Traveling up to the earth-shaking Husky Stadium in Seattle on Saturday, Stanford faced its first road test of the season. The defense aced the challenge with flying colors; the offense managed to do just enough to get by.
Throughout the game, the product on the field was a far cry from the scenic beauty of the newly renovated stadium set against the backdrop of Lake Washington. Both offenses struggled mightily, but Stanford dominated the field position game behind a ferocious defensive performance and did just enough to squeak by the Huskies.
Let’s break down this Stanford performance in a little more depth:
138: The Stanford defense’s tackle-for-loss yards this season. Despite losing the nation’s sack leader in Trent Murphy along with imposing pass rushers Ben Gardner, Shayne Skov and Josh Mauro, the Stanford defense has shown no sign of dropping off. Sophomore outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi has stepped up in a big way in 2014 with a team-leading four sacks, including three against the Huskies. Senior outside linebackers James Vaughters and Kevin Anderson have also wreaked havoc on opposing defensive lines and softened the blow from losing a number of stars.
Thus far, the Stanford defense has racked up 7.5 tackle-for-loss yards per game, just shy of last season’s mark of 7.64. The #partyinthebackfield lives on in 2014.
38: Number of Ty Montgomery rushing yards against UW. The senior had a breakout 2013 campaign, looking unstoppable as both a receiver and a kick returner, so why not get him the ball more often? Montgomery has seen additional opportunities to make an impact on the game in 2014 by returning punts and lining up in the backfield.
On Saturday, the former high school running back put up a career-high 38 yards on the ground, showcasing his incredible versatility and a new wrinkle in the Stanford offense. Many have lamented the lack of a true power running back in the Stanford lineup, but Shaw looks unafraid to put Montgomery in that role in certain situations.
14: Number of Kevin Hogan rushing attempts against Washington. This statistic is a little inflated since sacks — for some reason — count as quarterback rushing attempts (Hogan was sacked just once), but Kevin Hogan undoubtedly looked to run the ball more against UW. Coming off of the bye week, many were curious to see what Stanford would do to remedy its red zone struggles, and Shaw clearly looked to call Hogan’s number on several designed run plays, leading to a season-high number of rushing attempts for the quarterback.
In fact, Hogan finished the day as the team’s leading rusher with 53 yards and crossed the goal line late in the fourth quarter for the game-winning touchdown. With the success that he had on Saturday, look for the Cardinal to use Hogan’s legs more in short-yardage situations, particularly in the red zone.
85: Number of penalty yards Stanford conceded to Washington — the most the team has allowed since giving up 90 to Cal back in 2012. The offensive line performance was markedly improved on Saturday, but the Cardinal still committed a number of mental errors, most notably a 15-yard late hit penalty from Vaughters. The Cardinal managed to come out of Seattle with a win, but the penalties remain a disturbing trend for a team that gave up just 44.6 penalty yards per game a season ago.
5: The number of passes broken up by the Stanford defense. Earlier I talked about how the retooled Cardinal front seven has picked up right where last year’s group left off, but it’s important to note that they would likely not have the same amount of success if it wasn’t for the much-improved secondary.
After getting picked on quite a bit a season ago, Wayne Lyons has looked poised and confident in 2014 while Alex Carter has continued to to refine his skills. Zach Hoffpauir’s presence at safety has also been a huge lift for the defense, who held Washington quarterback Cyler Miles to 98 yards passing.
On the flip side, the Huskies also broke up five Kevin Hogan passes and intercepted the Stanford quarterback in the second half. Hogan appeared to be late on a number of throws, but was fortunate to leave the game with only one interception. If the Huskies had managed to pick off one or two of those other Hogan passes, this game might have ended very differently.p
80: Stanford red zone conversion percentage. The Cardinal made five trips to the red zone on Saturday and came away with points on four of those occasions: two field goals and two touchdowns. This result represents an improvement on the performance against USC, but still leaves a lot to be desired. After the game, Shaw expressed his displeasure at the offense’s latest performance, one in which Stanford gained over 300 yards of offense but put up just 20 points. With a top-10 opponent in Notre Dame next on its schedule, Stanford will look to continue improving its red zone efficiency in order to keep hopes of making the College Football Playoff alive.
Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.