25.Oct.2014 Stanford Post-Game Thoughts

It was fun reading the comments and seeing people raging at Riley and BDC. The thing is, didn’t those people see this coming? Stanford has been suffocating everyone, and OSU has only been able to score versus bad opponents. So obviously Stanford was going to win this game barring them handing it away or some other miracle.

Regarding Mike Riley, what can you say at this point that hasn’t been said? And that’s part of the problem. The Cassandras and Pollyannas have both said their piece. This conversation only becomes interesting if the Pollys begin to defect. We’re seeing it begin to happen (rumors PO is blowing up tonight, Mamma Machado getting testy on Twitter a few weeks ago, etc), but not yet en masse. For what are they waiting? Riley to pull his annual upset and add just enough confusion about his upper limit to silence everyone for a week? I don’t see that happening this year since the best opportunity for that was Utah. We see that type of game every year and know it means nothing more than a weird upset. An anomaly. It doesn’t mean he has suddenly “figured it out” or any other straw these people are grasping at. Hint: guys don’t figure things out when they’re 60. If anything the opposite happens.

Getting the bird’s eye view tonight, I saw just how bad Sean Mannion is. Yes, Riley is right some of that is Stanford being good, some of it is OSU’s offensive line, but most of it is Mannion. I saw a guy with plenty of time who failed to scan the field, failed to spot wide open WRs (yet we’re told the WRs can’t get open…interesting), and constantly threw the ball behind, over, and under WRs. When I watched the Chargers on Thursday night, they made the point Phillip Rivers throws under more duress than any QB. Yet, he has a 110 QB rating and 86 QBR. 20TDs and 5INTs, all while throwing behind a shaky offensive line. THAT is what great quarterbacks do. They transcend their cast. We see Tom Brady do this every week. I’m not saying Mannion should be either of those guys. But if people are going to say this guy is a 1st round draft pick and then completely blame the offensive line for his terrible play, then they also need to acknowledge what actually goes into great QB play. It is not a 6″5 frame or throwing a ball 80 yards from his knees. If it were, Browning Nagle would be in the Hall of Fame. Mannion has zero moxy, zero heart, zero leadership, and just doesn’t get what makes great QB play. Four years and it hasn’t clicked. That experiment, like the Riley experiment, should either (a) end entirely or (b) at least be called out for what it is. Need to start looking to next year and benching Mannion should not be out of the equation.

One last point: Hunter Jarmon makes the most explosive play of the game and Chris Brown plays well. Over and over I wrote Jarmon needed to be the guy who replaced Cooks. Over and over I wrote Brown is the best RB on the roster. Riley insists Bolden is Cook’s replacement and Woods/Ward is a legit Pac-12 backfield. It takes him 7 weeks to figure out maybe that isn’t correct? The guy is slower than whale shit. If it is not clock management it is personnel management.

A much shorter version of this post: it is inevitable that a coach wears out his welcome. That time is near.

A sign of a bull market’s end is when good news no longer propels the asset in question. We’ll see how fans react if Riley pulls off his yearly upset. If they forgive him then we’re still stuck with this, but this feels the closest I can remember to fans uniting in opinion. At this point, I don’t see anything but a victory in the Civil War cooling Riley’s hot seat.

23.Oct.2014 GoMightyCard Blogger Q&A

Taken from your questions, which were:

  1. How is the Oregon State football program perceived by the Stanford program and/or the Stanford fan base?
  2. How many Stanford fans will show?
  3. Who should OSU hire to coach it’s football team?
  4. Do the Stanford fans and team see this as a “get right” game?
  5. Individual or unit matchups to watch?
  6. Can we borrow their defense for the Civil War this year?
  7. Will David Shaw last the season?
  8. What’s the mood like in Palo Alto coming into a game unranked for the first time?
  9. Who is the best RB on their roster?
  10. What’s wrong with Hogan?
  11. How many people think your mascot is a bird, and are confused by the googly-eyed focus mascot?
  12. Stanford has generally been a door mat in football over the past 30 seasons, where do you see this program in 4 years?
  13. Would you guys like to hire a new AD or football coach? We may have some available at a discount in coming weeks.
  14. Best place to tailgate before the game? Any Beaver-friendly tailgates? Any Beaver-friendly Beavers?

Here are the responses:

1. If you’ve been paying attention to how the Stanford season has been going, you can probably guess that fans are concerned about pretty much everything and anything. Even when the Cardinal has been at its best, the Beavers seem to give us trouble. Yes, Andrew Luck led Stanford to wins over the Beavers during his last two seasons by a combined score of 76-13, but the games in each of the past two years were both close as the Cardinal won by 3 in 2012 and by 8 in 2013. As for me personally, I still worry that Jacquizz Rodgers might have a secret extra year of eligibility and could line up for the Beavers on Saturday.

2. That’s funny. I’ve never gotten this question before. Okay, here’s the thing. Yes, there was a time when Stanford couldn’t fill its stadium, but every game has been sold out stretching back a few years. Yes, there were a lot of empty seats for the last home game two weeks ago against Washington State, but that was because the Pac-12 foolishly insisted on scheduling the game at 6:00 on a Friday night. This Saturday is Reunion Weekend on the Farm, so it will be packed.

3. Let’s see. There are an awful lot of interesting characters in the Pac-12 right now — Mike Leach, Rich Rodriguez, Sonny Dykes — but I think we need more. Here’s my wish list for the Beavers:

• Lane Kiffin. Sure, he’s a headcase, but the boy can certainly recruit and coach. He’s trending up. Get him quickly.

• Brady Hoke. Obviously trending down, but he’d be fun.

• Mike Bellotti. You think this would add some fire to the Civil War?

4. It’s been pretty surprising to read the various reactions to the Arizona State loss. It’s amazing how quickly people get used to winning. This is more than just a “get right” game, it’s a must-win. A loss here would be devastating, and I don’t mean that as a slight to Oregon State at all. David Shaw has never endured a two-game losing streak in his career, and if he were to lose a second-straight game here, the fan base would implode. The problem isn’t just that we lost to Arizona State, it’s that we were obliterated by Arizona State. Prior to that game, the Cardinal hadn’t lost a game by more than one score since losing to Oregon by 23 late in the 2011 season. Shaw took the blame for the loss when he spoke at his press conference on Tuesday morning, and he mentioned the need to make some changes on offense. It will interesting, to say the least.

5. Without question, the unit to watch will be Stanford’s offensive line. For the past five or six years, the offensive line has been the best line in the conference and one of the best units in all the nation, but that hasn’t been the case this year. There were high hopes entering the season, as all five starters are members of the Cardinal’s historic offensive line haul of 2012, but their inexperience has crippled them. Left tackle Andrus Peat is the only member of the line with starting experience (he started all 14 games in 2013), but the rest of the linemen have seemed nervous and overwhelmed at times. I say this every week, but the offensive line is the heart of the Stanford offense. We’ll see what happens.

A close second would be the defensive line which was dominant through the first half of the season but is now dealing with some injuries. The line will likely be without two of its three starters (Aziz Shittu is definitely out, and David Parry is doubtful), and the situation was so dire last week that they burned a redshirt and gave some nose tackle reps to a 250-pound true freshman, Harrison Phillips. Stanford’s defensive strength started with the defensive front, so it will be interesting to see what things look like this weekend.

6. I am not at liberty to loan out players, especially not the entire defense, but you’re welcome to watch the Stanford defense shut down the Oregon Ducks on November 1st.

7. Barring some type of scandal, there’s no way David Shaw can be fired. He’s sitting on a significant amount of equity — two straight Pac-12 championships, three straight BCS appearances, three straight wins over Cal. There have been some grumblings about his conservative style, and many blame him for the Cardinal’s current struggles, but he’s still the best man for the job. No question. Unless things turn around before the end of the season, however, I think we can expect to see some changes on staff, starting with the offensive coordinator.

8. Skip.

9. Good question. Stanford went into the season with the idea of having a running-back-by-committee, and that’s exactly what’s happened. The top three backs are Remound Wright, Barry Sanders, and Kelsey Young, and recently Young has slipped to third place, leaving Wright and Sanders to split most of the carries. I think the biggest problem with the Stanford running backs is that there’s no one on the roster who can match the size and speed of the guys we’re used to seeing in the position — Toby Gerhart, Stepfan Taylor, and Tyler Gaffney. Also, because there’s no lead back, neither Wright nor Sanders has been able to get into any kind of rhythm. The best example of this came against Washington State, when Sanders opened as the starter and gained 50 yards on his first two carries, but then had only six more carries the rest of the game. Finally, here’s the most telling stat — no Stanford back has gone over the century mark since the Pac-12 championship game last season, a span of eight games.

10. Hogan’s weaknesses have been well documented. He locks on to his primary receiver and never runs through a progression. His passes often float like wounded ducks. He’s good for at least one or two delay of game penalties per game. There’s a lot wrong with Kevin Hogan, but not all of it is his fault. David Shaw expects his quarterback to have a thorough knowledge of a playbook that is probably the most demanding in college football. Three plays are called in the huddle, and Hogan is expected to stand at the line and determine the one play that will best take advantage of what the defense is giving. Andrew Luck was able to do this, but Kevin Hogan is not Andrew Luck. Few quarterbacks are. I think the coaches are asking too much of him, and I think they’re also ignoring his strengths. When Hogan first began playing situationally during his redshirt freshman season, he had only a handful of plays, and they all took advantage of his mobility. In his first three games, he ran the ball seven times while passing only once. As he has developed as a starter, however, the coaches have tried to protect him by limiting his running opportunities, and this has been a mistake. Hogan’s single best play is the read-option, a play that should be called at least ten times a game. Instead we see it once or twice if we’re lucky. If I could change one thing about this offense, it would be to free Kevin Hogan to be Kevin Hogan.

11. As prominent as Stanford has been on the national scene for the past four years, it’s surprising how often I hear announcers and analysts refer to the team as the Cardinals, plural. At this point I honestly think it’s actually just a slip of the tongue. People know that Stanford is the Cardinal, and that that has nothing to do with any bird.

12. There’s been a lot of talk about this recently amongst the fans in my circle as people wonder if the current struggles are temporary or an indicator that the program is taking a step or two back. The Cardinal had been ranked in the top 25 of every AP poll since the 2010, which says a lot about how consistently great the team has been, but it’s nearly impossible to maintain that level. The good news, though, is that the talent on the roster it still improving each year. The 2014 recruiting class, for example, is arguably the most talented group of incoming freshman ever to arrive at Stanford. That talent will keep the program afloat for years.

13. Skip.

14. I don’t think you’ll find any of us who are Beaver-friendly. We’re much more partial to birds and other woodland creatures who are willing to live in peace with Trees.

Check out http://www.gomightycard.com/ in a half hour, as I will be posting my response to his questions.

21.Oct.2014 Oregon State @ Stanford

Unfortunately I’m going to this game and fully expect my first in-person Beav loss.

I don’t have much to say about it and my energy (and your energy) can be better spent elsewhere. The short of it is that OSU won’t score much at all on this defense. 13 points if they’re lucky. The Stanford blogger will be around shortly with some more insight.

27-10 Stanford

19.Oct.2014 Mike Riley is 13-41 vs Top 25 teams

Here is the link.

They list his record as 13-39, but that was before the USC and Utah games. 13-41 comes to a winning percentage of 24.

To be fair, there are some good coaches on that list with losing records. Bob Stoops stands out to me as having the most success versus good opponents. His record is impressive.

18.Oct.2014 Complex System for QBs and the Next Few Years

I have brought this up in the past, but why such a complex offense for Oregon State QBs? Oregon State’s job is not to breed backup NFL Qbs. Yet that is exactly what they’re doing. Riley would be better off recruiting a great college QB rather than a mediocre backup NFL QB, and he would also be better off “dumbing down” the system so these QBs can have success their first year. I realize OSU is putting QBs into the NFL and that is something that a select group of fans are proud of, but that doesn’t win games on Saturdays, and those players have ultimately held clipboards on Sundays. So who exactly benefits from this system, and if the answer is no one, then why continue doing it?

If we look at the recent numbers, first year QBs under Riley do not fair well.

2005 Matt Moore: 2711 yards, 11 TD, 19 INT (Beavs Record: 5-6)
2007 Canfield/Moevao: 2537 yards, 11 TD, 21 INT (Beavs Record: 9-4)
2010 Ryan Katz: 2401 yards, 18 TD, 11 INT (Beavs Record 5-7)
2011 Sean Mannion: 3328, 16 TD, 18 INT (Beavs Record 3-9)

Average: 2744 yards, 14 TD, 17 INT

It’s not clear who the successor will be, but we know this: he hasn’t played meaningful time in any games, and likely will not the rest of the way given the competition only gets better.

As average as Mannion has been, he’s still better than next year’s rookie QB. We will see a big drop off next year at that position. Now considering all the other seniors leaving, it’s hard to have optimism. The year after looks pretty bleak, too. How does Riley survive these? And further, does he even want to? He looks shot. I could see him realizing the cupboard is bare and retiring after this season. Last night was a prototypical “cool the hot seat game”, which Riley usually does well in, and that usually brings the Pollys out of hibernation, but he wasn’t able to win it this time. Not the Pollys are even chirping a little.

Riley problem is an issue of desire/competition and genuinely not knowing how to make things better. He is a man out of ideas. OSU should offer him a different position for the same salary, then find a new coach. This would allow Riley to save face, collect his check, and everyone else to move forward. A few years ago I might have said demote Riley to OC, but after the past few years I don’t think he could even do that. Maybe give him Locey’s job and move Locey back on the field. Something like that has to happen, because if OSU wins a game or 2 next year things are going to blowup. This is next year’s schedule. How many wins do you see?

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