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The Stanford Cardinal are known for Andrew Luck and their pass-happy offense. The recognition is rightfully deserved, but ultimately that is only one side of the ball: this season is beginning to prove that the team is a formidable defensive unit, too. According to an ESPN report, Stanford leads the Pac-12 in both total defense and scoring defense.
The Cardinal rank 26th in the country in total defense, just a shade outside of the top 25 but still tops of the Pac-12. The Cal Golden Bears come in one position lower at 27th in the country, while two-thirds of the conference ranks 50th or worse.
Stanford begins to really set itself apart in scoring defense. The Cardinal rank sixth in the country in points allowed, well above the Utah Utes at 25th and every other Pac-12 team. Defense has been a low point for the conference this season as three-fourths of the Pac-12 has given up more than 24 points per game.
Stanford's defense has been a pleasant surprise this year and will serve as a major strength as the team pursues a national title. If the Cardinal defense can keep up their strong early showing, Luck and the offense will have an easier task ahead of them as they face strong opponents such as USC and Oregon later in the year.
Andrew Luck had three touchdown passes and four incompletions in Saturday's mauling by the Stanford Cardinal of the UCLA Bruins, well on his way to an incredible 85% completion rate. Luck took three-step drops and found his receivers in the flats, on short routes, and nailed them on anything well within the intermediate. It was the closest thing you'll see to an offensive scrimmage in a college football game, as the UCLA defense could only crumble at Luck's might. (That catch probably took a lot out of them too).
Luck threw only one real deep pattern, early in the third quarter on the tight end post pattern to Coby Fleener. Other than that, Luck kept everything short and manageable, exploiting mismatches and coverages well before Bruins defenders could recover. UCLA looked like they were determined to make Luck throw shallow and short and defend the deep ball, and Luck was up to the challenge. Everything was methodical and drive-sustaining, a slow death for a defense that was eventually worn down trying to prevent Luck.
If you're a football fan and enjoy process, nothing will please you more than these stats:
Luck has yet to face a real defense that can challenge his efficiency as a college football quarterback. It's uncertain if the Pac-12 will offer him any such challenge this season.
For more on Luck, go to Rule of Tree.
The fourth-ranked Stanford Cardinal had to deal with some surprising spunk against the UCLA Bruins, but they eventually settled down and wore down the will of their opponents in the second half. Stanford scored four touchdowns on five of their second half drives and put down any faint hopes UCLA had of upset early in the fourth quarter.
Andrew Luck again was the key. He had not only an impressive catch, but threw three touchdowns and only FOUR incompletions (take that Robert Griffin III!), racking up 225 passing yards on 23 completions. He spread the ball out to nine different receivers, with Coby Fleener his main target (four catches, 76 yards, two touchdowns). He also found Chris Owusu six times, plus a late touchdown score. Stepfan Taylor paced Stanford on the ground, racking up 112 rushing yards with only 17 carries. It was a fairly methodical offensive effort, as Stanford produced 441 yards and 27 first downs on offense.
The Stanford defense wasn't quite as solid in their efforts. giving up 343 yards to the Bruins and a fairly solid 5.5 yards per play. Richard Brehaut had a solid enough performance for most of the game, piling up 202 passing yards and made two touchdown connections. He got solid support from the UCLA rushing attack, as Johnathan Franklin piled up 93 rushing yards on 13 carries. But the Bruins turned the ball over twice, setting up two crucial Stanford scores early, and that was the big difference.
Stanford now improves to 4-0 on the season. The Colorado Buffaloes are next on the docket, as they come to Palo Alto next week.
The Stanford Cardinal have to be happy that they've been gifted two turnovers. Richard Brehaut's fumble set up an early Cardinal touchdown, and then Taylor Embree fumbled a punt at midfield to set up Stanford with an early second half scoring drive. Those have been the difference between decisive Stanford lead and close game with upset potential.
Andrew Luck started the third quarter by hooking up with Coby Fleener for his second touchdown on a 49 yard catch. Tyler Gaffney capitalized on the Embree fumble and took it up the gut for 16 yards to give Stanford a 31-13 lead.
The Stanford defense has had trouble stopping UCLA's offense though. Richard Brehaut marched the Bruins down the field twice on big scoring drives. UCLA has put up 8 play, 65 yard and 9 play, 56 yard drives on two methodical scoring drives to cut the lead down to 31-19 late in the first half (although Jeff Locke missed two extra points). But an unexpected UCLA onside kick set up Stanford with great field position, and the Cardinal punched it in for potentially decisive points with a Stepfan Taylor one yard rush.
The Stanford Cardinal are surprisingly only up 10 points at halftime over the UCLA Bruins. Andrew Luck has thrown only two incompletions, starting the game 10 for 12 for 85 yards with one touchdown throw on his first drive. Fairly modest figures from the Heisman Trophy candidate, but super-efficient nonetheless. Oh, plus he's got a catch too--check that here.
What should be concerning is that the Stanford defense is conceding a lot of yardage sans Shayne Skov. Richard Brehaut has actually made some crucial throws to keep the Bruins in it, and is 9 for 14 on the game for 126 yards. He managed a crucial late first half drive and found Joseph Fauria in the end zone to give UCLA their first touchdown of the game.
However, Brehaut fumbled the ball in UCLA territory on a Chase Thomas sack and recovery, and Stepfan Taylor eventually punched it in for Stanford's second touchdown of the game. Another big Taylor rush (now with 77 rushing yards on 11 carries) set up a Jordan Williamson field goal to give Stanford an early 17-0 lead before UCLA eventually got their first score.
The UCLA Bruins actually came out and looked competent offensively on their opening drive. They managed to drive the ball down the field on their opening drive. Richard Brehaut connected with Shaquelle Evans for 16 yards and 10 yards, then found Jordon James for 21 yards and Nelson Rosario for 13 yards to set up first and goal at the four. But UCLA could not punch it in, as James, Johnathan Franklin, Derrick Coleman and Brehaut were all stuffed on successive downs.
Stanford took over from their own seven yard line, and then went to it. Luck connected with Zach Ertz for 17 yards, Chris Owusu for 13 and 8 yards, and Coby Fleener for 8 yards. Then Luck caught his own pass that you'll probably be seeing on SportsCenter. Add in a few Stepfan Taylor rushes, and Luck found Coby Fleener to give the Cardinal the early lead after one quarter.
After having a week off, the Stanford Cardinal will look to extend its 11-game winning streak, which is the longest in the nation. The Cardinal were challenged briefly in their last matchup with the Arizona Wildcats on September 17, but Andrew Luck and a stellar defensive performance were the difference in the game.
As for the Bruins, they come into the game at 2-2, though they did win their first conference game of the year against Oregon State. They previously lost to Houston and Texas this season.
Here is the television and radio coverage, as well as a few other tidbits to prepare you for the game.
Kickoff: 10:30 EDT / 7:30 PST
Venue: Stanford Stadium/Foster Field (50,000 capacity)
Last Meeting: Stanford 35 - UCLA 0; 2010
Television Coverage: Fox Sports Net will cover the game. Check your local listings.
Radio: KNBR 1050 The Sports Leader (local); Sirius and XM Satellite Radio will air the game as well.
Online Stream: ESPN3 will not stream the game, though there are alternatives to search for.
As for the game itself, the Cardinal should not have too much trouble with the Bruins, especially with the extra week of preparation and home crowd to their benefit. Andrew Luck should have a big day against the UCLA secondary in a double-digit victory.
For more on the Cardinal, check out Rule of Tree for further coverage.
The Stanford Cardinal offense isn't quite the wrecking ball it was last season, but it's putting enough holes in football tenements this season. The UCLA defense (which hasn't performed well yet) will have its hands full trying to contain every facet of the offense.
Stanford rushing offense vs. UCLA rushing defense
The Cardinal boast a small but efficient rushing attack behind their new feature-back Stepfan Taylor. The Bruins did just manage to put up a good effort against Oregon State, but it was Oregon State, team without a running back. Taylor split carries with several running backs last season, but has now become Stanford's top runner, averaging 5.39 yards per carry, 19th in the nation. With defenses focused on Andrew Luck, he becomes most potent when the Cardinal capture their first lead, ripping off an incredible 7.76 yards per carry in situations when Stanford takes an early lead.
UCLA's rushing defense? Putrid, giving up almost as much as Stanford gains per play (5.27 yards per carry, 109th in the nation). They're even worse on 1st down, giving up over six yards per carry (111th in the country) and setting up all sorts of second-and-short situations that a defense can easily exploit. They can't get negative plays either, netting only 16 tackles for loss (96th in the nation).
If UCLA is going to stop Taylor, it's at the goal-line, where his numbers are pedestrian (he averages only 1.33 yards per carry in the red zone). UCLA is giving up 3.67 yards per carry in the red zone (103rd in the nation). This is shaping up to be a colossal mismatch on paper.
Stanford passing offense vs. UCLA passing defense
Meet Andrew Luck. He good with the football.
Luck is almost unstoppable on first down, putting up over 12 yards per attempt and completing an incredible 79% of his passes. Luck's passer rating does decline by down--in fact on third down his numbers are fairly pedestrian--but he's so good on the first two downs that he rarely ends up in those situations. In fact, he's better in 3rd and long as opposed to 3rd and short, making him deadly in nearly any obvious passing situation.
Compared to their horrid running stats, UCLA's passing defense is average. They give up a lot of completions but only for a modest 6.8 yards per attempt. However their third down defense is pretty bad, giving up a 70% completion rate and a 50%+ first down conversion rate. And their first down stats (73% completion rate, 7 yards per pass attempt) are pure death, making you think Luck should accomplish what he wants.
Good luck Bruins. You're gonna need it.
The No. 6 Stanford Cardinal face off against the UCLA Bruins this Saturday at home. The Bruins, who stand at 2-2 entering this game, may put up more resistance than their record indicates thanks to the return of cornerback Jamie Graham.
Graham played for Vanderbilt over the past four seasons and will play for the Bruins this season while attending graduate school. He solidified a role within the Bruins defense in his first few days of practice and gained the respect of the coaching staff. Unfortunately, Graham missed the team's first four games with a torn meniscus.
He figures to be back on Saturday for the team's showdown with Stanford, and that could make things tougher on Andrew Luck and the Cardinal offense. Though Graham may have a tough time transitioning to game speed after so many weeks out, the cornerback can certainly make up for it with his strong football IQ and experience.
It remains to be seen on Saturday whether or not Graham can play a significant role in stopping or slowing down the Cardinal pass attack. His return, though, should give the Cardinal something to think about as they search for another win.
The Stanford Cardinal will likely have one of their biggest weapons Saturday against the UCLA Bruins as tight end Coby Fleener has been cleared to return to practice following a bit hit suffered against the Arizona Wildcats. Fleener was involved in a helmet-to-helmet collision and developed concussion-like symptoms but was cleared late last week during the team's bye.
The Cardinal tight end has been a key part of the offense as a playmaker who has been able to get in the end zone and also stretch the field. He is tied for the team's receiving touchdown lead with fellow tight end Zach Ertz with three. Fleener is also averaging 22.7 yards per catch, which is good for seventh among qualified receivers in FBS (I-A).
The Cardinal enter their game with the Bruins as heavy favorites but having one of their big playmakers back will be a plus for QB Andrew Luck. At the same time, Luck has done a good job getting as many receivers involved as possible. Outside of wide receiver Chris Owusu's 16 receptions, Luck has six receivers with at least four receptions and five different receivers have caught a touchdown pass.
For more on Stanford, check out Rule of Tree.
The University of Stanford Cardinal has started out its season outscoring opponents 138-27 and will look to keep that momentum as they face off against the inconsistent but always exciting UCLA Bruins at home on Saturday.
The Cardinal comes in as 21 point favorites per Odds Shark, and so far this season are 3-0, straight up and against the spread. Stanford has beaten the Bruins (straight up and against the spread) in their last two meetings and Heisman candidate Andrew Luck will look to continue those winning ways.
The over/under currently sits at 54. With Stanford scoring 57, 44, and 37 in their last three contests and UCLA giving up an average of 30.75 points a game in their first four, you have to think this may be a high-scoring affair.
UCLA has been no slouch on offense either, averaging 27 points a game on offense. Further, Stanford has lost some key players on defense, most notably star linebacker Shane Skob.
For more on Stanford football, head to Rule of Tree.
The Stanford Cardinal will try and replace linebacker Shayne Skov with Jarek Lancaster and A.J. Tarpley and get themselves acclimated against the UCLA Bruins at home.