Stanford’s opening drive goes about as well as a Cardinal fan could hope:
Ty Montgomery catches the opening pass for about 20, and then rips through a tackle for another 14 yards. Three snaps later, Kodi Whitfield has a 28-yard reception, his career long, to put the Cardinal in first and goal at the five. It takes another three snaps, after a Hogan misfire over the middle on first, Gaffney takes it down to the one-foot line on second down, and then the final foot on third with a leap over center. Throughout the drive, Utah appeared confused by Stanford’s formations and didn’t get their coverages set. They had 10 on the field for the first snap of the game, and left receivers running open throughout the drive. Stanford’s diversity in formation and play calls appears to have paid off early.
Stanford 7, Utah 0, 11:36 remaining, first quarter
But Utah responds. Their drive, like Stanford’s, is neither one big play, nor a methodical grind-it-out 18-snap march, but rather chunks of 15 or 20 yards at a time. Bubba Poole catches Travis Wilson’s opening offering for 35 yards, rumbling down the left sideline. Two snaps later, it’s another 12-yard checkdown down the left sideline, and the next series brings a third-down conversion – again on the left sideline. Now at the Stanford 25, Poole breaks through up the middle, and Jordan Richards does well to corral him at the four. But the next snap, Utah rolls out Wilson to his right and checks down to a big fullback type on a spider 2 Y banana play. That came out of our playbook! Touchdown, Utah.
Stanford 7, Utah 0, 11:36 remaining, first quarter
Well, if he keeps doing this, it’s going to be hard for us to lose. Ty Montgomery saw Utah’s first kickoff bounce through the back of the end zone. The Utes hang their next kickoff short, Montgomery sprints to his left, and again, no one lays a finger on him as he goes coast to coast.
Stanford 14, Utah 7, 7:21 remaining, first quarter
The Cardinal D forces a three and out, and Whitfield is dropped in his tracks on the punt return. I know Cardinal fans would love to see Barry Sanders out there, and I don’t blame them. Stanford’s first snap of the drive brings on another fan favorite, Dallas Lloyd. The Utah native runs for 11 on a well-blocked off-tackle look to his left. The next snap is another big play: Hogan bombs to Rector on a post, and the deep throw is again perfect. It goes for 39 yards to the Ute 26.
The drive stalls after a Hogan scramble, Gaffney run up the middle and an incomplete pass to Hewitt net five yards. Jordan Williamson then misses a 38-yard attempt, his first misfire of the year.
But the Cardinal D again puts itself in a position to force a stop as the quarter winds down. It’s a welcome development after Washington shredded the D in last week’s second half, and Utah did just that on their opening drive. It didn’t look promising at first, with Utah spreading and shredding their way into Stanford territory, with an Oregon-like wide-open look. But a holding penalty wiped out a first down and put the Utes in a first and 17, and the D came up strong in the ensuing obvious passing downs. (Travis Wilson misfiring on two consecutive passes didn’t hurt either, but that factors the thinking in a bend-but-don’t-break defense. Make them execute for a full 80 yards.)
… But wait! Stanford’s D should have gotten off the field on a third and 17, but Utah made an incredible play to wipe away the sloppy snaps that preceded it. Dres Anderson and Devon Carrington are one-on-one (you’d think you could get some extra coverage on Utah’s homerun threat on third and 17…), and Anderson cuts in front of Carrington to make an NFL-esque catch deep down the right sideline and leap into the end zone as he was being tackled. Just an incredible play by Anderson. Wow.
Stanford 14, Utah 14, 10 seconds remaining, first quarter
Play of the quarter: Montgomery brings back his second kickoff in as many games. Montgomery is also our player of the quarter, with his catch and run on the opening snap kicking off Stanford’s first touchdown drive, and his return accounting for the Card’s second score.
Stanford is on pace to give up 56 today. That’s probably pessimistic, but the Utes have touchdowns on two of their three drives, which is not a pace that can please Derek Mason’s staff. The Cardinal are supposed to have one of the best defenses in the country, returning most of the pieces of a defense that was one of the nation’s best last year. But this year, we’ve had to explain away a lot: The second halves against Arizona State and Washington, and now this first quarter against Utah. At some point, maybe we have to adjust our view of the defense. (Then again, Washington has pulled back within a touchdown of Oregon, so who knows? One game at a time, I suppose.)
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