed several tackles at the point of contact that sprung off countless more yards. Coach David Shaw said that the Linebackers are very instinctual players that sometimes try to make the big play instead of waiting for the play to develop. The Linebackers were be relied upon in the upcoming games since the opponents all have solid rush attacks.
Senior Ronnie Harris has turned his side of the field into "Harris Island" as he has become one of the top corners in the PAC 12. Harris has a knack for taking on the best receiver of the opponents, and this was no different on Saturday against the Huskies. The Cardinal Secondary has vastly improved, but still is a work in progress. Fans have to realize this unit will make mistakes, as the two top Safeties are a converted QB and WR. The Cardinal were hit with a few big plays this past Saturday, and will need to limit these plays for success in the future.
Special Teams: A-
The Cardinal will soon be limited in making any kick returns as it seems that Christian McCaffrey and Barry J Sanders are a threat to break a return at a moment's notice. Kicker Conrad Ukropina has developed into a solid kicker, and an asset for the Cardinal. The kickoff coverage squad is the only unit that needs some work as the Cardinal missed a few tackles on Saturday night, and allowed the Huskies to make a few solid returns.