Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 1-1 Stanford

September 10, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 10, 2019

I returned to Tobacco Road on Saturday evening to view the Stanford football team’s debacle at USC. Suffice to say that the results were quite different from the previous week’s.

• The Bad

As you might imagine after a 25-point loss, there are plenty of candidates for this week’s The Bad. For instance, the Stanford secondary, which allowed a freshman quarterback making his first collegiate start to roll up 377 yards and three touchdowns on 28 of 33 passing. For another instance, the Stanford defensive front, which allowed a freshman quarterback making his first collegiate start to roll up 377 yards and three touchdowns on 28 of 33 passing. And for a third instance, the Stanford defensive coaches, who allowed a freshman quarterback making his first collegiate start to roll up 377 yards and three touchdowns on 28 of 33 passing. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

Let’s turn in a different direction. Stanford’s offense accumulated 115 yards over the first 15 minutes and four seconds of the game and 220 over the remaining 44:56. The unit was also 4 of 11 on third down and 0-2 on fourth down. Fourteen-point lead or no, a team is unlikely to win if its offense is only effective for a quarter of the game. Stanford’s offensive lethargy following Cameron Scarlett’s three-yard scoring run constitutes this week’s The Bad.

• The Ugly

Defensive coordinator Lance Anderson’s vaunted halftime adjustments and methods for harassing inexperienced quarterbacks only seemed to be in effect for the opening series of the second half. On a crucial fourth down, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard bizarrely directed signal caller Davis Mills to hand off to Scarlett out of the shotgun for no gain. Head coach David Shaw had zero solutions for the offensive and defensive impotence that affected the team for much of the game.

Let’s make this simple: The coaching staff bears enormous responsibility for this loss, and their performance is therefore this week’s The Ugly.

• The Good

I’m going to keep it simple once more. Time and again since Kevin Hogan graduated following the 2015 season, Stanford fans have lamented the offense’s slow starts. That, of course, was not the problem Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: While rolling up the aforementioned 115 yards over the first two possessions, the Cardinal scored two touchdowns; they also held a 17-3 lead after a special-teams takeaway set up a Jet Toner field goal with 13:47 left in the second quarter.

Of course, the team failed to sustain that momentum — but that’s not what this category is about. The Cardinal offense’s fast start is this week’s The Good.

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