We have seen that all too much weeks one and two.
Remound Wright with a run up the middle on third and six? Jordan Williamson fittingly caps the drive by hooking a 51-yard attempt left. Some ugly offensive football there.
Not in the old lady (new lady?) for this one, alas, but judging by the screen shots of empty seats and the “A-S-U” chants coming through loud and clear, looks like Stanford fans had trouble getting through the gates on time. We have seen that all too much already this season as well.
Then the defense takes the field, and all is right in the world again, as the Cardinal force a turnover in their FBS-leading 27th straight game. The play is a testament to the defense’s depth too. James Vaughters, one of the last players named to the starting defense, had a big second half against Army, and keeps his hot streak going here. He he breaks through on third down to force a sack of Taylor Kelly. Kelly, however, doesn’t want to eat the ball and foolishly throws it away, straight into the waiting arms of Josh Mauro. Mauro, making a spot start due to Henry Anderson’s knee injury, rumbles from ASU’s 41 to the 17, and the Cardinal will start drive two with even better field position.
Again, a third and long brings good tidings for the Cardinal. Here, the offense fakes a handoff left, and off the play action, Kevin Hogan hits Ty Montgomery on a quick hitter on the right perimeter. Cameron Fleming hustles from his right tackle spot all the way to pick up the key block, Montgomery cuts inside, and he isn’t touched on the way to the end zone.
Stanford 7, Arizona State 0, 9:08 remaining, first quarter
Shayne Skov is having a big quarter. Arizona State moves the chains with an up-tempo offense, and looks to gain a second first down on the drive on third and one. Instead, Skov meets and drops Marion Grice in the backfield, the Cardinal decline an illegal formation call, and after a 50-yard punt, thanks to a 10-yard roll, Stanford will assume possession at its 10.
Hogan pulls on a zone read keeper with Anthony Wilkerson to set up third and short, and then the ogre set comes on and Tyler Gaffney bashes ahead for the necessary yardage. The next snap, it’s a beautiful reverse to Kelsey Young, who capitalizes on the loads of green in front of him to pick up 32 yards.
Gaffney runs for eight. The next snap again capitalizes on our success running to set up a counterpunch. First was the touchdown screen to Montgomery off play action. Then came the reverse to Young, open because ASU is slanting hard to stop the run. Now, play action sells beautifully with the Arizona State linemen flowing hard downhill and Hogan has all day to throw. He takes advantage, launching a spot-on dart on a well-covered post route. Devon Cajuste fully extends and hauls in a spectacular catch for 34 yards.
The Cardinal are lethal in the red zone, and on third and six inches, Gaffney powers in through the right A gap. It’s upheld on review, and the Cardinal have nearly completed, hands down, their best quarter of the season. As I type that, of course, Jordan Williamson clanks the right goalpost on his PAT.
Stanford 13, ASU 0, 2:21 remaining, first quarter
Arizona State picks up a first down on a third-down slant, but then a holding call puts the Devils in a down and distance hole. Blake Lueders drops Taylor Kelly for a third-down sack, though a defensive holding call will extend the drive as the quarter ends.
Player of the quarter: It’s not often that we get to single out an offensive lineman, so let’s hear it for Cameron Fleming. Some teams prefer huge offensive linemen who can plow ahead, clearing out anything in their way. Some teams prefer relatively smaller, mobile offensive linemen, who can reach the second level to set up their backs for big runs. Stanford is known for its success powering ahead in that first mold, but here Fleming shows Stanford can spread and shred ‘em too. He does a great job of beating the ball to the right perimeter, and Ty Montgomery does the rest.
Play of the quarter: Two points here. First, Stanford was at its best when it mattered most: on third downs. On third and shorts, Skov stonewalled ASU to force a punt, Gaffney converted on an ogre package deep in Stanford territory, and Gaffney scored from six inches out. Stanford also forced its interception on third down. Between its timely mix of power running and constraint plays (play action deep, reverses, the screen to Montgomery), and this success on third downs, the coaching staff seems to be able to dial it up the most when the stakes are highest, and do just enough when they aren’t.
By that logic, perhaps we were holding our cards close to the vest weeks one and two. If so, I can’t wait to see what else the staff has in store, because we look dynamite right now.
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