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Sundays With Soltau | Much-needed break ahead for Cardinal

Posted October 7, 2018 by in

Sundays With Soltau
Much-needed break ahead for Cardinal

By Mark Soltau

STANFORD, Calif. – The bye week comes at a good time for Stanford.

Halfway through the season, the Cardinal is 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Pac-12 play. But slow starts continue to plague the team, which has yet to put together a complete game.

Those themes resurfaced Saturday night, as No. 14 Stanford sustained its second straight loss, seeing its 11-game home winning streak stopped by Utah, 40-21. It was the fourth consecutive time the Utes have prevailed at Stanford Stadium.

The Cardinal has been outscored 38-14 in the first quarter this season, managing two touchdowns. It has trailed in five of six games, putting the team into catch-up mode much of the time.

“For some reason, we are not playing at a high level until somebody else scores,” said David Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. “If I had the answer, I’d have fixed it a couple games ago.”

The Cardinal has ruled the third quarter, owning a 59-12 advantage while permitting only four field goals. But there has been no finishing kick. Stanford has been outscored 41-20 in the fourth period and has been blanked three times, including the last two games.

Injuries have hurt the Cardinal on both sides of the ball. Game-breaker Bryce Love missed his second contest of the season against Utah and Stanford was out-rushed, 222-42, allowing 5.2 yards per carry while averaging 1.5.

With Love last week at Notre Dame, the Cardinal was out-rushed 272-55.

Stanford’s proven formula for success is to run the ball and stop others from doing it. Thus far, it has only happened in spurts.

The Cardinal has allowed a 100-yard rusher in four of six contests.

Execution must improve in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams — for Stanford to attain its goal of winning the Pac-12 title. The Cardinal is seeking its fifth North Division crown in seven years.

The Utes scored 17 points off four Cardinal turnovers, including a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown. Stanford was unable to force a turnover for the second week in a row.

“It hurts when I think we can play better, and we don’t and that’s where we are right now,” said Shaw, whose team slipped out of the AP top 25 Sunday. “That’s on me.”

Rarified air: Junior quarterback K.J. Costello chalked up his third 300-yard passing game of the season. The last Cardinal quarterback to accomplish it was Andrew Luck in 2011, when he did it five times.

Costello completed 26-of-41 attempts for 381 yards and one score. While the numbers were nice, he tossed two red zone interceptions and was sacked four times.

“Obviously we didn’t start the way we wanted to,” said Costello, who suffered his first home loss as a starter (7-1). “It’s been a little bit of a reoccurring theme. We’ve seen the fight. It’s going to be about going back to work to find that rhythm and play a full game. I’m not going to stop pushing myself and my teammates until we do that.”

Costello regrouped to hit 5-of-8 passes in the third quarter and engineered two touchdown drives to help Stanford pull within six points after falling behind 24-7 at halftime.

“I had a choice to make,” he said after throwing the interceptions. “To sulk or keep fighting for my teammates. I learned a lot about myself tonight and that has to be the mindset for all of us going forward.”

Iron man: Fifth-year senior inside linebacker Bobby Okereke finished with a game and career-high 12 tackles, nine solo. His previous high was 11 tackles against Washington last year.

“We just didn’t get the job done,” said Okereke. “We’ve had a couple guys banged up. Hopefully they can come back and help rally the troops. We need to get heathy and focus on the fundamentals collectively as a team. We just need to regroup.”

The Utah game marked the 33rd career start for Okereke and 17th in a row.

First for frosh: Freshman wide receiver Michael Wilson caught his first collegiate touchdown, cradling a 26-yard pass from Costello late in the third quarter.

“It’s a feeling I’ve worked for since I got here,” Wilson said. “Can’t really enjoy it since we lost. I’d rather not score a touchdown and we win. I’m hungry for more.”

Wilson ran a nice route and used his speed to gain separation from his defender.

“It was a double move and he bit on it,” said Wilson. “Once I turned up field, I looked back and knew the ball was coming to me.”

Trio tops 100: Junior tight end Kaden Smith (120) and seniors JJ Arcega-Whiteside (103) and Trenton Irwin (100) topped 100 in receiving yards. The last Stanford trio to accomplish the feat in a game were Troy Walters (159), Dave Davis (151) and DeRonnie Pitts (124) in 1998.

Smith and Irwin recorded 100-yard receiving games for the first time in their careers, while Arcega-Whiteside did it for the fifth. Both posted career-bests in receptions, Arcega-Whiteside catching eight and Irwin seven.

“They celebrate everyone else’s plays more than their own,” Shaw said. “That’s what we’re getting from them. That’s what we’re counting on and we need it at everyone position, every single play.”

Arcega-Whiteside has caught three or more passes in 15 of his last 16 games. Irwin has at least one reception in 34 consecutive games, the sixth-longest active streak in the nation. He has had multiple catches in 18 of his last 20.

Make it two: Sophomore outside linebacker Gabe Reid collected a sack for the second consecutive week.

“I’m getting more comfortable, but I don’t feel good about the outcome,” he said. “I feel like I left some on the field.”

On the run: Junior Trevor Speights received his first career start at running back and scored his first touchdown with 24 seconds left in the first half on a 2-yard burst off right tackle.

“It was cool, but we lost, so it doesn’t really matter,” he said.

Speights rushed for a team-high 56 yards on 17 carries and welcomes the off week.

“We’ve got some things we need to fix, but we’re just going to stick together and work on it,” said Speights.

New look: Stanford wore black uniforms and helmets for the 10th time in program history and is now 8-2 in the gear.

Next up: Following the bye week, Stanford travels to Arizona State for a Thursday night game at 6 p.m. PT. The contest will be televised by ESPN.

The Sun Devils (3-3, 1-2) lost at Colorado on Saturday, 28-21.

Stanford and Arizona State have faced one common opponent this season: San Diego State. The Cardinal opened the season by beating the Aztecs at Stanford Stadium, 31-10, while the Sun Devils fell in San Diego, 28-21.

Mutual support: Players from both teams wore half purple and teal ribbons on their helmets as part of the second Set the Expectation game to raise awareness for sexual and relationship violence. Teal represents sexual violence prevention and purple represents the prevention of relationship and domestic violence.

Dropping by: Prior to the game, the Leap Frogs U.S. Navy Parachute Team performed.

Come join the band: Junior Katie Ledecky, a five-time Olympic gold medalist, played with the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band. Her instrument of choice was the saxophone.

Ledecky and the 2018 NCAA champion Cardinal women’s swimming and diving team were recognized.

Capital celebration: Student-athletes from many sports were on hand to receive 2017-18 Capital One Cup trophies presented to the top men’s and women’s athletics programs in the country. It marked the first time a school has captured both in the same year.

Extra points: Costello has thrown at least one scoring pass in 10 straight contests . Junior defensive tackle Michael Williams matched his career high with six tackles . Former standout cornerback Rod Gilmore ’82, a college football analyst for EPSN, served as Stanford’s honorary captain . Kyle Whittingham of Utah is only Pac-12 head coach with winning record against Shaw.

Quotable: “We need to come with that energy and play ahead of the game the entire time. We have a bunch of guys determined to figure out how to do that.” – K.J. Costello

— #GoStanford —

About the Author

Alforde Joaquin

ALF’s passion for shooting and editing has earned him several awards including an Edward R. Murrow Award in 2006 for Videography. He was also a nominee for the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Videography. A 6-time Emmy recipient for five different categories: Director/Producer, Videography, Editing, Feature Segment and Sound Mixing, Alf has produced over 1,000 video segments and is committed to developing GetSportsFocus as one of the best sports video magazine on the web.