Stanford fails Pac-12 football test in OT loss to Utah


The same mistakes that plagued Stanford at the beginning of the year continue to reoccur in alarming numbers as the football season seemingly begins to unravel.

The Cardinal lost yet another opportunity to reestablish itself as a player in the Pac-12 Conference, dropping a frustrating, 20-17 in overtime, game to visiting No. 25 Utah on Saturday.

Ten games into the season and Stanford (3-4 in the Pac-12, 5-5 overall) finds itself still needing a victory to become bowl eligible.

The Big Game is looming and California suddenly finds itself in the same boat with the Cardinal, also needing one win to become bowl eligible.

The Bears (3-5, 5-5) are playing their final conference game of the season at 1 p.m. next Saturday while Stanford also has a road game at UCLA the following week.

For now the Cardinal has to take care of its own.

"We've got to go back this week and practice like it's the beginning of the season," said Stanford coach David Shaw, a novel twist on the 'back to the drawing board' cliché. "There's no tailing off. There's no backing off. I have to find a way to make us play better. That's the bottom line."

The Cardinal marched 70 yards in seven plays on its opening drive, taking a 7-0 lead when quarterback Kevin Hogan lobbed a three-yard pass to a wide-open Lee Ward.

It was vintage Stanford, with three pass plays and four running plays, one a 37-yard gain on a fourth down run by freshman Christian McCaffrey, who ended up leading the team with a season-best 77 rushing yards on eight carries.

McCaffrey, who appears on the depth chart only as Ty Montgomery's back-up as a kick/punt returner, is second to Montgomery in all-purpose yards as well.

Stanford's offense all but disappeared until the fourth quarter. After going 70 yards on the first drive, the Cardinal mustered 73 yards combined over the next five drives into halftime.

Even Utah's touchdown was a gift of sorts. The Cardinal was down to the Utes' 28-yard line when Utah's best defensive player Nate Orchard ripped the ball out of the hands of tight end Austin Hooper.

The Utes took over, marched 66 yards in nine plays, and scored their only touchdown of regulation with just over six minutes left in the second quarter.

Hooper, by the way, caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Hogan in the first overtime period to make Utah.

Utah punter Tom Hackett proved to be Stanford's nemesis, consistently pinning the Cardinal deep in its own territory with a dazzling array of effective kicks. He averaged 44.9 yards on nine punts.

Stanford put together another effective drive in the fourth quarter that consumed nearly nine minutes and had the Cardinal on the brink of a nice victory. Instead, the drive netted nothing, zero, nada.

Stanford navigated 83 yards of real estate, a little more than 28 percent of its net total for the game, but had to travel the same 23 yards over again because of a personal foul and a holding penalty.

Instead of asking Jordan Williamson to attempt a 51-yard field goal with under two minutes to play, Stanford choose to punt and pinned Utah deep in its territory.

The coincidence is, of course, that Williamson ended up converting on a 51-yard field goal in the second overtime.

Combine that next-to-last drive in regulation with Stanford's first drive of the contest and the Cardinal used up 52 percent of its total offense, which includes overtime.

On the other hand, Utah was held to 197 total yards before picking up 50 in the two overtime periods.

"If I knew exactly what the team needed, I'd give it to them right now," Shaw said. "Our guys work hard. It's about being smart and making plays. We gave them way too much and way too many opportunities. We can do so much better."

So it's back to basics.

NOTES: Stanford was held without a rushing touchdown for the first time in 32 games . . . DE Henry Anderson recorded career highs in tackles (11), sacks (3) and tackles for a loss (5 1/2) . . . The two teams combined for 724 punting yards . . . The Cardinal has committed a turnover in 15 consecutive games.

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Like this comment
Posted by StanfordFan
a resident of Woodside
on Nov 16, 2014 at 8:09 am

Harbaugh is gone and the ship is sinking. Shaw can't recruit, can't play call, and can't win without Harbaugh's guys. He's 1-2 in bowl games (1 win over a weak Wisconsin team who didn't deserve to be in the bowl but got in due to OSU sanctions) and there's a serious risk that Stanford doesn't make a bowl this year.

Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 16, 2014 at 5:08 pm

I think Shaw would be fine if he brought in good offensive coordinator who took over the play calling.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2014 at 7:36 pm

yes, an OC and also an experienced QB coach should be brought in. Maybe Bloomgren had too much on his plate...certainly his OL and offense have fallen far short. If these problems are not fixed, Chryst will suffer the same fate as Hogan. Hopefully the historically good defense will hold together against Cal, and the offense should be able to score three or four touchdowns.

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