Stanford Football: Looking for a Win (and a Touchdown)

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Recap from Week 1

For most teams, the 2015 season started on Saturday. Unfortunately, no one told the Stanford Cardinal, who arrived in Evanston looking nothing like the team that finished last season on a high note by beating Cal, UCLA, and Maryland in impressive fashion.

Stanford Football: Looking for a Win (and a Touchdown)

Instead, they more closely resembled the Cardinal squad that started 2014, plagued with inconsistent quarterback play, infuriating coaching decisions, inexcusable mental errors, and the inability to make plays when needed. In short, Stanford was overmatched in just about every facet of the game, and made my prediction for a 9-3 season look almost as foolish as Desmond Howard’s. On Saturday, the final score was 16-6 Northwestern, and the Cardinal will start the year 0-1 for the first time since 2007.

In my spring game article, I gave the following progress report: defense good, offense okay, and special teams… not special enough. I praised Hogan, his receiving corps, the secondary, as well as the physical development of the defense. Yet, on Saturday, Stanford mustered a meager 155 passing yards, 85 rushing yards, gave up 225 on the ground, and missed every interception that Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson attempted to throw. After the spring game, I criticized the kicking and punting game, and challenged the coaching staff to find a solution. Well, given that kicker Conrad Ukropina had the team’s only points, and the punter Alex Robinson averaged 46 yards a kick (we won’t talk about the actual decision to punt in certain situations), I won’t be hungry for several days after eating all of my words. Ah, writers, what do we know?

Adding injury to insult, defensive tackle Harrison Phillips tore his ACL in the second quarter, and will miss the rest of the season. This is a major blow, as Stanford is already thin on the defensive line.

Moving on to Week 2:

Stanford will play its first home game this Saturday against the University of Central Florida Knights. Both teams shuffle into the weekend 0-1 and disappointed.

Last week saw UCF lost a 15-14 heartbreaker to Florida International, in a contest where UCF quarterback Justin Holman threw for nearly 250 yards and two touchdowns. The running game was weak, though. Leading rusher Dontravious Wilson netted just 34 yards, and averaged a mere 2.8 yards per carry. UCF didn’t score a single point in the second half, and they lost the game on a blocked kick. All this to say, Stanford and UCF are eager to wash the taste of last week’s events out of their mouths.

Now that we’ve reviewed last week for both teams, let’s journey further back in time to 2014 when this series was originally announced. Both teams were fresh off of very successful seasons. Stanford went 11-2 and eventually lost to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl, whereas UCF went 12-1, including an impressive win over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. In the last year of the BCS, these teams were among the most elite, so the prospect of a quality non-conference opponent for each team was a welcome announcement. Last year, both teams posted similar records, above average, but not as impressive as the prior year. This year, both teams are winless after losing to the likes of FIU and Northwestern. This contest feels like a must-win for both teams to gain momentum for the next stretch. Stanford has USC next weekend, and UCF plays Furman before heading to South Carolina the following week.

Both teams have high hopes in their respective conferences, with Stanford still alive for PAC-12 redemption, and UCF looking to win the first AAC East division title, and play in the conference title game.

If UCF drops to 0-2, they will likely see 1-3 in non-conference. If Stanford goes 0-2, even a bowl appearance will seem like a crazy pipe dream.

Stanford is in the unenviable position of simply wanting a touchdown (someone! anyone!). After mustering two field goals in Evanston, Cardinal fans expect more in their 2015 debut on The Farm.