The Stanford football team concluded spring practice on Saturday with the annual Cardinal and White Game at Stanford Stadium. It was part of an action-packed day on The Farm called Cardinalpalooza, featuring seven varsity teams in competition.
In the stadium, the White team (defense) dominated much of the way and emerged with a 23-7 victory against the Cardinal (offense).
"The offense drove down three times and missed three field goals, and the score would have been much different," said David Shaw, Stanford's head coach. "The bottom line is that we missed too many field goals last year and we missed too many field goals today in the red zone."
Not that there weren't bright spots on offense.
"I thought Kevin (Hogan) played well and our tight ends made some plays," Shaw said. "But at the same time, all the questions I got a couple days ago, because in our last scrimmage the offense scored four times, are we going to be any good on defense? I don't do the up-and-down, back and forth. It's spring. There are days the offense looks good and days the defense looks good. Today the defense looked great."
Shaw singled out sophomore defensive ends Harrison Phillips and Solomon Thomas, senior inside linebacker Blake Martinez, senior safeties Dallas Lloyd and Kodi Whitfield and sophomore cornerback Alijah Holder. Martinez finished with a game-high 11 tackles, while Thomas contributed seven.
"I think Martinez is on the verge of stardom," said Shaw. "He's got a great feel for the game. He's physical, he's fast and he's hard to block."
As for Holder, "Every time we look up, Alijah Holder makes a play," he said.
Asked how backup quarterbacks Ryan Burns and Keller Chryst played, Shaw said, "Not well enough. They both had some moments today, but it's about stringing those moments together."
Hogan completed 13 of 19 passes for 187 yards; Burns 9 of 18; and Chryst 1 of 8.
Many fans choose to watch from the cooler confines of the concourses to beat the heat.
In the first half, Cardinal offense had difficulty sustaining any drives against the re-worked White defensive units, which were missing many potential starters due to injury. The best the offense could muster was three field goals attempts by Conrad Ukropina, who missed twice from 46 yards and another from 31.
As a result, the White team jumped out to a 20-0 lead based on an intricate scoring system.
In the second half, Hogan led the first-team offense on a nice drive culminating on a 2-yard run by senior running back Remound Wright. Key plays were a pair of completions from Hogan to junior tight end Austin Hooper for gains of 23 and 26.
On the next possession Cardinal possession, Holder stripped Hooper after a catch and produced a turnover.
"I definitely feel more comfortable," Hooper said, after catching a team-high five passes for 103 yards. "There are couple of things I still have to clean up in my technique. I feel the whole offense is a lot further than we were last spring."
Starting wide receiver Michael Rector played sparingly and Devon Cajuste sat out with a minor injury.
Senior running back Barry Sanders rans 10 times for 55 yards.
"We left a lot of plays on the field last year," Sanders said. "What we're trying to focus on this year is making every play possible that's presented to us. We know our capability. It's just a matter of being the best Stanford offense we can be."
Sanders fully understands the offense and his role, and will look to make the most of his opportunities this fall. He has bulked up to 198 pounds and shed body fat.
"As a whole, we have tremendous guys and I think we're all going to make some big plays," he said. "I'm excited to see what we can do."
One of the top priorities all spring has been ball protection.
"We've got to protect the football better," said Sanders. "That's something we struggled with last year, especially in short-yardage goal line situations. We had some fumbled snaps and turnovers. Coach Shaw told us, 'Just think how good we can be if we keep the ball in our hands.' "
Christian McCaffrey ran 10 times for 38 yards and also caught three passes for 55 yards.
Asked what his team needs to work on between now and the start of fall training camp, Shaw said, "Everybody is going to have a different plan. Some guys need to get bigger, some guys need to get stronger, some guys need to get lighter, and some guys need to get better with the playbook so they will have a chance to compete. So everybody's plan is going to be different."
Overall, Hogan was pleased by the progress the team made during spring practice.
"We need to limit the mistakes and execute a little better," said Hogan. "I thought we had a great spring, one of the best I've been around, offensively. We have to replace some pieces and we're slowly starting to figure it out personnel-wise. We're trying to continue the momentum from where we left off last year."
"I thought it was a good session for everybody," he said. "The young guys picked up the learning curve tremendously. I was just happy to see the amount of youth we have out there conceptualize what is going on at the same speed as the older guys."
Even though the defense is playing with many new names, Holder showed the unit has progressed.
"We've had three scrimmages and this is the most dominating one we've had," said Holder. "We really went out today and put our foot down."