It’s a headline that Stanford Cardinal fans around the country have become quite accustomed to: Stanford defense dominates opposing offense. Unfortunately for Stanford, it was its own offense that the defense was able to stymie on Saturday at the annual Cardinal & White Spring Game, as an experienced receiving corps and a highly touted offensive line weren’t able to overcome a defense that was lacking key contributors, with the offense falling to the defense by a lopsided final score of 47-23.
Although junior outside linebacker Kevin Anderson — who will start at the position come the fall — was injured at the team’s final practice on Friday and didn’t play at the Spring Game, the defense weathered his loss as well as the losses of sophomore cornerback Alex Carter to injury and sophomore safety Zach Hoffpauir to baseball, as it set the pace early and dominated the first half of the game.
“Defensively, we are so good up front,” said head coach David Shaw. “We have a veteran group up front that’s really, really tough to run the ball against, really tough to pass protect. We think we’re going to have a good offensive line, but it’s hard to show that with the guys that we have up front.”
Freshman outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi started in Anderson’s place and had a fantastic day, leading the team with 7 tackles, including 2 sacks. His blitzing was able to consistently power through Stanford’s talented offensive line and he also showed a consistent ability to finish tackles. Kalambayi, however, was still able to find lots of room for improvement within his performance.
“I did decently, but I can get a lot better,” Kalambayi said. “I’m not the strongest guy yet. [Junior outside linebacker James] Vaughters on the other side is obviously a lot stronger. Knowing my assignment every single time with no doubt — we messed it up a few times before I fixed it.”
Also impressive on the defense was sophomore safety Dallas Lloyd, who displayed great physicality en route to collecting 6 tackles in his first action in Stanford Stadium after converting from quarterback. Lloyd was effective both in tackling at the line and in space, the latter of which was demonstrated when he was able to bring down sophomore running back Barry Sanders as the only man standing between Sanders and the end zone to limit a potential big play.
On the other side of the ball, Sanders was a major contributor, as the highly anticipated sophomore led the Cardinal’s stable of three primary backs with 12 carries for 68 yards. He displayed the juking ability and agility that many Stanford fans are hoping will make significant contributions to the Cardinal’s running game in the upcoming seasons.
“I felt like I ran hard, made some good cuts and made people miss,” Sanders said. “There were a couple of plays I felt like I missed a couple of holes here and there, but I felt like I did well.”
While Sanders was impressive at running back, the position group took a further hit for the spring when junior Kelsey Young was slow to get up after a play and left the field favoring his right arm, which was later seen in a sling as Young stayed on the sideline for the remainder of the game. Shaw remarked after the game that Young had been in a significant amount of pain on the field that subsided for the most part once the running back had made his way to the sideline. Young will receive X-rays to determine the exact nature of the injury. This injury comes after junior Remound Wright has already been sitting out spring practices due to a disciplinary violation.
Saturday also offered Stanford fans their first opportunity to see freshman quarterback Ryan Burns take the helm of the offense. Shaw had previously expressed disappointment that Burns had been unable to take critical snaps with the offense to gain experience within the Cardinal’s system due to Burns’ suspension for the first session of spring, and that inexperience showed on Saturday. Burns completed just 12 of his 25 passes for 131 yards, and threw one interception that was returned by freshman cornerback Chandler Dorrell for a touchdown.
“He’s learning the offense,” Shaw said. “He’s learning what to do. He’s about on pace with every freshman quarterback we’ve had except for Andrew [Luck ‘12], who was a bit above, as you can imagine. He’s right where Kevin Hogan was his freshman year, right where all those other guys were their freshmen years.”
Burns looked flustered in the pocket at times and made some questionable decisions, including pulling the trigger on several passes that could have been intercepted and further returned for touchdowns. In addition, he fumbled three snaps, an indication that he still needs time to adjust to taking snaps under center after predominantly having taken snaps out of the shotgun during high school.
Meanwhile, Hogan started slowly but had an efficient day overall, completing 14 of his 22 pass attempts for 131 yards and two touchdowns. He came out of the half looking much more comfortable finding his receivers than he had before the break. He led two touchdown drives in the third quarter: one capped by a fade to sophomore tight end Eric Cotton in the corner of the end zone and another by a pass well-placed for junior Devon Cajuste to corral using his height to his advantage.
The touchdown pass to Cotton was promising for a tight end group that had been largely quiet in the passing game last season but will be looking to use the talents of Cotton and fellow freshmen Austin Hooper and Greg Taboada to emerge again as a viable passing target.
The offense will now have just over four months to gel and work on its details before the beginning of the season, while the defense will continue to consolidate its position groupings and adjust to life under a changed coaching staff.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.