Stanford dominated the Buffaloes in every facet of the game, and put the national media on notice that the Cardinal should be considered for the National Playoff just as any top team in the country.
On the offensive side of the ball, Stanford thoroughly outplayed the Buffaloes as the Cardinal accrued 472 yards of total offense, posted 25 1st downs, and held onto the ball for over 38 minutes. Colorado had no chance to get any rhythm as Stanford continued to post long drive after long drive. Stanford showed that they are dedicated to their offensive game plan, and will also throw in a wrinkle or two to keep defenses on their toes.
On the defensive side, the Cardinal showed that they are able to adapt on the fly, and started to get a solid pass rush later in the game. The Cardinal seemed to employ the bend, but don't break philosophy early in the game; then they decided that the best course of action was to pin their ears back and pressure the QB. Stanford was able to get the high-powered offense off the field, and did not allow the Buffaloes to get into any sort of flow throughout the game.
After the game, Head Coach David Shaw brushed off any talk with the College Playoffs, and put the focus on how well his team has come together in the last few weeks. Coach Shaw stressed that the team is taking one game at a time, and once that final whistle blew, their focus will squarely be on the Oregon Ducks in next week's PAC 12 North Division showdown.
Here is a complete analysis and report card from the game:
The Cardinal Offense did put up 42 points, and has scored over 30 points in 8 straight games; but Head Coach David Shaw thinks this team can produce even better results. Sophomore RB Christian McCaffrey was phenomenal on Saturday, and Senior QB Kevin Hogan just seems to get more and more comfortable as the leader of this team every week. Coach Shaw stated that his team still needs to shore up the mistakes that are being made with linemen missing assignments, and receivers running errant routes, otherwise this unit would have received an A+ from Saturday.
Senior QB Kevin Hogan played well in his return to the location of where the keys to the offense were handed over to him from Coach Shaw in 2012. Hogan posted solid numbers completing 17 of 23 passes for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns on Saturday; but the most important stat to him was the time of possession win for the Cardinal. Hogan did not have a perfect performance as he missed a few open receivers, and tossed an ugly interception that could have changed the tide of the game in the third quarter. Hogan has improved weekly, and will be relied upon heavily in the coming weeks to make big plays under the bright lights.
Running Backs: A+
Super Sophomore Christian McCaffrey proved he can do it all in his homecoming to Colorado on Saturday as he carved up the Buffaloes defense for 147 yards on the ground and posted 220 yards of total offense. McCaffrey also posted his first touchdown pass of the season with a perfect spiral to TE Austin Hooper for a 28-yard strike in the 2nd half. McCaffrey has garnered the attention of the national media with his play, and is on pace to break total yardage accrued records in just his Sophomore year. Freshman Bryce Love also wanted to break into the act with his 47-yard scamper for a TD that gives Cardinal fans hope for the future with Fire and Ice.
Wide Receivers: A-
The Cardinal WRs had a much better game this week; chalk up last week to inclement weather, and an improved WSU defensive secondary. WR Michael Rector stepped his game up this week, and posted a solid game including a fantastic pitch-an-catch 43-yard TD reception. Head Coach David Shaw has been happy with the play, but needs the WRs to still run better routes, and make better plays on the ball. The Cardinal are not a WR centric offense, but are needed for the stretch run to expand opposing defenses, and allow more room for the RBs to make big plays.
Tight Ends: A
Austin Hooper is NFL ready, no bones about it. Hooper made the Buffaloes look silly on Saturday with his acrobatic grabs, and his ability to get separation from their secondary. Hooper is a Junior, and may decide to make the jump to the NFL next year if he wants too, but Cardinal fans are praying he decides to stay one more year and increase his draft stock.
Offensive Line: A-
Stanford has been known to produce some of the most talented offensive linemen in the country. On Saturday, the O-Line punished Colorado up front, and opened huge holes for the running game. Senior Josh Garnett is fast gaining national exposure as one of the most talented Guards in the game, and Tackle Kyle Murphy is an absolute mauler next to Garnett on the line. The Stanford O-Line needs to improve in one key area down the stretch: pass blocking. Tackle Casey Tucker has been burned several times, and QB Kevin Hogan has not had a lot of time to get rid of the ball in passing situations. This will need to be shorn up for the stretch run.
The Cardinal defense was much improved this week as they held Colorado to season lows in points and yards from scrimmage. Stanford was able to pressure Colorado QB Sefo Liufau into one of his worst games of the season, and never really allowed the Buffaloes to ever really get any sense of rhythm. Coach Shaw was pleased with the performance on defense; but also noted that they need to cut down on the mental mistakes, and make sure to stay in the mindset of the game at all times.
Defensive Line: A-
The Cardinal Defensive Line played well again this week, and was able to get solid pressure for the bulk of the game. DL Solomon Thomas and DE Kevin Anderson led the charge of the Defensive Line and held the Buffaloes to 83 yards on the ground. The only issue was the penalty for a late hit committed by Brennan Scarlett, and a few missed assignments or the line would have received a higher grade.
The "Tackling Machine" was on full display Saturday with Blake Martinez posting a solid performance yet again. Sam Shober and Mike Tyler also posted sacks in the game; and the linebackers were the steady force to not allow the Buffaloes any substantial gains along the ground.
The Cardinal Secondary is a mixed bag this week. Stanford was able to pick off two passes on Saturday, and did make several big plays to thwart the Buffaloes passing game; but the Secondary also had a few mental mistakes that cost points early in the game. Senior CB Ronnie Harris has been solid all year, but his mental mistake on a crucial 3rd and 3 cost the Cardinal a chance at stopping the Buffaloes from scoring. Harris played off his receiver way too much, and allowed for a first down from what could have been a punt to get the ball back in the hands of the offense. Stanford employs a bend-but-don't-break philosophy; but that style may cost the Cardinal against some of their opponents coming up this month.
Special Teams: A-
PK Conrad Ukropina made all of his XPs, and Freshman Jake Bailey punted well including a 56-yard boomer. Barry J Sanders had a solid punt return for 25 yards; but for the most part, the Buffaloes avoided kicking to Christian McCaffrey in fear of him breaking off a huge run.
Head Coach David Shaw has a distinct plan every week, and he rarely will deviate from that plan. He wants to smash the ball down the throat of his opponents, and win the time of possession battle. Shaw and the Cardinal were able to do that on Saturday, and even added a few wrinkles for the national audience to take note of with the Halfback pass by McCaffrey. Stanford is not a flashy, score in a quick second offense; they pound the ball and their opponents into submission. Shaw has this group playing at a top level, and believing that they belong in the upper echelon of the FBS.
With any game, there are still many things that need to be ironed out. Head Coach David Shaw is the first to say that this win is far from a perfect score. They need to continue limiting the mental mistakes, and continue to roll with what has driven the Cardinal to this point: running the ball, and controlling the clock. Stanford played very well on the road against a team that has improved this season. Coach Shaw knows that the Cardinal need to take each win in stride and continue to improve for the team to reach its ultimate destination.