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Scarlett and Stanford D shine in Sun Bowl

It was an ugly and old-fashioned victory over Pitt in El Paso, but in a Cardinal season riddled with injuries, 9-4 with a short-handed Bowl win sounds pretty nice.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Sun Bowl - Stanford v Pitt Photo by Jorge Salgado/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“The world is both beautiful and merciless at all times, and what you chose to embrace, is essentially what you become.” In that sense, I see this season for Stanford Football as a victory of determination. In spite of the critical injuries to the offensive and defensive lines, and the several key players who chose not to participate in the ’18 Sun Bowl for “NFL reasons”, the Cardinal still finished the season by winning their last four games, including a gritty 14-13 Bowl win over some tough young men from the University of Pittsburgh.

On that level, Stanford senior running back and jack-of-all-trades special teamer Cameron Scarlett (22 carries / 94 yards / 2 TD’s / 4.3 YPC / 111 all-purpose yards) being named the 2018 Sun Bowl’s Most Valuable Player, was a humble Disney ending in and of itself.

Scarlett, who has played behind both Bryce Love and Christian McCaffrey these past four years, has quietly been willing to do whatever the team needed of him throughout his time on The Farm. So, him earning MVP honors in a Bowl game is certainly a cool story.

Equal to the heart that Scarlett played with, the Stanford defense repeatedly made stands to cover for the poor offensive showing overall. Senior linebackers Bobby Okereke (6 tackles / 2 TFL / 2 PD / 1 sack), Sean Barton (8 tackles / 1 TFL / 1 PD), and Casey Toohill (7 tackles / 1 QBH / 1 TFL) were the tip of the spear against Pitt, and though they allowed a few sustained drives, they manned up when it mattered most in the red-zone. Junior linebacker Jordan Fox (5 tackles / 1 sack / 1 TFL / 1 QBH) also played well against the Panthers.

Cardinal super sophomore All-American cornerback Paulson Adebo (5 tackles / 2 PD / 1 TFL) was involved with a couple of questionable penalty calls, but otherwise shut down his side of the field, as Stanford fans have become accustomed to. He is as good a player on the outside as anyone in the country, and the scary thing is, he is only going to get better.

Also in the secondary for The Card, senior cornerback Alijah Holder (6 tackles / 2 PD), and safeties senior Frank Buncom (5 tackles / 1 PD) and junior Malik Antoine (7 tackles / 1 PD) each positively impacted the Bowl victory for their side.

Up front, freshman defensive end Thomas Booker (6 tackles / 2 QBH / 1 TFL) showed flashes of his true potential, and that is a good sign of things to come for Stanford. Booker, a 6’4” 282 lbs. frosh DE from Maryland, could be an absolute monster in the years ahead for Coach Shaw on The Farm.

While Stanford’s 2018 Sun Bowl win was not junior quarterback K.J. Costello’s (6 for 17 passing / 105 yards) finest hour, big things are expected for him in 2019. Having thrown for the third most passing yards in school history this season, he is a proven winner, who gives Stanford stability and leadership on offense going in to next year.

One of the leaders they will be losing to the Pro ranks, senior wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (3 receptions / 90 yards / 30.0 YPR), accounted for the vast majority of Stanford’s air attack with his three big plays. JAW$ finishes with 14 receiving TD’s on the year, and is tied with legend James Lofton (’78) for most touchdown catches in a season in school history.

Regardless of all the great players Stanford has moving on to the NFL, I still see The Card in another Rose Bowl hunt next season, as David Shaw’s program is fully accustomed to the professional turnover amidst the college game. That said, it’s a funny shaped ball, and it bounces strange directions with strange regularity. So, only time, and the Football Gods will tell.

Win or lose, ROLL RED.