Stanford Cardinal: After Big Loss, It’s Time For A Gut Check

Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies linebacker Psalm Wooching (28) sacks Stanford Cardinal quarterback Ryan Burns (17) during the first quarter at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies linebacker Psalm Wooching (28) sacks Stanford Cardinal quarterback Ryan Burns (17) during the first quarter at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Stanford Cardinal suffered a miserable loss at Washington last week. How they rebound will be the key to the rest of their season.

Breaking news out of the Pac-12: Washington is good. No longer are the Huskies the laughable pups of the North. They are officially a top-ranked team in the nation, and largely because of the way they absolutely throttled the upstart Stanford squad this weekend in Seattle. Just read any national news headlines, and you’ll see the Huskies are serious contenders.

It’s not surprising that Stanford lost, considering Washington is on the rise and looked good coming into the showdown. What is surprising, however, is the way that Stanford lost. Perhaps though, it’s more an accurate reflection of how Washington won.

No matter how you spin it, the final score wasn’t what fans of either team, or the talking heads expected it to be.

No one is arguing that Stanford needs to pack it in, and just get ready to go to the Foster Farm’s Bowl. Or that they should start preparing for a seven year drought like they went through in the mid-2000’s.

It’s worth noting that the one-win Stanford team of 2006 had just three rushing scores — and only scored more than three touchdowns in a game once. Modern Stanford isn’t that bad after one big loss. Though, it does need to take a moment to reflect.

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They need to reflect on why their Heisman hopeful was bottled up for under 100 offensive yards. They need to consider why their next man up at quarterback has yet to truly wow anybody on the offense. They need to ponder the thought that throwing the largest possible human beings into the trenches may not always work.

Let’s start with the most glaring issue — the lack of production from Christian McCaffrey. One could argue both sides to the issue about why he was so ineffective. But ultimately, the root of the issue was that Washington beat Stanford at their own game.

Washington has some absolutely massive players on the defensive line, and it showed up big time for them. Stanford had just 29 rushing yards on 30 carries as a team. Even Stanford alum Richard Sherman knows you don’t have to be Skip Bayless to understand that’s not going to cut it.

Another area where the Cardinal failed was on third down. They were just two for 12 on third down during the game. And it didn’t help that the Huskies were 9 for 12 themselves. Very few teams win football games with 29 rushing yards and almost no success on third down.

The Cardinal defense, long known for being a stiff challenge for opponents, was also disappointing in their inability to stop the run. They held Jake Browning to under 300 passing yards, yet gave up 214 rushing yards. They were hapless when it came to stopping the ground game, and everyone in the stadium knew it.

They also failed to seem prepared for the big moment. As fickle as the Husky crowds can be at times, the crowd noise for a big game in Seattle can be deafening. They brought the noise, and the team brought the boom early.

Chris Petersen and Washington capitalized on the roar of the crowd, and Stanford looked lost in the bright lights, falling behind 23-0 by halftime.

The second half was as dull as most of the first was. Washington continued to pour the points on and Stanford continued to — not pour anything much of anywhere. We can break things down further, but at some point Stanford players, staff, and fans alike all have to realize that Stanford has no identity.

This was supposed to be the year the Cardinal jumped on a down Oregon Ducks program and proved their dominance in the Pac-12 North. This was supposed to be McCaffrey’s victory tour. This was supposed to be continued success and another Rose Bowl with little contention from any other team in the division.

Now, Stanford is left collecting itself physically and mentally, with a non-conference match up against Notre Dame, a clash in the Bay against the arch-rival Cal Bears, and plenty of other potential pitfalls from the Pac-12 competition.

Next: Stanford Cardinal Falls to Huskies

Despite what the tone of the last few paragraphs may be conveying, many do believe there is still hope for Stanford to regain their sought-after success. The Pac-12 is wide open, albeit a proven breeding ground for tough games from all opponents, despite what the rankings may say.

Success for the Cardinal is still very attainable, but only if they themselves want it badly enough.