Stanford summary: Cardinal beat Kansas State, 26-13, in the 2016 season opener

September 17, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 17, 2016

I enjoyed watching Stanford football’s season opener against Kansas State 15 days ago, on Sept. 2, but I got sidetracked by mumblety-stuff and so haven’t gotten around to blogging about the game until now, minutes until USC and Stanford kick off on the Farm in a nationally televised primetime Pac-12 conference game. So, a few hasty thoughts…

• Christian McCaffrey looked, well, like the Christian McCaffrey whom Stanford fans were pleased — and spoiled — to see game in and game out over the course of a record-setting 2015 season. Final line: 126 yards on 22 carries (average: 5.7 ypc), 40 yards on seven catches, 44 yards on two punt returns and a kickoff return, amounting to 210 total all-purpose yards. McCaffrey’s 35-yard run gave the Cardinal a 17-0 lead nearly halfway through the second quarter, and his 41-yard run with just over two minutes remaining in the game provided the final points in the Cardinal’s 26-13 victory after the offense started the second half by losing generated a lost fumble and punting four straight times punts in the second half.

• Ryan Burns looked, well, surprisingly like graduated quarterback Kevin Hogan, connecting all of his passes until past the halfway point of the third quarter. He finished the game with 14 completions in 18 attempts for 156 yards and a very pretty 40-yard touchdown pass to Michael Rector. Burns had several nice passes for first downs.

• Conrad “Old Reliable” Ukropina drew first blood on his only field goal try of the game, a 50-yarder that capped Stanford’s first drive of the year.

• The front seven was solid, with five players combining to make seven sacks; there were also two tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The secondary was at least as impressive: Alijah Holder broke up four passes, Alameen Murphy interfered with two pass attempts and four other players defended passes. Those four included Dallas Lloyd and Quenton Meeks, each of whom also intercepted a Wildcat passing attempt. Safety Zach Hoffpauir led the team with nine total tackles, eight solo; no other player had more than three solo stops. Ideally, the team’s leading tackler won’t come from the secondary every game this year, but as season openers go, this was a solid effort from the defense.

• The Cardinal offensive line afforded decent but hardly flawless protection, allowing two sacks. Unfortunately, the Cardinal running game was very inconsistent: The Wildcats recorded six tackles-for-loss, and the team might have recorded fewer than 100 rushing yards had it not been for McCaffrey’s 41-yard scoring scamper shortly before the game ended. For Stanford to succeed this season, it must be able to run, run, run the ball at the defense virtually at will, and the team did not seem ready to do that in the season opener.

• That said, head coach David Shaw and offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren evidently made a deliberate choice to use a very vanilla playbook that didn’t feature a lot of power running. File that under Quite likely very canny coaching decisions that should pay off down the line.

• Finally, Keller Chryst played quarterback in Stanford’s first possession in the second quarter, completing one pass for 11 yards. File that, too, under Quite likely very canny coaching decisions that should pay off down the line.

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