Stanford head coach David Shaw leaned early Saturday morning that All-World running back Bryce “Dr.” Love would not be able to suit up against Utah due to injury, and his day just got worse and worse from there. Alas, the Cardinal 11-game home winning streak is over.
The Stanford (4-2 / 2-1 PAC 12) offense was for the most part effective against Utah (3-2 / 1-2 PAC 12) Saturday night in Palo Alto, but four costly turnovers cost them this game. The Stanford defense on the other hand, repeatedly missed tackles and looked out-matched in the trenches. As a Stanford fan, it was tough to watch.
In that regard, the Utes run game thrived with the advantage up front. Utah junior RB Zack “Quick like” Moss (20 carries / 160 yards / 2 TD’s / 8.0 YPC) was all over The Trees, and nearly always for big gains. At 5’10” and 220 lbs, Moss possesses both the ability to run over defenders, and the shiftiness to make them miss. He is a really good young football player folks, be sure to keep an eye on him.
Utah junior quarterback Tyler Huntley (17 for 21 passing / 199 yards / 1 TD / 10 rushes for 23 yards / 75.6 QBR) made several big plays with his feet, and was elusive in and out of the pocket all evening. More importantly still, he was steady behind the wheel, and did not turn the ball over in this contest.
Of equal note, this was not the Utes team I had seen up to this point in ’18. They flipped a switch in this game and played some hard-nosed football on both sides, which at the end of the day, is how most people know Utah football to be. If they can keep their game tight, they will throw a major curveball in to the PAC-12 title races this year.
For The Card junior QB K.J. Costello (26 for 41 passing / 381 yards / 1 TD / 2 INT / 1 fumble / 41.2 QBR) had some success going to the air against the Utes, but the three heartbreaking turnovers are all that he will remember about this one, especially the 100-yard ‘Pick 6’ by Utah sophomore DB Jaylon Johnson (7 tackles / 1 INT / 1 defensive TD / 2 PD) in the 1st half.
Also playing tough D for the Utes were senior linebackers Chase Hansen (10 tackles 2 TFL / 1 sack / 1 QBH) and Cody Barton (8 tackles / 1 TFL / 1 PD), as well as junior defensive end Brandlee Anae (5 tackles / 3 TFL / 2 sacks / 1 QBH / 1 PD), who was a menace to Stanford all night off the edge.
The quality play of the Stanford receivers and tight ends (Kaden Smith - 8 receptions for 120 yards / J.J. Arcega-Whiteside - 8 receptions for 103 yards / Trenton Irwin - 7 catches for 101 yards) almost helped their side claw back in to this game in the 2nd half, but Utah just seemed to make all the big plays when it mattered most. Somehow, it was the first time the Cardinal have had three receivers over the 100-yard mark in the same game since 1998.
Opposite their successes, the Stanford running game minus “The Love Doctor”, was unhealthy in most all capacities. Senior Cameron Scarlett (6 carries / 17 yards / 1 TD / 2.8 YPC) and junior Trevor Speights (17 carries / 56 yards / 1 TD / 3.3 YPC) simply did not have much room to run, inside or out.
On that front, it was another overall disappointing performance for the Stanford O-line. Unfortunately that has been a glaring issue over their back-to-back losses (Notre Dame & Utah), and really the course of this season thus far. It will need to be remedied, or at least improve measurably, before the Cardinal can again find a positive result.
I believe that legendary Alabama head coach Bear Bryant once said exactly what this Stanford team needs to hear right now. “Losing doesn’t make me want to quit, it makes me want to fight that much harder.” Hopefully the Cardinal can clean up the fundamental offensive mistakes, and lock up the defense as a whole with the extra week to prepare for ASU.
Going forward, Utah (3-2) hosts Arizona (3-3) this Friday night in The Rockies, while as I just mentioned Stanford (4-2) has their bye week and then travels to the desert to play ASU (3-3) on 10/18.
In any case, win or lose, Roll Red.