Stanford put together a performance as dominant any football team in the land, defeating Wake Forest 68-24 Saturday night.
As Stanford (3-0) figures to shoot up from its No. 19 national ranking before next week’s visit to Notre Dame (1-2), perhaps the only question the Cardinal left was whether the offense or the defense was more outstanding. That the question is an unanswerable chicken-and-egg query is a testament to both units.
Stanford’s starters exited with 11:05 left in the third quarter and a 55-10 lead in tow, their day’s work done. The offense had scored a touchdown on all eight of its possessions, while the defense had allowed Wake Forest all of 117 yards in 35 minutes of play, and finished with six sacks and two turnovers forced.
Quarterback Andrew Luck had a subliminal day, completing 17-of-23 passes for 207 yards and four touchdowns, two of them to Chris Owusu in the junior receiver’s first 2010 action after returning from a knee injury. Luck’s most impressive play of the day, however, came on a third-and-seven designed quarterback draw, which saw him exploit a gaping hole at the line and then run away from the rest of Wake’s defense virtually untouched for a 52-yard touchdown, Stanford’s longest running play of the season.
Wake Forest immediately answered Stanford’s first touchdown, an eight-yard Owusu reception six minutes in, with a two-minute drive capped by a 22-yard Chris Givens run, the Deacons’ longest play from scrimmage before the game was well out of reach. Then, however, it was all Stanford in an unimaginably perfect stretch of football:
• Usua’s Amanam’s kickoff return to the Wake 38 set up a 35-yard Owusu touchdown to pull the Card ahead 14-7 with 6:24 left in the first.
• After a Wake punt, Tyler Gaffney pounded in a four-yard touchdown to cap an 82-yard drive a minute into the second.
• After a defensive three-and-out and Doug Baldwin’s 22-yard punt return, Stanford had the ball back at the Wake 27 and needed just three plays to score, with Amanam catching a 12-yard Luck screen for the score. The first of Nate Whittaker’s two missed extra points on the night left Stanford ahead 27-7 with 11:12 left in the half.
• After another Wake three-and-out, Luck’s 52-yard scamper put Stanford by 27.
• The Card forced yet another three-and-out, and Tyler Gaffney capped a run-oriented drive with a two-yard score to push Stanford’s lead further to 41-7.
• Wake Forest exploited a soft Stanford D to add a field goal before the half, but Stanford took the second half’s opening kick and went 62 yards, entirely on the ground, with Taylor’s nine-yard run giving Stanford a 48-10 lead.
• After an Austin Yancy interception and return to the Deacon 13, Luck found Baldwin for a three-yard score in the starters’ final action of the day. Stanford led 55-10 with 11:05 left in the third.
To recap, from Owusu’s second touchdown to pull Stanford ahead 14-7 to Baldwin’s score to push the lead to 55-10, a stretch of play some two quarters and 13 drives long, Stanford was virtually perfect, with every offensive possession ending in a touchdown and every defensive possession ending in a stop (save for a single field goal allowed in a soft, end-of-half defense). The sequence was as follows: two-play Stanford TD drive, Wake Forest first down and punt, 11-play Stanford TD drive, Wake Forest three-and-out, three-play Stanford TD drive, Wake Forest three-and-out, four-play Stanford TD drive, Wake Forest three-and-out, eight-play Stanford TD drive, Wake Forest FG, six-play Stanford TD drive, Wake Forest interception, two-play Stanford TD drive.
That Wake wasn’t just punting, but often had to do so without gaining a first down, and that Stanford wasn’t just scoring, but often needed just two to four plays to do so, makes the Cardinal rout all the more impressive.
An announced 39,061, including a spirited and full student section, saw Stanford score as many points as it has since 1949, when it laid down 74 against Hawaii. For the first time in program history, the Card wore all-black uniforms for the 8:15 PM nationally televised start.
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