LUCK AIRS IT OUT
Cardinal offense ignites in desert rout of Wildcats
By JACOB JAFFE, DESK EDITOR
For the third straight week, the No. 5 Stanford football team appeared out of sync in the first half. But for the third straight week, the Cardinal responded with a dominant second half, blanking Arizona after the break to win 37-10 in Tucson. The win came at a steep price, though, as junior linebacker Shayne Skov will miss the rest of the season after injuring his knee in the second quarter.
In a highly touted battle of quarterbacks, Arizona’s Nick Foles was far superior in the first half, completing his first 17 passes of the game while shredding the Stanford defense for 183 yards. The Cardinal responded, holding Foles to just 56 yards on 7-for-16 passing the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, the Stanford offense rolled over the overmatched Wildcat defense. Redshirt junior quarterback Andrew Luck led the way for the Cardinal, racking up 325 passing yards and two touchdowns. Junior running back Stepfan Taylor had a career day on the ground, rushing for 153 yards on 22 carries.
Early on, though, the Stanford offense had trouble breaking through a pumped-up Arizona defense. After a punt on its first series, the Cardinal drove inside the Arizona 10-yard line until Luck appeared to throw his second interception of the year. However, the play was overturned on replay, as the ball touched the ground, giving redshirt freshman kicker Jordan Williamson the opportunity to kick a short field goal to put the first points on the board.
In the remaining three offensive series of the first half, Stanford ventured into the red zone each time. Leading 3-0, first-year head coach David Shaw elected to go for it on fourth-and-one from the Arizona 24. The move paid off, as a misdirection pitch left sophomore running back Anthony Wilkerson open for an untouched 24-yard touchdown run. That would be the only Cardinal touchdown of the first half, though, as Stanford had to settle for short Williamson field goals on its last two drives.
On the other side of the ball, Stanford had no answer for Foles and the Wildcats’ passing game. Thanks to a sack and staunch run defense, the Cardinal forced punts on each of the first two Arizona drives, but then Foles started to go to work. His first six throws were completed to six different receivers, and the Wildcat wideouts found plenty of room underneath, consistently beating the Stanford defensive backs.
Trailing 13-3, Arizona mounted a 79-yard touchdown drive. Due to a poor running game, Foles actually threw for 84 yards during the drive, capping it off with a six-yard throw to wide receiver Juron Criner, who played just 12 days after undergoing an appendectomy–Criner led the Wildcats with six catches on the day.
At the end of the half, Arizona had a chance to take the lead. Trailing 16-10 with just seconds remaining, Foles had Criner streaking open down the left side. It looked to be an easy touchdown, but senior quarterback Johnson Bademosi alertly grabbed Criner’s arm to prevent the score. The pass interference penalty left Arizona with a field goal try on the final play of the half, but Arizona’s Jaime Salazar shanked a 45-yarder to keep the score 16-10 at the break.
Salazar missed an even shorter field goal on the first drive of the second half, and from there it was all Stanford.
Luck used his stable of tight ends to good effect, throwing second-half touchdowns to redshirt sophomores Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz. Toilolo, who had no catches in the first two games of the year, led Stanford with 102 receiving yards on just four catches.
The Stanford running game, which started slowly once again, eventually wore down the Arizona defense. The Cardinal burned seven minutes off the clock with a 12-play, 91-yard drive in the fourth. Nine of those plays were runs, including a two-yard touchdown scamper by redshirt senior running back Jeremy Stewart to close the scoring at 37-10.
Despite the win, Stanford suffered some big losses during the game. Senior wide receiver Chris Owusu, redshirt senior tight end Coby Fleener and Skov all left the game due to injury, and only Owusu returned to action. Fleener appeared to sustain a concussion, but Skov’s injury appeared much more serious. Skov could not put weight on his left knee and was in a brace on the sideline for the rest of the game. He had an MRI on Sunday, and on Monday it was announced that he would miss the rest of the season.
The other injured Stanford athletes will have time to rest, as the Cardinal has a bye this week. Stanford’s next game will be at home against UCLA on Oct. 1.