Oct. 8, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - Even for Andrew Luck, this was an outstanding performance.
The 2010 Heisman Trophy runner-up completed 26 of 33 passes for 370 yards and three touchdowns to lead Stanford to a 48-7 victory over Colorado before 50,360 at Stanford Stadium on Saturday.
Even the interception Luck threw - his second of the season against 14 touchdown passes - was deceptive. It went through his receiver's hands.
"He was outstanding," said David Shaw, Stanford's Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football/Head Coach. "He was phenomenal. He was pretty close to flawless. Every game he does something that not many humans can do."
Stanford, ranked No. 7 in the AP poll, improved to 5-0 overall under first-year coach Shaw and 3-0 in the Pac-12, maintaining its status as one of three North Division teams at 3-0 in conference play, with Oregon and Washington.
The Cardinal recorded its national leading 13th consecutive victory, matching a school record established in 1940.
It wasn't just Luck's numbers that were so impressive, it was his typical command in the pocket, excellent decision making, and pinpoint throws at any distance and with touch. Plus, he avoided hard contact and was not sacked despite playing a team that entered the game among the national leaders with 17 sacks.
His best pass wasn't a touchdown at all. After Colorado closed to within 13-7 in the second quarter, Stanford faced a third-and-26 after being pushed out of the red zone with a penalty. But Luck rescued the drive by stepping up in the pocket and passing over a linebacker to receiver Griff Whalen down the middle seam for a 27-yard gain.
"It was a great catch with Griff staying alive," Luck said. "Any time you convert third-and-long you know you're doing something right."
Stepfan Taylor ran in from the 1 on the next play to spark a 35-0 surge that allowed the Cardinal to win going away, with fullback Ryan Hewitt catching two touchdown passes - for 1 and 10 yards -- and Whalen picking another himself with a 30-yarder to close the scoring. Whalen, the senior receiver, had his finest day as a collegian, catching four passes for 92 yards.
The high-powered Cardinal offense piled up 553 yards and now is outscoring opponents by an average of 46-10.
Because of injuries and suspensions, Colorado's secondary was depleted. Coach Jon Embree elected to keep things simple so that the inexperienced players would not be confused by disguising coverages and using different sets.
"Our deal was that we knew we had to stop the run and, while it was still a football game, we were doing a decent job," Embree said. "Luck's the best quarterback, no doubt. He's got a good enough arm that he can throw the ball down the field without putting a lot of air on it. Not a lot of kids in college can do that."
Much like the UCLA game last week when the Bruins threatened to score on the game's opening drive, but came away with nothing, Colorado did the same. The Buffaloes advanced to the Stanford 12-yard line before the drive stalled on no-gain tackles by Chase Thomas and Johnson Bademosi.
Colorado lined up for a 29-yard field goal, but Will Oliver's attempted was smothered by Max Bergen coming up the middle. Bergen retrieved the ball on the run and completed a 75-yard return for a 7-0 lead.
"That changes the momentum of the game right there to get no points and for them to block the kick and get seven out of it," Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen said.
Stanford kept alive its streak of never having trailed this season, but ended a negative streak. Michael Thomas' fourth-quarter interception inside the 5-yard line was Stanford's first interception of the season.
The defense also tallied three sacks and limited the Buffaloes to minus-1 yard rushing in the first half and 60 for the game. After Colorado closed the deficit on Tony Jones' 5-yard catch of a shovel pass (set up by 76-yard catch and run by tailback Rodney Stewart), Stanford limited Colorado to a combined 12 yards and two punts on the Buffaloes' next two drives.
Stanford cashed in on both opportunities to build a 27-7 halftime lead.
Still, Stanford players said it was not the team's most physical game - fullback Geoff Meinken's knocking a helmet off a defensive lineman on a line-of-scrimmage collision notwithstanding.
"They better have said that, it's the truth," Shaw said. "We can't let the scoreboard dictate our feeling about how we played. If we can play better, than we should know it and we should play better."
The Cardinal will have that chance when it heads to Washington State next Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. contest that will be televised by Versus.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics