Stanford Cardinal Face Arizona State Sun Devils At Home

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: K.J. Costello /

The Stanford Cardinal will look to go for consecutive victories this season against the Arizona State Sun Devils.

When the Stanford Cardinal took on the UCLA Bruins in their home opener last weekend, quarterback K.J. Costello probably did not expect to see any action. Starter, Keller Chryst, wanted to atone for his poor play against San Diego State and get the Cardinal offense going.

But in the opening plays of Stanford’s second possession, Costello found himself pressed into action after Chryst took a big hit from a UCLA defender and was down for a significant amount of time.

Chryst eventually got up and walked off toward the Cardinal sideline, but would miss the rest of the game after suffering a concussion on the play.

Stanford Cardinal Football
Stanford Cardinal Football /

Stanford Cardinal Football

Bryce Love has been the only source of offense with his explosive plays for Stanford. With Chryst exiting the game early, UCLA figured that Love would see the ball more and adjusted to shut down the running game.

And rightly so. Costello has not seen significant game action, and his inexperience became apparent in his first possessions under center.

But unlike Chryst, who missed spring camp after recovering from a knee injury he suffered against North Carolina, Costello had worked with the receivers over the summer.

Costello was a four-star recruit out of high school, and the pro-style quarterback Stanford covets to drive the offense.

After a shaky beginning, Costello shook off the nerves and began to execute, finishing the night with 123 yards passing and two touchdowns.

His growth during the game became a factor which allowed Love to find openings against a struggling Bruins’ defensive line.

Love would finish with 263 yards rushing and a touchdown as the Cardinal run game amassed 405 total yards in a 58-34 victory over the Bruins. Jim Mora left the Farm empty-handed once again as he has been unable to beat Stanford since becoming the head coach at UCLA.

Last week’s offensive display finally saw a bit of razzle-dazzle with big plays both in the air and on the ground. If Stanford wants to build on their success, David Shaw needs to keep Stanford implementing the same formula each week and not resort to the vanilla “smash-mouth” brand of football — meaning, running up the middle and going nowhere.

On the defensive side of the ball for Stanford, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen carved up the Cardinal defense with 480 yards passing. His downfall came via the two interceptions he tossed — although both are the fault of his receivers for not securing the ball.

Also, the Bruins fumbled the ball three times, with two resulting Cardinal turnovers.

Last week’s game saw some physicality by both teams on defense as targeting penalties came into focus. Alijah Holder got ejected early in the second half for a targeting call and will miss the first half of the game against Arizona State. On the very next play, Justin Reid got flagged for targeting, but his penalty was rescinded after review.

Quenton Meeks and Reid will have to carry the load with Holder missing the first two-quarters against a Sun Devils offense that can erupt at any time.

Todd Graham scored a big victory last week at home as Arizona State upset twenty-fourth ranked Oregon 37-35. Penalties and miscues by the Ducks proved costly in allowing the Sun Devils to snap a 10-game losing streak.

Manny Wilkins leads the Sun Devils’ offense after winning the job outright in camp. The decision came as a surprise as many expected Alabama transfer, Blake Barnett, to assume the starting role.

For now though, Wilkins has shown Coach Graham made the right choice. Some concern came during non-conference play with ball control being an issue for Wilkins. He had five fumbles in three games and was fortunate only to lose one.

With conference play beginning last week, securing the ball would be an important area of focus for Wilkins against a surging Ducks defense.

Ball control was no issue for Wilkins though, as he threw for 347 yards and a score. Wilkins will not only be a threat in the passing game, but on the ground as well, given that he has the quickness to take off downfield. Most of his damage to Oregon came with his feet as he also scored two rushing touchdowns on the night.

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Arizona State’s rushing game is not active, which should benefit the Stanford defensive line. The Sun Devils are averaging just over 100 yards per game in rushing.

Led by Harrison Phillips, the Cardinal defensive line cannot over-commit in attacking Wilkins, or he will use his legs to keep the Sun Devil offense on the field.

Coach Graham will likely rely on the passing game, which helped his team last week against Oregon. N’Keal Harry and Jalen Harvey each caught over 100 yards receiving against a young Oregon secondary.

The two will likely have to step up again should the Sun Devils want to win. But they will be a strong Cardinal secondary.

Koron Crump’s injury dealt a blow to an already thin Sun Devils’ defensive line. He missed the game against Oregon and is likely out this week as well. His absence has left the Sun Devils struggling to stop the run and is helping expose their weaknesses in pass defense.

Love could be in for another big game on the ground, and his teammates at the receiver position could benefit from his strong showing as well. JJ Arcega-Whiteside made a few big catches last week to help keep the Cardinal offense moving and allowed Costello to build confidence.

Trenton Irwin made his presence known last week with a touchdown that was initially ruled incomplete. Upon review though, officials ruled that  Irwin got a hand underneath the ball, keeping it from hitting the turf in the end zone. He will look to make more big plays this week.

Stanford and Arizona State square off for the first time since 2014. And the last time they met, Sun Devils defeated the Cardinal down in the desert, 26-10, so Stanford will be looking for a little payback.

Saturday’s game at Stanford is designated, Sexual and Relationship Violence Awareness Day. Both teams will wear a #SetTheExpectation ribbon on their helmets.

Next: Stanford Cardinal Face UCLA Bruins in Home Opener

Perhaps, the Cardinal have found a new starting quarterback in Costello, who showed that he can keep the offense on the field. Hopefully, he is not a one-hit wonder and can carry his success against UCLA into the game against the Sun Devils.