Contrarian take here, and an optimistic one at that. The consensus, even among us Stanford fans, seems to be that the 26-point line should be lower, no doubt with scenes of last year’s escape echoing through our minds. Not to tempt the fates here, but when everyone zigs in a market situation, there’s some profit to be made in zagging (see: Buffet, Warren). So I’m all in for Stanford here, and if you like them laying 26, half a hundred here we come.
Nice to be back on campus tonight after a few-year stint on the East Coast, and to return to so many familiar faces up in the press box. Not to get all preachy, but my one disappointment is that I think there’s only one woman among the 50 or so reporter-types up in the box tonight. For what it’s worth, Michelle Smith, formerly of the San Francisco Chronicle and perhaps the professional beat reporter most visible at Stanford football events in the dark days, moved onto ESPN’s women’s hoops coverage a few years ago.
Sandwiched between David Lombardi and Andy Drukarev here, who both say the attendance looks pretty good from up here in the bird’s nest. I tell them they’re seeing double, as this puppy is maybe 75 percent full at kickoff, and I’m sure the poobahs were hoping for more.
San Jose State elects to receive, and picks up a first down through the air. They do try running, to no avail, but mostly, they're showing an open-look spread attack. After one first down, the Spartans punt.
Kodi Whitfield is the punt returner, as we anticipated, but doesn’t touch a short punt. Tyler Gaffney is the starting running back, Coach Shaw’s attempts at being coy notwithstanding, and picks up three on first down. Devon Cajuste snags an out just inside the left sideline to bring up third and short, which Gaffney then converts. He adds another two yards on ensuing first down. I was going to type that Stanford only had (approximately) eight rushing yards on its first three carries, not a fortuitous sign, but then Gaffney goes for 14 up the middle, and isn’t touched for the first ten of those yards. You would have loved to see him shake that last safety standing in the way of pay dirt, but the next play, it’s shades of the 2011 Orange Bowl all over again. Play action gives Hogan all day to throw, a tight-end type is streaking open up the middle, and it’s a 40-yard touchdown for Cajuste.
Stanford 7, SJSU 0, 10:12 remaining, first quarter
I had asked for two big plays on offense, and we’re already halfway there less than five minutes in. Plus, our call for a Stanford cover is looking better already.
Alex Carter has a beautiful tackle on a dig to Noel Grisby. Would love to see Stanford break that up instead of tackle after the fact, but I’ll let Derek Mason do the coordinating. Next, either I’m going crazy or San Jose State puts out a formation with only three offensive linemen (two are spread out wide to have enough men on the line of scrimmage as to be legal), which is the ultimate white-flag gesture. They know they can’t run, so the best strategy is to try to spread ‘em and shred ‘em.
The Spartans keep nibbling at the edges here, drawing a pass interference on Alex Carter and then picking up nine on a run to the perimeter. But I don’t think the Spartans have it in them to consistently march on this defense 5-10 yards at a time, so as long as the Cardinal don’t give up the big play, they should be okay.
Shows what I know, as the Spartans are marching it down the field bit by bit, and now have a first down at the Cardinal 26 with six minutes to go in the quarter. Go figure. Receiver Jabari Carr has had a big start to the game, and gains nine yards here, before a run inside gives the Spartans a fresh set of downs at Stanford’s 13. Alex Carter comes through with the Cardinal’s first tackle for a loss, then a run into the interior gets back only two with Blake Lueders filling. On third and ten, Stanford’s crowd noise and defensive looks force the Spartans into consecutive timeouts. Ben Gardner connects as Spartan quarterback David Fales releases, forcing the ball into the turf, and so the Spartans settle for a 30-yard field goal after a length 6:47 drive.
Stanford 7, SJSU 3, 3:26 remaining, first quarter
After a touchback, Stanford pulls into a third and short. Again, it’s Tyler Gaffney busting open through the middle, this time for 12 yards after dragging multiple defenders the last five. The season’s inaugural wildcat (Wild Card? Wild Gaff?) goes backward one yard, with Kelsey Young never having a prayer as San Jose State strung out the play nicely. But on third and long, Hogan again has all day in pass protection, and hits Cajuste on a 15-yard slant to reset the chains at the Spartan 39 as the first quarter draws to a close.
SJSU has six first downs to Stanford’s five. The Cardinal have 103 yards to SJSU’s 67. To be fair, the Spartans have had an extra half-drive thus far, and Stanford will be receiving the second half kick as well. The Cardinal have converted all three of their third downs (after a 2-of-13 showing in last year’s matchup, as Lombardi rightfully points out).
Gaffney has seven carries for 34. Hogan is 5-of-5 for 71 yards and a score, with Cajuste accounting for 62 of those yards on three catches. Multiply all of those out by four and I think folks would be pretty happy.
Stanford 7, San Jose State 3, end of first quarter
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