Stanford Cruises Past Injury-Ravaged Arizona

By: Ben Leonard

The Arizona Wildcats were declawed on Saturday, missing key pieces like linebacker Scooby Wright and quarterback Anu Solomon. With the Wildcats vulnerable, the 18th-ranked Cardinal didn’t miss their chance, thoroughly dispatching the overmatched Wildcats in a 55-17 victory.

Stanford only punted once, and didn’t come until 11:41 left in the fourth quarter with Keller Chryst at the helm, scoring on every other drive. The nation’s 90th ranked scoring defense made it look easy for Stanford to score over and over again, despite holding strong twice in the red zone in the early going.

The Cardinal drove down the field with ease on their first two drives but stalled in the red zone a’la 2014. The Wildcats held strong, forcing the Cardinal to settle for 38 and 41-yard field goals from Conrad Ukropina, who has missed just one field goal attempt this season, providing unexpected stability at the kicker position. Even though Stanford had taken the early 6-0 lead with five minutes left in the first, their struggles to finish drives early on gave Arizona a fighting chance.

But with backup quarterback Jerrard Randall under center for the Wildcats, they never seemed in the game, down 27-3 at the half. Sure, he had a couple flashy runs here and there, but he struggled on deep balls and completed just 15 of his 28 passing attempts for 178 yards.

Arizona was so ready to punt that on every third down, they literally would wave a blue flag that said punt on it in big capital letters. The Wildcats never got in a rhythm, rushing for just 118 yards and failing to get on the scoreboard until midway through the second quarter. Overall, the Cardinal did an outstanding job bottling up an Arizona squad that was fifth in the nation in points per game heading into Saturday.

But the real story of this game was Stanford’s suddenly high-flying offense that controlled the game, never not scoring until deep in the fourth. The unit averaged a whopping 6.2 yards per carry, a figure that would have been much higher had the Cardinal not put in reserves in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand.

Christian McCaffrey led the way for the Cardinal, carrying the ball 17 times for 156 yards, finally scoring his first touchdown of the season.  He somehow hadn’t found the end zone for the Cardinal before Saturday, which would be disappointing to his fantasy owners. But since this is reality, he or his teammates won’t lose any sleep about the fact that Remound Wright got in twice, or that Barry J. Sanders gave the Cardinal a one-play, 65-yard drive with his long touchdown run to close out the fourth quarter. To make matters worse for the Wildcats, with all of McCaffrey’s kick returning prowess, he accumulated 260 all-purpose yards despite Arizona’s squib kicks and pooch punts to try to kick away from him.

Kevin Hogan had another near-perfect day at the office, throwing just two incompletions in his 19 attempts, adding 217 yards and two touchdowns, good for a 220.15 passer efficiency rating. When you throw the same amount of touchdowns as incompletions, you know you’re having yourself a day.

We got a glimpse at his backup, Keller Chryst, who provided the Cardinal with some brute force late in the second quarter, laying out two Arizona defenders on one play.

 

 

Remind you of anyone?

 

He also was perfect through the air in garbage time, completing all of his four pass attempts for 39 yards and his first career passing touchdown, connecting with fifth-year senior Rollins Stallworth. Hopefully it will be just the first of many more to come.

He almost had one on the ground too, but had it called back after a penalty. The future is bright, Stanford fans. And it’s here, right now, even without Chryst. It even smells vaguely like roses. Especially with next week’s opponent and one of Stanford’s only roadblocks, UCLA, falling to ASU at the Rose Bowl.

Cover Image: Stanford’s Rollins Stallworth (13) celebrates his touchdown reception with teammate Barry Sanders (26) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Stanford, Calif.  (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)