Stanford Cardinal Looks to Bounce Back Against San Diego State Aztecs

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 09: Alijah Holder /

The Stanford Cardinal head back to Southern California to face the San Diego State Aztecs at Qualcomm Stadium.

The highly anticipated matchup between the Stanford Cardinal and USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum turned into a rout as the Trojans extracted some revenge.

After an underwhelming performance against Western Michigan, Trojans’ quarterback, Sam Darnold, finally lived up to the preseason hype. The Heisman hopeful threw for 316 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-24 win despite throwing two interceptions.

Stanford had no answer for Darnold and the Trojan aerial attack, as USC carved up the Cardinal defense for over 600 yards.

Stanford could have made a statement to the Pac-12 by coming out of LA with a win. Instead, USC took the first step in their quest to  hopes ascend back to the top of the conference.

Last weekend’s loss to USC exposed an area of concern for the Cardinal which could grow bigger against conference opponents. The defensive line depth for the Cardinal is lacking and struggled against the rushing attack by the Trojans.

Stanford had prided themselves on keeping their opposition’s ground attack at bay, but USC had their way with the Cardinal run defense last week. USC rushed for 307 yards with Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr each rushing for over 100 yards.

Stanford Cardinal Football
Stanford Cardinal Football /

Stanford Cardinal Football

San Diego State may not boast the caliber of running back that USC has, but they do have a strong, physical running back who could prove to be a problem for the Cardinal defense.

Rashaad Penny has speed and power to keep the Aztecs moving on offense if the Cardinal cannot fix the issues that were exposed in their loss to the Trojans.

Penny is currently the second-best rusher in the nation with 413 yards and three touchdowns through two games.

Do not underestimate the Aztecs, as head coach Rocky Long has put together a talented team with quarterback Christian Chapman leading the way.

San Diego State already claimed a victory over the Pac-12 with a 30-20 win at Arizona State. Last season, the team also scored a win against the Pac-12 by capturing a 45-40 win at home against the Cal Bears.

But Chapman struggled to get the passing game going against the Sun Devils, which could help the Cardinal defense. Unlike a strong performance against UC Davis in the opener, Chapman mustered only 73 yards against an Arizona State team with low expectations this season. Penny provided the bulk of the offense, rushing for 216 yards and a touchdown.

The lone bright spot for the Cardinal defense comes in the form of a talented secondary. Alijah Holder and Justin Reid both had interceptions against USC, which kept Stanford in the game. But with a struggling defensive line that failed to generate consistent pressure, the speedy Trojan receivers got open, sending further misery to the Cardinal sideline.

Expect a bounce back effort by the Stanford defensive line as the San Diego State offensive line struggled to keep Chapman on his feet. The Sun Devils registered four sacks and ten tackles for losses which kept the Aztecs passing game stagnant.

Compared to the Trojans, the Aztecs do not have a strong receiving corps, although Penny provides a dual threat as running back and receiver. Penny also contributed a receiving touchdown against the Sun Devils.

Pressure on Chapman will be critical for Stanford in hopes of having success in stopping the run game. With a strong secondary, the defense should have no problem in keeping the Aztecs one-dimensional on offense. By disrupting the pocket, Stanford can focus on stopping Penny and keep San Diego State out of rhythm.

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Keller Chryst kept Stanford in the game in the first half, but the defense of USC proved to be too much in the end. With the Cardinal defense struggling, Chryst did not have as many opportunities on offense.

Expect a better outcome than the 172 yard, two touchdown performance he had in Los Angeles.

Against a physical Trojan defense, Bryce Love had no trouble early as he carried his strong performance from the opener into the USC game. Love ran touchdown in from 75-yards out and finished with 160 yards on the night.

He currently ranks fifth in the nation in rushing yards with 340 and has the fewest carries among rushers with only 30.

Love’s performance was the only bright spot in the Cardinal running game as Cameron Scarlett could not get going. He rushed for only 14 yards on six carries. Although Love has shown he can carry the load on the ground, his backup must have a stronger performance this week.

Playmakers are evident among the Cardinal receivers and should have a strong presence against the Aztecs. JJ Arcega-Whiteside emerged again as a threat and Stanford will be dependent on him continuing the trend after recording a touchdown against USC. The receivers need to stay relevant to keep the Aztecs defense guessing, which will ultimately allow Love to break loose on the ground.

At home, San Diego State has won 20 of their previous 23 games and will look to record back-to-back wins against Pac-12 schools. Stanford hopes to avoid consecutive losses before returning to face UCLA in their home opener.

Next: Stanford Cardinal Face USC Trojans

Despite a tough loss to open conference play, Stanford is not out of the picture. But with the lack of depth at the defensive line, the Cardinal will be tested against strong running backs in the coming weeks. Stanford will need to shore up any concerns against San Diego State before conference play.