College Football Overtime (cont.)
Sitting in a cramped media room following his team's 65-21 win over 25th-ranked Washington, the din from Stanford's adjoining locker room nearly drowning him out, Heisman front-runner and presumed No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck sat and answered a bunch of questions about ... handing off.
"As a quarterback, it's fun to take the snap, hand it off and see those big guys working," Luck said of his offensive line after it helped power the Cardinal to a school-record 446 rushing yards. "It is somewhat a thing of beauty to see those 300-pounders moving. It's amazing."
Starting with former coach Jim Harbaugh and continuing with successor David Shaw, tony little Stanford has morphed into one of the nation's most physical teams. Never was that more evident than Saturday night, when the Cardinal ran the ball down Washington's throat, starting with the explosive Stepfan Taylor (10 carries for 138 yards, including a 70-yard second quarter touchdown) and going right on down the line to Tyler Gaffney (nine carries, 117 yards, one TD) and Anthony Wilkerson (14 carries, 93 yards, two TDs).
Luck topped it off with an effortless 16-of-21, 169-yard, two-touchdown night.
"We're more than just Andrew Luck," Shaw said afterward. "We've got a good team. We've got a physical team. If a team tries to take away the pass, we can run the ball. We've got backs after backs. We're physical up front. The fact we can be a complete offense is what we strive for.
Luck himself is part of the Cardinal's rushing attack. As Shaw noted, he has the option to audible to many different plays on any given call and is hardly reluctant to check from a pass to a run.
"The whole game was in Andrew's hands in terms of getting to the right run play against the right look," said Shaw. "He was 100 percent tonight."
Meanwhile, Huskies quarterback Keith Price, who entered as the nation's fifth-rated passer, never got into rhythm under a steady stream of Stanford blitzes. Michael Thomas' 62-yard interception return for a touchdown just before the half essentially sealed the game. Washington running back Chris Polk broke off two long touchdowns early (46 and 61 yards), but managed just 39 yards on his other 13 carries.
After six games against teams with losing records, this was supposed to be Stanford's first primetime showcase opportunity. Instead, it got overshadowed by the budding Michigan State-Wisconsin, USC-Notre Dame and Texas Tech-Oklahoma upsets on other channels. Thanks to the Trojans' win, however, the Cardinal's trip to Los Angeles next week is getting the GameDay treatment. No. 7 Oregon (6-1) visits Palo Alto on Nov. 12.
It's hard to believe Stanford can get so overlooked when it not only boasts the most heralded player in the country but has now won 10 straight games by at least 25 points -- the first team to do so since 1936. Because they've been beating up on mediocre Pac-12 foes, we presumably assume the Cardinal could never hang with the likes of LSU and Alabama, mostly because they're not stocked with five-star recruits like the Tigers and Tide.
But Stanford is a different breed from Oregon, which has seen its spread offense exposed in its recent SEC matchups. This is an old-school, pro-style team with a future All-Pro quarterback, several high-round offensive linemen and three NFL-caliber tight ends. We don't know if the Cardinal can match up with LSU or Alabama -- but wouldn't it be nice to find out?
In the meantime ... let the countdown to LSU-'Bama begin.
Tigers cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who was suspended this week along with running back Spencer Ware and cornerback Tharold Simon, signaled as much with this tweet Saturday night. With both teams entering bye weeks, it's official: Nov. 5 will bring the SEC's first-ever regular-season meeting (not including the conference title game) between AP No. 1 and 2 teams. And they both left tantalizing last tastes.
The Tigers showed just how much they missed their three suspended players by throttling Auburn (5-3), 45-10. How's this for depth? Without top rusher Ware, Les Miles trotted out freshman Kenny Hilliard, who powered his way to 65 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Hilliard had rushed for 20 yards all season going in. And as dynamic as Mathieu is, his absence really didn't matter, because first-time Auburn starting quarterback Clint Moesley and backup Kiehl Frazier had no time to get the ball off, enduring six sacks.
"It just seems like no matter who goes down or who's out, we have guys who are ready to step in ... and not just to fill a spot but to go in and dominate," said LSU center T-Bob Hebert.
Meanwhile, for the second time in three weeks, 'Bama started out far too slowly for Nick Saban's liking, going to halftime tied 6-6 with lowly Tennessee (3-4). Visions of a frightening locker-room speech ensued.
"There was a concern going into the game," said Saban, "and something we tried to fight all week in terms of guys being focused on what's happening right now and not being concerned about the future."
At that time I told my editor not to worry, predicting the Tide would go on to win 30-6. They hit the over, winning 37-6. With Trent Richardson held to 77 yards (breaking a string of six straight 100-yard games), quarterback AJ McCarron threw for a season-high 284 yards. Alabama's defense didn't allow a first down the entire second half. Seriously.
In the waning moments, "L-S-U" chants poured down from the Bryant-Denny Stadium stands, and Tide players did nothing to discourage them. On Sunday, CBS announced it is moving the Nov. 5 game to primetime.
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