Stanford senior wideout J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (6’4” / 228 lbs) was a man playing against boys Friday night on The Farm, going for 226 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 6 catches. While this equates to an amazing 37.7 yards per catch, what was far more important to the Cardinal in game, was the mojo that each of his grabs seemed to steal back from the opponent.
In that regard, his 39 yard TD in the 2nd quarter gave #10 Stanford (1-0) their first lead of the game, which they were able to take in to halftime. Then in the 2nd half, his scores from 80 and 19 yards respectively each seemed to win back the momentum from a strong SDSU (0-1) defensive unit.
Giving credit where credit is due, State loaded the box the entire game with eight and sometimes nine defenders, in order to slow down Stanford’s All-World running back Bryce Love. They did just that with both physical and fast play, effectively holding ‘Dr. Love’ to just 48 total yards in the contest.
However, it was that same tactic which left one-on-one coverage outside for the Cardinal, and junior quarterback K.J. Costello (6’6” / 220 lbs) took full advantage of the simple math. Costello went 21/31 in the air, passing for 332 yards, four touchdowns, and an 81.8 QBR on the evening. Equally, what the Stanford faithful have to feel great about, are the winning adjustments that their junior QB made in the 2nd half in order to pull away.
The Stanford coaching staff also deserves credit for the halftime changes which opened up the offense, and must figure that everyone is going to stack the box against Bryce Love going forward. In that capacity, it was critical for the passing game to come alive with such vigor as it did in game one of the ’18 campaign. If the Cardinal can continue to be a dangerous dual-threat offense, they will be a difficult match-up for everyone they face this season.
Defensively, Stanford brought both intensity and intelligence to the table all night, though they looked susceptible to the run early on. For a large portion of the 1st half, diminutive and elusive SDSU running back Juwan Washington (5’6” / 188 lbs) seemed to hide behind his O-line perfectly, before bursting past the line of scrimmage for consistent gains. The Cardinal began keying on the backfield by the 2nd quarter, and from that point on they closed down the running lanes effectively.
Senior linebackers Sean Barton (6’4” / 228 lbs), Joey Alfieri (6’4” / 242 lbs), and Bobby Okereke (6’4” / 240 lbs) were the tip of the spear for the Stanford D. Barton controlled the middle of the field for most of the 2nd half, finishing with 9 tackles and a QBH. Alfieri was the strength on the edge for the Cardinal, playing at the line or in the backfield for much of the game. He racked up 8 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL, and 3 QB hurries in the victory.
Okereke made the largest impact of all by taking down Chapman in his own end-zone for a safety in the 2nd quarter, and Stanford’s first points of the game. He had 4 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, and 2 passes defended on the evening.
The elite Stanford secondary also held their own in the 2018 opener, keeping SDSU senior quarterback Christian Chapman (6’1” / 202 lbs) in check from start to finish. Senior standout cornerback Alameen Murphy (6’0” / 201 lbs) and super sophomore Paulson Adebo (6’2” / 191 lbs) were everywhere for the Cardinal. Each had 9 tackles, was critical in run support, and completely shutdown the receiver they were locked up on.
Back on the offensive side, highly touted sophomore tight end Colby Parkinson (6’8” / 244 lbs) added a quality 4th quarter touchdown catch to cap off the Stanford scoring at 31.
A ‘watershed moment’ that does not show up in the offensive stat sheet took place in the 2nd quarter, when Stanford QB K.J. Costello had a pass deflected in to the air at the line of scrimmage, and eventually intercepted by SDSU defensive end Noble Hall (6’3” / 265 lbs). Cardinal senior wideout Trenton Irwin (6’3” / 211 lbs) hustled all the way back to the ball from his route downfield, and then proceeded to both strip the ball from Hall and recover it himself amidst a crowd. It may have been the single most impressive play of the game, from a football purist standpoint.
This Saturday, #10 Stanford hosts PAC-12 foe #17 USC (1-0) on The Farm, in what has been a rivalry game for both sides since 1905. Meanwhile, SDSU will host the Sacramento State Hornets (1-0), at the once glorious but now downtrodden Jack Murphy Stadium. Shame on the San Diego city government plain and simple, they are appalling, and I will leave it at that. However, as a proud San Diego native I will be pulling for the Aztecs the rest of the way, and as always I consider Rocky Long one of the best coaches in the game.
In any case, college football is back. Be the ball y’all.