The Stanford Cardinal came into their annual interstate rivalry matchup with the USC Trojans with one thing on their minds: impose your will the entire game.
This was accomplished in impressive fashion by the offensive line of the Cardinal.
The Stanford Cardinal offense had a distinct game plan of grinding out yards with jumbo packages, and exhausting the USC defense. Stanford Head Coach David Shaw knew coming into this game that the Trojans rarely sub out players along the defensive front. With this knowledge, Coach Shaw seemed to run power over and over, and in the end – the Cardinal ended with 295 yards rushing on 47 carries with an average of 6.3 yards per rush.
When the Trojans decided to aid their defensive front; Coach Shaw channeled Muhammad Ali with the "rope-a-dope" and sprung WR Michael Rector on an impressive 56-yard reverse run that sealed the fate of the Trojans.
The jumbo or "ogre" package imposed their will over the Trojans, and kept the time of possession in favor of the Cardinal.
At the end of the game, the Trojans defensive front had their hands on their hips, breathing through the mouth, and was just gassed.
The Cardinal defense played solid by only allowing 10 points to a USC offense that boasts a top tier receiver and a few massive offensive linemen that will surely be playing on Sunday’s in the near future.
The Trojans did not help their cause as well as they committed many egregious penalties that stalled several drives on Saturday night. There were 6 false start penalties that took the Trojans from 3rd and short, to 3rd and long in an instant.
The game was not all sunshine and roses for the Cardinal as after the game Head Coach David Shaw was pleased with the outcome, but says that there are still many items that need to be worked on including not allowing so many yards on the ground, and wrapping up at the point of attack.
Here is the report card for the match-up:
In his 2nd start under center, QB Ryan Burns played decent, but still needs to work on a few items to continue his growth as the head man for the Cardinal. Burns was only asked to make 15 passes due to the fact that the Cardinal were looking to run for much of the game; but he was errant on a few passes, and underthrew his targets which stalled a few drives including a miss to Christian McCaffrey that surely would have gone for a 2nd TD in the first half and an errant pass that was picked off that could have cost the Cardinal late. Burns has good mobility, but needs to work on his intermediate to long-range throws to be successful this season.
Running Back: A
Junior Christian McCaffrey channeled former power RBs the likes of Toby Gerhart, and Stepfan Taylor, and produced a solid 165 yards on 30 carries. McCaffrey followed his "Ogre" line and chewed up 5 and 6-yard gains it seemed on every down and wore out the USC defense. McCaffrey also came up huge in the passing game with 4 receptions for 73 yards and a 56-yard grab that resulted from one of the worst defensive mix-ups witnessed this season. Sophomore Bryce Love returned to the lineup also and will be used as a 2nd feature back for the Cardinal this season. Love finished the game with a respectable 51-yards on 11 carries. The Cardinal boasts two of the best rushers in the PAC 12, and will continue to feature these two this season.
WRs Michael Rector and Trenton Irwin played solid in mostly a blocking and alternative offensive option on Saturday. Rector sprung for an impressive 56-yard TD on an end-around that completely took the Trojans by surprise on Saturday. QB Ryan Burns tried to get a few balls to the WRs, but was unable to make connections. WR Francis Owusu was expected to be a bigger part of the offense, but has yet to make that next step forward, and also committed a dumb penalty on an interception in the 2nd half that could have proved costly. The WRs have not been a focus in the first two games, and will surely be needed later in the season.
TE Dalton Schultz made a couple solid grabs; but for the most part, the TEs were non-existent on Saturday night, other than in the blocking game. Stanford is known as Tight End U on the next level, and will be utilized for sure later on this season.
Offensive Line: B+
The Offensive Line played better this week as they imposed their massive size upon a USC defense that just were gassed out late in the game. Left Tackle Casey Tucker still is a work in progress on the left side of the line, and needs to move his feet better in pass blocking. On a few occasions, the line missed key blocks that could have sprung the runners for more yards, but instead the blockers whiffed and runners were hit for losses. The jumbo package was phenomenal on Saturday, and showed a strength that many teams will not be able to match up in the future.
Overall Offense: B
It was not flashy; just old school power football with a few wrinkles thrown into the mix. Not many teams will be able to withstand the beef upfront for the Cardinal, and the ability of the RBs to get out in open spaces. QB Ryan Burns needs to be more than a guy that hands off the ball; he needs to expand his game and make his progressions to the other skill players.
Defensive Line: B
DE Solomon Thomas is a force to be reckoned with on every play. The opposing offenses all key on him now every play, and he is eerily reminiscent of former USC Trojan Leonard Williams now terrorizing teams on Sunday’s. The rest of the line played OK, but were easily blocked up front by the offensive line of the Trojans. The Cardinal surely missed DL Harrison Phillips up front and allowed several plays with big yards on the ground to the Trojans. When Phillips returns, look for less time that Thomas is double-teamed and more pressure up front.
Too many missed tackles at the point of attack, and missed opportunities to get the Trojans off the field in the game. The Trojan RBs were single handedly keeping them in the game with their carries. Fans are so used to the fact that Stanford always had a MLB like the "tackling machine" Blake Martinez or "enforcer" Shayne Skov; that they are not used to seeing the LBs act as a committee. The LBs are having trouble tackling in space, and needs to be more of a force up front.
The Cardinal Secondary is much improved this season due to the progression of "Showtime" Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder on the outside. Trojans QB Max Browne had several issues in hitting his targets due to the coverage by the Cardinal CBs; and held the vaunted Trojans receivers to 236 yards receiving. 5th year Senior Zach Hoffpauir has stepped into his old role of rover on the defense and been very impressive to start out the 2016 campaign. The only issue that the Cardinal Secondary needs to work on is tackling most of all, and wrapping up at the point of attack.
Overall Defense: B
The Trojans were held to 10 points, and the defense was able to stymie the Trojans at every chance to get back into the game. The Cardinal Defense missed Harrison Phillips, but when he returns, look for the Cardinal to stop opposing rushers to less than a few yards a carry.
Special Teams: B+
PK Conrad Ukropina and Punter Jake Bailey have improved from last season especially Bailey that has mastered the "punt to the stars" ability with his impressive hang-time. The biggest issue remains the ability to kickoff that again resulted in a penalty and field advantage for the Trojans.
Head Coach David Shaw came into the game with a distinct game plan, and it worked. He wanted to impose his will upon the Trojans, not be flashy and take control of the clock. This showed all of the future opponents of the Cardinal that they do not care if they win with style or ground and pound – they just want to win.