Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 5-3 Stanford

November 3, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 3, 2018

Because Stanford’s game against Washington State was broadcast on the Pac-12 Network, I went to James Joyce to watch. After the Cardinal’s loss, I wandered the streets for nearly 45 minutes.

Postgame walk, Stanford vs. Washington State.

After Stanford’s 41-38 loss to Washington State, I took a meandering walk for nearly 45 minutes.

• The Bad

Stanford’s defensive secondary was expected to be a strength of the team, but opposing quarterbacks have been able to carve up the unit in each of the team’s three losses. Notre Dame’s Ian Book completed 24 of 33 passes for 278 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions; Tyler Huntley of Utah was 17 of 21 for 199 yards with a touchdown and no picks; and WSU’s Gardner Minshew was 40 of 50 with 438 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Moreover, Oregon’s Justin Herbert was 26 of 33 with 346 yards, a touchdown and an interception; in regulation, he was even better, completing 25 of 27 throws for 331 yards with one touchdown and no picks.

The Cardinal stands last in the Pac-12 and 112th nationally (out of 129 teams) with 275.4 passing yards allowed per game. There is talent in the secondary, but it’s faltered in some big spots, including last Saturday vs. Washington State. Therefore, the defensive backfield is this week’s The Bad.

• The Ugly

Stanford’s defense allowed WSU to convert six of 13 third downs, a success rate of 46.2 percent. On the season, opponents have succeeded on 51 of 121 third downs (42.1 percent), which is 10th in the league and 100th nationally. (Only Oregon State and UCLA, which are Pac-12 divisional cellar dwellers with matching 2-6 overall records, fare worse in this category.) This kind of performance won’t cut it against top-tier foes, and is this week’s The Ugly.

• The Good

Junior quarterback K.J. Costello put up some terrific numbers against Washington State, completing 34 of 43 throws for 323 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. However, he made some questionable throws late in the game and committed the team’s only turnover, a first-quarter fumble that allowed WSU to take a 14-7 lead.

Instead, I’d like to recognize the Cardinal’s rushing attack, which has been deemed The Bad once so far this season and The Ugly four times. Against the Cougars, Stanford rushed 23 times for 120 yards, a respectable average of 5.2 yards per carry. Bryce Love had six runs for 71 yards, including a thrilling 43-yarder that was one of his best dashes of the season.

Right now, the team is averaging 3.3 yards per carry and has just eight rushing scores. The Cardinal certainly isn’t back to where it was the previous three seasons, when it averaged more than five ypc and racked up more than 20 touchdowns on the ground a year. But the outing against WSU was certainly a step in the right direction, and I hope we’ll see continued progress on this front over the final month of the 2018 campaign.

Therefore, I label the rushing performance against WSU to be this week’s The Good.

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