The quarterback controversy has lingered with the Stanford Cardinal, as Ryan Burns took over the team for Kevin Hogan, soon after being forced to hand it off to Keller Chryst. With Chryst and his injuries, the mantel soon fell to K.J. Costello and then bounced back to Chryst last weekend against Arizona State.
While Burns just flat out made too many mistakes, Costello and Chryst look to be made in the same mold. But while we sit back and wonder who is the best candidate to lead the roller coaster of a Cardinal team through the season, consider how we have been down this path before.
Bryce Love is the lead Heisman candidate after putting up 1,088 yards in a mere six games, averaging 11.1 yards per carry. While the total defense ranks 116th in the country, allowing 434 yards per game. However, individual stars have kept this unit together and menacing. Linebacker Peter Kalambayi leads the country in sacks with nine, while Dylan Jackson is hot on his heels at third in the country with seven sacks. Safety Justin Reid is tied for first in the country with five interceptions.
The question is, can this system be sustained for the rest of the season for success?
While neither Chryst nor Costello were horrendous, neither of these players will carry the team, but complement the strengths already on the roster. Looking for these quarterbacks to do more than 150 yards and a score is a stretch, but it is a formula that is successful and has held up at the next level.
David Shaw has done this before:
This is a familiar look for the Cardinal, with the the team bringing back memories of the 2012 squad. The defense for the 2012 Cardinal racked up 124 tackles for loss, 57 sacks and 15 interceptions. The defense would makes sure to keep the team in games and strive to get the ball back to the offense quickly.
The offense also had some of the same problem, bouncing from Josh Nunes to Kevin Hogan at quarterback. Yet again a Stanford team with quarterback controversy needed a bailout. Stepfan Taylor was that bailout, with the running back going for 1,530 yards and 13 touchdowns. Much like in 2017, the running back is carrying the load.
When the offense needed yards, they would turn to the running back, not the quarterback, which is especially odd for a PAC-12 team. However, the team’s strength was on the ground and instead running from it in the name of balance, which was a consistent source of offense. The 2017 Cardinal have already found the same rhythm and now they need only stick to the winning formula.
Feeding Love the ball 20 to 25 times and letting the defense get after the quarterback, making instinct plays in a bend but do not break system may just be the key for the Cardinal.
The goal for the rest of the way should be to simplify the game, give the ball to the best player and go for long drives. On defense they need to play very aggressive, trusting the defense to make the big plays they have been they have been all season. It may not be the standard, especially these days, but it may be just what the Cardinal need. The 2012 Cardinal went 12-2 with a Rose Bowl win, can they do it again in 2017?