Stanford Cardinal Face UC Davis Aggies Before Pac-12 Slate

PALO ALTO, CA - AUGUST 31: K.J. Costello #3 of the Stanford Cardinal passes the ball against the San Diego State Aztecs at Stanford Stadium on August 31, 2018 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
PALO ALTO, CA - AUGUST 31: K.J. Costello #3 of the Stanford Cardinal passes the ball against the San Diego State Aztecs at Stanford Stadium on August 31, 2018 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

For the Stanford Cardinal against, final adjustments are being made for the UC Davis Aggies, before a potential top-20 matchup next weekend in Eugene, Oregon.

An early statement was made last weekend by the Stanford Cardinal, as they took care of business at home in a 17-3 victory over the USC Trojans. The Cardinal never appeared to show signs of letting up, preventing the Trojans from ever getting into the game.

Defensively, the Cardinal were dominant, disrupting Trojans quarterback, JT Daniels, never letting him get confident in the pocket. The inexperience of the true freshman was exposed as Daniels made errant throws while under pressure.

After the first series, Daniels was replaced by Matt Fink, who could not find any momentum with the Trojans’ offense either. Daniels came back to lead the rest of the way, but the offense became one-dimensional. Stanford zeroed in on the rushing attack, since USC had no passing game to speak of.

Stanford Cardinal
Stanford Cardinal /

Stanford Cardinal

For USC, their ranking coming into the matchup was probably too high, as the Trojans did not appear ready for the spotlight. Daniels is only a freshman and will undoubtedly improve in the coming years. But facing a top-10 team in Stanford, on the road, was a big ask for just the second game of his USC career.

USC made a late push in the fourth quarter, but Daniels’ pass into the end zone was intercepted by Stanford’s Malik Antoine, thwarting any potential onside kick had USC scored a touchdown. Antoine would get one more interception off Daniels in the final minute of play.

Led by Joey Alfieri, the Cardinal defense sacked Daniels four times and held the Trojans’ running backs to 114 yards on the ground. Daniels did throw for 215 yards, but a majority came in the fourth quarter as USC tried desperately to make the game interesting.

For the Cardinal defense, the three points allowed were the fewest against a ranked opponent since 1993 against number 21 Penn State. With questions coming into the season about replacing essential starters from the year before, the Cardinal appeared to answer them, and to be in good shape.

Penalties became an issue for the Cardinal offense in the second half. After Bryce Love rattled off a 59-yard run, back-to-back delay of game penalties resulted in a punt. At times, Stanford looked excellent moving down the field, but a careless penalty stalled a potential blowout against USC.

Head coach David Shaw must address the penalty issues this weekend against UC Davis before the Pac-12 schedule gets underway for Stanford. He will likely turn to K.J. Costello, and the air attack as Love is unavailable to face the Aggies.

Love rushed for 136 yards and scored a touchdown on Stanford’s opening drive to begin the game. He left during the fourth quarter after an apparent injury and did not return. No need to risk the big playmaker in a game where Stanford is the clear favorite at home.

Cameron Scarlett is presumed to be taking the responsibility as the team’s primary running back. Scarlett does not usually see much action, but his physicality can take a toll on the defenses if he can break loose.

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An emotional victory can often lead to a letdown the following week. Love may not be available, but Stanford should hopefully come away this weekend without any more significant injuries. The Cardinal cannot afford to look ahead though, as the Aggies once upset the team years ago.

UC Davis took a 54-21 win over San Diego in their home opener last weekend. The Aggies are 2-0 for the first time since the 2004 season.

Jake Maier leads the Aggies’ offense, who upset the San Jose State Spartans on the road for the first FCS-FBS win of the season, throwing for 446 yards and three touchdowns. Perhaps the Aggies may give the Cardinal some difficulties with the momentum the team is riding to start the year.

Freshman running back, Ulonzo Gilliam, is off to a decent start for the Aggies, compiling five rushing touchdowns thus far.

For Stanford, this game should pose no threat, as UC Davis does not feature the offensive prowess San Diego State and USC presented in the first two games. The focus will be on the offense not taking penalties and the defense to be relentless from start to finish.

A potential top-20 matchup could happen next weekend when Stanford hits the road for the first time. The Oregon Ducks will await Stanford at Autzen Stadium with the possibility of ESPN College Gameday being in Eugene.

Game time for the contest this Saturday against the Aggies begins at 11 am on the Pac-12 Networks.

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Brunch and college football is the right combination this weekend as Stanford looks to avoid the trap game against UC Davis. Hope is for the Cardinal not to have any setbacks as Pac-12 play looms large.