In the aftermath of Friday's dominating 31-10 victory against ninth-ranked UCLA at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, underdog Stanford's first win this season against a ranked opponent this season, several things stood out.
First, senior quarterback Kevin Hogan played his best game of the year, competing 16 of 19 passes for 234 yards, two touchdowns and was not intercepted. He also ran seven times for 46 yards.
Even with the absence of injured senior wide receiver Ty Montgomery, Hogan was sharp and in total command. He completed his first 12 passes and also had two drops. Hogan spread the ball around, connecting with nine different receivers, as senior Devon Cajuste and sophomore Francis Owusu led the way with three catches apiece.
"I do believe early in the season he was putting a lot of pressure on himself, as were a lot of our guys," said Stanford head coach David Shaw. "We just need him to be smooth and relaxed and stay calm in the pocket. At the same time, we haven't always had the great protection we had today."
Not only did the young offensive line not allow a sack, it also paved the way for the Cardinal rushing attack to gain 202 yards, second only to the season-high 204 yards it gained against Cal last week. All told, Stanford burned the Bruins for 436 yards.
Freshman Christian McCaffrey and senior Remound Wright both ran for a team-high 64 yards, with the latter scoring two touchdowns. He has now crossed the goal line six times in the past two games and tops the team with eight overall rushing scores.
Stanford's ability to sustain drives was evident in the time of possession, as the Cardinal finished with more than a 15-minute advantage. Stanford mounted scoring drives of 75, 75, 92, 80 and 63 yards, all but one resulting in a touchdown and all but one covering 10 plays. Equally impressive, the Cardinal converted nine of 14 tries on third down and was 3-for-3 in the red zone.
And now, the defense.
The previous week, UCLA piled up 38 points in a 38-20 rout of USC, as star quarterback Brett Hundley threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another before leaving the game late midway through the fourth quarter with a hand injury.
Stanford limited Hundley to 146 yards passing and sacked him four times, as fifth-year senior defensive end Henry Anderson played another outstanding game by recording a sack, two tackles for loss and shared team-high tackling honors (6) with junior cornerback Alex Carter and fifth-year senior inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley.
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A look at the NCAA's final regular-season FBS stats released Sunday morning confirmed that the Stanford defense produced one of the best overall performances in school history. The unit finished in the top 12 in four key categories: second in scoring defense (16.0); fifth in total defense (287.4); eighth in passing defense (175.7); and 12th in rushing defense (111.8). It also tied for sixth in team sacks (3.33) and tied for 17th in tackles for loss (7.3).
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While the Cardinal has assured itself of playing in a postseason bowl game for the sixth consecutive year, the site and opponent likely won't be determined for another week.
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Extra Points . . . Since 2007, Stanford is a combined 18-7 against Cal, USC and UCLA, and has beaten the Bruins seven straight times . . . Shaw passed Chuck Taylor and moved into fifth place on the career coaching win list with 41 . . . Fourteen different players have contributed to Stanford's 40-sack total this season. Henry Anderson leads the way with seven . . . The defense has been stellar in the third quarter this season. It held UCLA scoreless and has yielded one touchdown and four field goals in the period . . . For the first time in 17 games, the Cardinal did not commit a turnover . . . Fifth-year senior nose tackle David Parry had 1.5 sacks and a career-high four tackles . . . Senior offensive lineman Brendon Austin received his first career start at guard and second overall . . . Fifth-year senior placekicker Jordan Williamson has now made 71-straight extra points, tied with John Hopkins (1987-90) for the longest streak in school history.