It is safe to say that the Stanford University football season is not going as the coaching staff, players and fans envisioned a few months ago. Led by star running back Christian McCaffrey, Stanford entered the 2016 college football season as the 11th ranked team in the country. Everything looked great for Stanford after three games, but their season quickly unraveled thanks in part to sloppy quarterback play. After a series of poor offensive performances, Stanford finally decided to change their QB before playing the Arizona Wildcats last week.
After losing the preseason quarterback battle to Ryan Burns, Keller Chryst got his first start of the year against a struggling Arizona team. After a difficult first quarter, it appeared that the offense was not going to see any improvement under Chryst. But Stanford finally got the scoring started early in the second quarter with a 45-yard touchdown run by Christian McCaffrey. The star running back scored again less than six minutes later on a short pass from Chryst. Stanford added a field goal right before halftime to take a 17-3 lead into the locker room.
Defense Steps Up
The Stanford defense helped the offense add some points in the second half by recovering a fumble in the middle of the third quarter to set up a six-yard touchdown run for McCaffrey. After allowing Arizona to add a field goal, Stanford finished the scoring with a short touchdown pass to JJ Arcega-Whiteside to win the game 34-10.
Run Game Puts Points on The Board
The game against the Arizona Wildcats was the first time Stanford scored more than 30 points this season. While there might be a temptation to attribute the uptick in offense to the quarterback change, it wasn’t quite that simple. The offense was largely carried by the running game. The defense shutting down Arizona's offense also had a major role in the success of the Stanford offense. Getting the ball in good field position every drive makes an offense much more comfortable than being pinned near their own end zone.
Passing Still a Struggle
The fact that Keller Chryst could only manage 104 passing yards against one of the worst defenses in college football was a little discouraging, as he probably should have been able to have a much better game against a terrible defense. It appears that Chryst is going to get the chance to finish out the season as the starting quarterback, but his play will have to improve for the Palo Alto kid to be seen as the solution to Stanford’s quarterback issues.
McCaffrey Himself Again
The reemergence of Christian McCaffrey has to be the biggest positive takeaway for the Stanford football team after the game with Arizona. McCaffrey did not look like himself while playing through an injury he sustained in the game against Washington State. McCaffrey look fully healed for the first time since the injury on his way to 169 rushing yards against Arizona. If McCaffrey continues this dominant performance, then Stanford should have no trouble winning the final four games of the season.