Stanford falls to 1-2 after offense sputters against San Diego State

September 19, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 19, 2017

Author’s note: The day after this post was published, I adjusted some erroneous references to statistics about Stanford’s total offense. The team gained 254 yards, not 238. MEM

A feeble offensive performance doomed the Stanford football team to a 20-17 loss at San Diego State on Saturday evening.

The Cardinal dropped to 1-2 by generating just 254 238 yards of offense, including an abysmal 64 yards passing, and converting only three of 11 third-down tries. Starting quarterback Keller Chryst completed only eight of 19 attempts for 56 yards and coughed up the ball on two interceptions and a fumble. To be fair, his offensive line surrendered four sacks, including a blind-side hit that led to his losing the ball.

Only two offensive players for the Cardinal turned in worthwhile efforts against the Aztecs, who moved to 3-0 after beating Arizona State and Stanford in consecutive weeks. Junior wideout Trenton Irwin had six receptions for 49 yards, including 11- and 17-yard gains. Junior tailback Bryce Love was his usual explosive self, accumulating 184 rushing yards on 13 carries.

Unfortunately, the Cardinal offense was all or nothing. Love accounted for 150 yards and two touchdowns on three of his carries. Aside from that, Chryst and his compatriots generated a paltry 104 88 yards on 39 snaps, an average of less than 2.7 2.3 yards per play. That production wouldn’t suffice against a slate of Mountain West opponents, let alone the run of eight Pac-12 foes and Notre Dame that Stanford will face starting this weekend.

Stanford may have been at both its best and its worst in a single third-quarter possession. With SDSU holding a 13-7 lead, the Cardinal mounted one of its few sustained drives on the evening. After a pass to Love fell incomplete to start the series, the Cardinal called on No. 20 three times in a row, for gains of 9, 6 and 47 yards.

The long run by Love brought the Cardinal to the Aztec 13-yard line, but then a 5-yard Chryst-Irwin connection and a 4-yard Love carry left Stanford facing third down and 1 to go. After junior running back Cameron Scarlett was stuffed for no gain, coach David Shaw summoned sophomore Jet Toner to kick a 20-yard field goal, narrowing the deficit to 13-10. The cautious decision seemed to be an implicit indictment of the Cardinal offense, which used to pride itself on its ability to outmuscle defenses.

Those days seem to be long gone, however. And they’re unlikely to return without major improvements in performance and consistency by the offensive line and by Chryst or one of the other Cardinal signal callers.

The offensive futility overshadowed a commendable performance by the Cardinal defense. The unit surrendered only 358 yards and 20 points on the road, which would normally be good enough to secure a win. Even better, the defense allowed the Aztecs to convert just 7 of 17 third-down tries.

Next up, Stanford will open its home schedule Saturday night with a visit from 2-1 UCLA. Unless the Cardinal suddenly finds its offensive mojo — or else discovers a way to suppress a Bruins unit that’s averaging nearly seven touchdowns per contest — the squad will find itself scrambling to salvage a season that once seemed to hold great promise.


Helpful links

Stanford-SDSU box score — ESPN
Stanford-SDSU team statistics
Stanford-SDSU play-by-play
Stanford-SDSU interactive box score —
Stanford-SDSU static box score
Stanford 2017–18 football roster
SDSU 2017–18 football roster

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