Cardinal drops highlights aplenty in 62-7 season debut vs. Rice

August 31, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 31, 2017

Stanford cruised to victory down under Sunday as it opened the 2017 campaign with a 62-7 win over Rice in Sydney, Australia.

The field seemed to be tilted in the direction of the Cardinal from the start of the contest. The white-clad squad outgained the Owls 656 yards to 241, scored touchdowns on its first four drives, and failed to produce points just three times in 13 possessions — one of which came at the very end of the game.

The contest’s opening play seemed to forecast the beatdown to come. Head coach David Shaw and offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren decided that the first play from scrimmage should be a handoff to Bryce Love, the junior who started two games last year in place of all-world athlete Christian McCaffrey, now employed in the NFL. The tailback burst through a hole cleared by sophomore guard Nate Herbig, zipped out of the arms of two would-be tacklers and hit the open field at full speed. A dive by Owl cornerback V.J. Banks enabled fellow cornerback Justin Bickham to force Love out of bounds at the 13-yard line following an electrifying 62-yard run.

Two plays later, senior quarterback Keller Chryst tossed a nicely placed ball to freshman Colby Parkinson for a 13-yard touchdown. The 6-foot-7 tight end, who had lined up out wide, exploited his six-inch height advantage over Bickham in making his first collegiate reception.

Rice lost six yards on its first possession, thanks in part to two false starts and a delay of game. The Cardinal called passes on six of the next nine plays; Chryst recorded incompletions on his first two throws of the drive, but he completed his next four, including a 13-yarder to Trent Irwin to convert third and 10. The possession, which was bolstered early on by a 14-yard Love run, ended with junior back Cameron Scarlett zipping across the goal line for a two-yard touchdown.

The Owls gained three yards before being forced to punt on the ensuing possession. Stanford’s offense then put together a seven-play drive on which they never faced third down; the series ended on a 10-yard Love touchdown run that showcased the Cardinal’s domination of the line of scrimmage.

The Owls advanced 36 yards on their next drive but couldn’t put any points on the board. Outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi sacked quarterback Sam Glaesmann for a 1-yard loss on fourth down at the close of the first quarter.

The Cardinal offense showed there would be no letup entering the second period. One incomplete pass by Chryst was prefaced by an 11-yard Scarlett carry and succeeded by a 31-yard Love dash and a 29-yard Scarlett touchdown run. The four-play, 71-yard drive consumed just 72 seconds and left Stanford with a 28-0 lead.

Stanford’s next possession stalled near midfield when a Chryst throw on fourth down and 2 fell incomplete. But shortly afterward, the Cardinal came back with its fifth touchdown of the day.

This drive was highlighted by a 56-yard Scarlett reception down the left sideline; the running back juggled the ball a few times before getting it to settle into his arms. Ryan Burns replaced Chryst on the ensuing play for an eight-yard run, after which Scarlett capped the possession with a one-yard touchdown. On the subsequent series, Jet Toner hit a field goal at the close of the half left the Cardinal with a 38-0 lead going to the locker rooms.

Rice opened the third quarter with a possession that gained 22 yards. When the Cardinal offense returned to the field, they needed just five plays to cover 78 yards and score their sixth touchdown. The big gainers all came through the air, with Chryst hitting Irwin for 30 yards, sophomore wide receiver Donald Stewart for 41 yards and Parkinson for a three-yard aerial score.

The following series featured another three-and-out by Rice and the Cardinal’s only punt of the day, as Burns was sent out under center for the entire possession. But Stanford got the ball back after junior linebacker Casey Toohill recovered a fumble, and Burns offered a much more efficient performance. He started the drive with a 33-yard toss to freshman wideout Connor Wedington and concluded it with a three-yard touchdown strike to sophomore tight end Kaden Smith.

Sophomore K.J. Costello took over quarterbacking duties for Stanford for the rest of the game, leading the team to a 34-yard Toner field goal at the start of the final period. Rice responded with its lone scoring drive of the game, a 12-play, 80-yard series that culminated in a 23-yard Walter Austin rushing touchdown.

On the ensuing series, Costello ran for a 25-yard touchdown to cap scoring at 62-7. Rice attempted to tack on a garbage-time score, but Glaesmann was intercepted by freshman Drew Dalman, whom Stanford lists as an offensive lineman on its roster. The Cardinal then handed off once to sophomore running back Dorian Maddox before time expired.

Rice finished 3-9 last season and obviously isn’t up to the standards of most of the Cardinal’s upcoming opponents. But it’s hard to find fault with Stanford’s performance against them: Love racked up 180 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, Scarlett collected three touchdowns and 59 yards on eight carries, and all three quarterbacks completed at least 50 percent of their pass attempts and recorded at least one touchdown.

Kalambayi (five solo tackles) and junior inside linebacker Sean Barton (three solo tackles, two assists) led a consistent defensive unit. The defense forced just one sack, by Kalambayi, but five other players had tackles for loss, and the Owls converted only five of 15 third-down tries.

Momentum rarely if ever carries over from game to game, particularly when the opponents change in caliber from a Conference USA cellar-dweller like Rice to a potential national championship team like the University of Southern California. But if Stanford can carry over some of last weekend’s offensive potency and defensive reliability into future games, starting with its Sept. 9 road date against USC, then the Cardinal will be quite a formidable squad this year.

~~~

Helpful links

Rice-Stanford box score — ESPN
Rice-Stanford team statistics
Rice-Stanford play-by-play
Rice-Stanford interactive box score — GoStanford.com
Rice-Stanford static box score — GoStanford.com
Stanford 2017–18 football roster
Rice 2017–18 football roster
Rice-Stanford video highlights — ESPN
Rice-Stanford video highlights — Pac-12 Network

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