05.Nov.2016 Oregon State @ Stanford (Game Thread)
A Critical View of Oregon State Athletics
Hey guys, below are the questions you guys asked Hank from the Stanford blog.
The short answer is no; the long (2,000 word) answer is here: http://www.gomightycard.com/2016/10/this-isnt-the-apocalypse.html. Here’s something in between. There are those Stanford fans who still cling to the Myth of Jim Harbaugh, the fire bringer in khaki pants who descended from Mt. Olympus and enlightened the huddled masses. There’s some truth to that. I don’t think any human being — or demigod, for that matter — aside from Harbaugh could’ve wrought such a transformation, but David Shaw was the perfect choice to keep things going. In fact, he’s been better than Harbaugh, in my opinion. Any number of programs have had a good season or two and reached a nice bowl, but few can match the consistency that Stanford has enjoyed under Shaw. This season is a blip. Eight different starters have missed games this season, including the player who should’ve won the Heisman last year, and there’s a new quarterback. Two of them, in fact. I’ve argued that the Cardinal has actually overachieved this season. They sit at 5-3, and they’ll likely be favored in each of their remaining games. A 9-3 regular season isn’t out of the question; a bowl win would mean a double-digit season. Few schools outside of Tuscaloosa would complain about that.
A lot of things happened to the offense, starting with the graduation of Kevin Hogan. Going from a four-year starter to a player who had thrown only a handful of passes in mop-up duty was always going to be difficult, but inconsistencies along the offensive line made things even worse. Three new starters were installed on the line, and they didn’t click immediately. Making things worse, injuries and poor performance forced midseason changes for the first time in recent memory. Because of all this, Christian McCaffrey was struggling, and then he was injured at the end of the Washington State game. He missed Notre Dame, played less at less than a hundred percent in the Colorado loss, and suddenly his Heisman hopes and Stanford’s running game both disappeared. The other problem is that Bryce Love, Robin to McCaffrey’s Batman, was also injured. Last week was the first time both running backs were healthy, and that completely changed the offense. Things are looking up.
As mentioned above, injuries have been a huge issue. In addition to Caspers, fellow lineman Dave Bright has also been nicked up. Off the top of my head, at least seven different players have started on the offensive line, including true freshman Nate Herbig (a future star at guard). The loss of fullback Daniel Marx has also been significant. The fullback position is critical to the Cardinal running game, and Marx’s primary backup, Reagan Williams, is considerably smaller and less experienced than Marx. In addition to Williams, you’ll also see Chris Harrell, a converted tight end, leading the way for McCaffrey and Love.
The Stanford blogger does agree, at least with the first part of the statement. Most observers expected Keller Chryst to win the starting job based on his pedigree and status as the number two quarterback last season, so it was a surprise when Ryan Burns won the competition and started the first seven games. After Burns’s poor performance against Colorado, however, it was anything but a surprise when Shaw went to Chryst last week. I can’t say that he was bad, but he certainly wasn’t spectacular. That yards per attempt number that you cite tells you everything you need to know. He did look downfield a few times, but he was never able to connect. Part of the problem was his lack of accuracy, but the greater concern is that Stanford’s receivers just aren’t stretching the field right now. Defenses have nothing to be afraid of. Speed merchant Michael Rector has been disturbingly quiet this season, and the team’s best receiver, Trenton Irwin, has averaged just 11.5 yards per catch. The lack of a running game over the past five weeks has certainly contributed to this, so it’s possible the return to health of McCaffrey and Love will open things up a bit in that regard. We’ll see.
The most disconcerting thing about this season was watching the offensive line getting physically beaten by Washington and Washington State. Stanford has obviously lost games over the past four seasons, but at no time during that stretch were they ever physically overmatched. As far as the offensive line goes, much of that has to do with injuries and inexperience. On the other side of the ball, the physicality is right where it’s always been. This is probably the best defensive line Stanford has fielded in at least three years, led by junior defensive end Solomon Thomas, a sure-fire All-Pac-12 selection and a candidate for defensive player of the year in the conference. He’s an absolute force, and you’ll probably hear his name being called frequently on Saturday.
If you’re thinking about people like Cam Newton and Marcus Mariota and Andrew Luck when you say playmaker, then you’re right, that’s not Kevin Hogan. He was always under appreciated by those who didn’t watch him on a consist basis because he never did anything spectacular. There are highlight reels full of jaw-dropping plays Andrew Luck made during his time at Stanford — fifty-yard runs, one-handed catches, forty-yard throws from his knees, bone-jarring tackles of opposing linebackers — but Hogan simply did his job and led his team to three Rose Bowls. Quarterbacks in the Stanford system have to be game managers. They have to be able to stand at the line of scrimmage and check from a pass to a run or from a run to a pass, and that makes for a long learning curve. There was no way that Burns or Chryst was going to come in and match Hogan’s production. That being said, I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted such a severe drop.
As everyone knows, Stanford is nothing more than a muscle factory, so you won’t be surprised to know that I can bench at least 75-80 pounds.
McCaffrey made a point of mentioning Cameron Scarlett at Pac-12 Media Day this summer, saying that he had improved tremendously and was ready to contribute, but there hasn’t been much so far. When he was signed people expected him to develop into Stanford’s next power back. At 220 pounds he’s twenty pounds heavier than McCaffrey and almost forty pounds bigger than Love, and he’s gotten some short yardage carries. The problem is that there just aren’t enough carries to go around. Next year will probably be his year.
Yes, last night was a heartbreaking loss, but ever since game 1 last year, I/we said that what we want to see is progress. For most of last year there was none. I feel that had a lot to do with StS at QB, though you guys can argue that all you wish. This year, from game 1 vs MN, I noticed they looked bigger and more aggressive. They passed the “eye ball” test more. They gave good effort. Things looked on track. Then the Colorado game. That one threw us all off. Those of us who saw progress began to question it, etc. It was ugly. Shortly after, first Pac-12 win, and things are looking up again. Then they play Utah close. Tough loss, but again, looking up compared to last year and the general effort. Then Washington blows us out, though we still see effort and will the entire game. They never mentally break; they just get outplayed. Now a great effort vs a tough offense in WSU.
It makes you wonder how fast this thing can get turned around next year with (a) everyone who is injured now returning healthy and (b) new injection of talent into the program via another recruiting cycle, and the current redshirts coming off.
I had this team for 4 wins this year (Arizona and Oregon seem like wins to me, but with a team this beat up you can’t bank on anything). Next year I’m seeing 6 if they continue this effort and also get that injection of depth/talent.
The good news is we have an exciting basketball team and baseball team to bridge the gap until then. And also we can watch this current team keep fighting and mentally preparing (because that’s what they’re essentially doing this year — it is simply mental training for when they do have the physical bodies) for next year and beyond. This is what I expected to see all along, and I’m fine with it because I can see the improvement, even if it’s not yet showing up in the results. It reminds me of a stock, like say Google, which years ago spent billions investing in hiring new talent. The stock cratered hundreds of points as investors got spooked by the short-term earnings dip. What has happened since? The stock almost doubled as those long-term investments paid off in new product. It’s the same thing happening here. GA is laying down the mind-set, which is long-term. The short-term results aren’t there, but this will pay off big.
The one concern I have is McGiven. He could not recognize McM as the best QB (and not only that, but threw him under the bus, when he didn’t do the same for the other QBs who were actually out there playing and sucking eggs), he came out of the half pass happy last night, overall play calling has been poor, etc. The other coach who should be on the hot seat is Brennan. I like him very much as a human being, and I think he’s a decent recruiter, but someone has to take the responsibility for all these dropped passes the past few years. It should be easy to coach “focus”, catching with the hands instead of body, looking the ball in before running upfield, etc. These are not difficult skills. The rest of the staff looks solid. Clune has been a surprise to the upside. I was lukewarm on the hire.
So what do you guys think?
I fall into the “Beavs have a shot in this game” camp.
Washington State is a solid team, but the Beavs have toughened up as the year’s gone on. It seems like GA and the team are finally in sync — the players seem to want to give him as much effort as they can, and, in general, soak up as much information as they can. Good sign. GA, meanwhile, is maximizing the roster talent pretty well (minus the QB situation, which is the glaring weakness/disaster).
The formula for victory should be self evident: run the ball, wear down the clock and the WSU D, and then disrupt Falk’s rhythm. Oh, and catching passes sure would help. A lot will depend on injuries. Nall and Decoud being the key injuries. If the Beavs had a healthy roster (depth), I’d think we’d see a string of good games to end the year, but these injuries might derail that.
If McM isn’t good this week, we can start to deduct he’s just not very good. There should be opportunities to make plays. I thought he was okay last week given the situation.
My initial reaction is close game, with WSU winning by 4 to 7 points, but let’s see how the injuries play out.