Sports

By shrinking the playbook, Stanford's offense grows

 

The much-maligned Stanford offense got back on track last Saturday in a convincing 38-14 Pac-12 football victory against Oregon State, its second-highest scoring output on the season.

The Cardinal started the game with a hurry-up offense, made big plays and out-gained the Beavers, 438-221, in total yards while earning a 22-14 first-down advantage.

According to Offensive Coordinator Mike Bloomgren, Stanford shrunk the playbook and went back to core concepts to help players play faster.

"The premium has been on execution, and when we execute the plan, we've been really, really good," he said. "We talked about eliminating errors and playing within the scheme.

"Something we're always stressing with our young guys is do your 1/11th; you don't need to do more. We're a good enough football team. I think you saw guys make a pretty good commitment to that, and we had a great week of practice."

Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan looked sharp in the no-huddle offense, marching Stanford 75 yards on its first possession, culminating in a 42-yard scoring pass to freshman Christian McCaffrey.

"I think Kevin is so comfortable in the no-huddle," Bloomgren said. "We wanted him to be as comfortable as he could be and put a little more stress on their defense. It's been a good component to our system since Andrew (Luck) was here. We don't need to live in it, but it's nice to be able to jump in it and get some production from it."

Hogan agreed.

"It's something that we've executed really well all year," he said. "It's something that we wanted to try out and it worked well. It allows us to do different things at the line of scrimmage and adds a different dimension and gets the defense out of rhythm."

As for scaling back the playbook . . .

"We just went back to the basics, which is all you really need to do," said Hogan. "We have the talent; we just need to execute our plays and it paid off this week. Now we know how to move forward and keep that up."

* * *

Senior wide receiver Jordan Pratt, at 29, the oldest player on the team, caught his first collegiate touchdown pass, a 37-yard throw from Hogan in the second quarter.

"It felt great to play well as a team," he said. "It felt fun."

How often had he dreamed of reaching the end zone?

"Many times," said Pratt. "Absolutely. Before every game."

Asked why the offense was more efficient that previous games, he added, "I think we just worked really hard in practice to come out and play our best football. When we get things clicking, we don't think much; we just go out there and play football. And I think that's what we did today."

* * *

Fifth-year senior defensive end Henry Anderson was a game-long nuisance to Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, as the defense posted six sacks and eight tackles for loss. Anderson was credited with three quarterback hurries and spent some time at nose guard in the nickel packages in place of injured David Parry to give other players more reps.

"I think we did a good job of getting after their quarterback and we shut down their run game," he said. "We had some good hits on Mannion, which is want we wanted to do going into the game. Harrison (Phillips) played an outstanding game."

* * *

Fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeff Trojan is mostly known for his stellar special teams play. He recovered two onside kicks against Oregon last year to preserve the win. But unknown to most, he has never dropped a pass in his career. He caught six last year and has 11 receptions this season, including a 9-yarder on Saturday to extend a drive.

"Regardless of how many reps any of us get, we all want to make the most of them," he said. "I take a lot of pride, especially on third down, trying to get open and make a play to move the sticks."

* * *

Junior inside linebacker Blake Martinez posted 2.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.

"It was a great team win," he said. "The whole week we were trying to emphasize getting back on track, and we got that done. We refocused on the little things."

* * *

Former Stanford halfback Darrin Nelson was honored between the first and second quarter for his induction into the 2014 College Football Hall of Fame.

The shifty Nelson played for the Cardinal in 1977-78 and 1980-81 and is the only four-time first team All-Pac-10 selection in school history.

He became the first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 1,000 yards and catch 50 passes in the same season. Nelson is Stanford's all-time rushing leader with 4,033 yards and holds school marks for most receptions (214), scoring (242 points) and touchdowns (40). He completed his career as the NCAA career leader for all-purpose yards with 6,885, which remains a Stanford record.

Nelson served as Stanford's honorary captain.

* * *

This week, the Cardinal (3-2, 5-3) travels to Eugene to play Oregon (4-1, 7-1) in a showdown for first place in the Pac-12 Northern Division. Stanford has beaten the Ducks two straight times.

Oregon is coming off a 59-41 victory against Cal on Friday night. The Ducks and Cardinal have played two common opponents this year: Oregon edged Washington State (38-31) and Washington 45-20), while Stanford defeated Washington State (34-17) and Washington (20-13).

"It's going to be a dogfight up there and a lot of fun," Hogan said. "It's going to be a battle to the end. They've got a lot of talent and a lot of things we have to prepare for. It's a huge rivalry. You dream about playing in these kind of games."

Anderson said the biggest benefit from having played Oregon in recent years in knowing how fast its offense operates.

"You're not shocked when they come out for that first drive and they're going up-tempo," he said. "It doesn't really catch you off-guard as it does the first time you play them. But it still goes a little bit faster than you're expecting once you get out there for the first time."

The Stanford enters the game ranked second in the nation in points allowed (12.5) and total defense (250.6), while the Oregon ranks fifth in scoring (45.5) and eighth in total offense (534.9).

* * *

Extra Points . . . Stanford head coach David Shaw is now 10-0 after a loss . . . Senior WR Ty Montgomery has recorded 100 or more all-purpose yards in 12 of the past 13 games. He collected 147 yards against the Beavers, highlighted by a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown . . . The Stanford defense held an opponent to 30 or less points for a nation-best 31st-consecutive game . . . The Cardinal committed a season-low three penalties for 20 yards ... Fifth-year senior punter Ben Rhyne boomed a career-best 61-yard kick in the third quarter . . . At halftime, Stanford was officially presented with its 20th consecutive Learfield Sports Directors' Cup. Student-athletes from many of the 36 varsity teams were on hand to celebrate . . . Scouts from 12 NFL teams were in attendance.

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