In front of an announced 47,816, the Card stomped visiting San Jose State 57-3 in the head-coaching debut of David Shaw.
Although Stanford struggled to move the ball on the ground at times, and Andrew Luck didn’t have his best day, the Cardinal’s depth was on display on both sides of the ball, particularly defense.
“The biggest thing that I want to take out of this game hopefully once I watch it on film is to see that we’re a deeper team than a lot of people thought,” Shaw said.
Indeed, the defensive coaches liberally subbed players on the two-deep throughout the game, and the results were impressive. The Cardinal limited San Jose State to 27 yards rushing on 32 carries – a woeful 0.8 yards per carry average. Stanford’s pass defense wasn’t quite as efficient – Johnson Bademosi got beat deep once, and the Spartans found room underneath on a number of occasions – but still limited San Jose State’s two quarterbacks to 17-33 passing or 210 yards.
The Card’s defensive front shined particularly bright, recording seven tackles-for-loss, and two sacks. The most exciting play of the game may have occurred late in the first quarter, when linebacker Chase Thomas came free to sack Spartan quarterback Matt Faulkner. While getting hit, Faulkner fumbled, and there arrived 6-foot-6, 258-plus-pound Henry Anderson to scoop up the loose ball. Anderson rumbled nearly 40 yards in the open field before being dragged down at the Spartan one-yard-line.
“I didn’t really see anybody around the ball,” Anderson said. “I saw the ball laying there, and I think the quarterback was trying to reach for it. I came around, saw the ball lying there, saw the QB reaching for it. I didn’t want to run up and try to grab it too quick and kick it out of bounds, so I wanted to make sure I had the ball first. I probably took a little too long trying to pick that up, but the coaches always tell us if there’s no one around the ball you can try and scoop it and run with it.”
That set Stanford up for one of its seven touchdowns on the day, evidence that the offense, while not functioning at peak capacity, was still impressive. The Cardinal out-gained San Jose State 373-237 and scored on all of its red zone possessions. Still, Stanford never found the punishing offensive rhythm that defined its 2010 season.
“We never really got into a rhythm,” Andrew Luck said. “Obviously put up 57 points, but I think a large part of that was our defense and special teams putting us in situations where it was almost like you can’t mess up, you’re so close to the goal line that you can’t mess up. I definitely don’t think we’re satisfied by any means on offense.”
It must have been nice for the offense, however, to have Chris Owusu back to full health. After struggling through an injury-plagued 2010, Owusu led the team in catches (seven) and receiving yards (76). He also had an impressive 59-yard kickoff return.
“It was fun to get back out there,” Owusu said. “First half, I think were weren’t as focused as we should have been and as we needed to be. Second half it was fun to get the ball. I still need to work on making some guys miss, stuff like that, but it was good to come out in the second half.”
Luck finished the game 17-26 for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Robbie Picazo and Brett Nottingham were each sharp in relief duty, completing a combined five passes for 61 yards and a touchdown. It was Nottingham, in fact, who had the longest pass completion of the game, a 39-yard touchdown strike to Coby Fleener.
Notes and Quotes
-After the game, Shaw was awarded the game ball from Luck and Stanford’s players.
“The players, led by Andrew, presented it to me for my first victory,” Shaw said. “But what I said back to them is that this is our first victory, and it didn’t come perfectly, but it’s a stepping stone and hopefully we’ll be better next week.”
-Although the Spartans were a huge underdog, San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre expected more from his squad.
“We gave up 35 points by our mistakes,” MacIntyre said. “We just basically gave them the game. If I could have [anticipated] those kinds of mistakes, I would have stopped them. There was no way I could stop them. No way.”
-Henry Anderson described in greater details his long fumble return in the post-game press conference.
“After I got up I looked at the line judge and I saw him running across the field going like this (waving his arms over his head), so knew it wasn’t a TD,” Anderson said. “I was a little bit upset, but I was happy I scooped it up. I was running just expecting to get tackled.”
At that point, Luck interjected: “We were yelling pitch it the whole time!”
-Although he struggled on a few kickoffs, redshirt freshman kicker Jordan Williamson made both of his field goals. According to a post-game release, Stanford’s kickers have made 49-of-60 field goal tries over the last four years.
-57 points is the highest total Stanford has scored in a season opener since 1969, when the Card notched 63, also against San Jose State.
-Stanford has now won nine consecutive games, its longest winnings streak since 1951, and fourth longest streak in program history.
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