Stanford: Full Speed Ahead
By Ryan Reiswig
In what was supposed to be their toughest matchup of the 2011 season so far, the Stanford Cardinal more than justified their place amongst the nation's best teams in college football by taking down No. 22 Washington 65-21 at Stanford Stadium.
In a game that featured Heisman favorite Andrew Luck on one sideline and Keith Price, one of the top young quarterbacks in the country on the other, most would've expected the game to be won with the ball in the air. This game was played, and won, by anything but that.
Stanford rushed for a school record 446 yards, with 255 of them coming from Stepfan Taylor's 138 yards and Tyler Gaffney's 117. Luck added 169 yards passing and two touchdowns as the No. 7 Cardinal improved to 6-0 and extended the nation's longest winning streak to 15 games.
The Cardinal got the ball to start the game, put the pedal to the metal and didn't let off the gas. On their opening drive, the Cardinal drove 76 yards on 6 plays, capped by a two-yard run by senior running back Jeremy Stewart. That scoring drive opened the floodgates for Stanford's offense, whose first punt of the game didn't come until the third quarter.
Just because the Cardinal ran the ball so effectively doesn't mean they game planned any differently for this game than the past six. The Cardinal's early success running the ball dictated the type of offensive game they would continue to throw the Huskies way.
"Every game we want to run the ball," said Luck. "Ever since I've been here at Stanford, that's what we try to hang our hat on and try to accomplish. It was working early so don't fix it unless it's broke, right?"
The Cardinal were so successful running the ball in the first half that their running backs set a lofty goal for themselves at halftime, a goal that amazingly was nearly accomplished by the end of the game.
"It was exciting seeing everyone going out there and having fun," said Taylor. "We came back in at halftime and I told (Tyler) Gaffney, let's try to get 500 (yards) out here. It was just a great feeling. We had a great week at practice and I was excited to come out on Saturday and play."
Much of Stanford's success running the ball was a direct result of the dominating performance of the offensive line, which was opening up holes so big their team bus could've driven through them.
Senior right guard David DeCastro, considered to be one of the top five offensive linemen in the nation, had a lot to do with that.
"We have great coaches that come up with great game-plans every week," said DeCastro. "I think it kind of was to see if we could run the ball. I think once we established that we could, we just wanted to keep doing it. You're not going to go away from something that's getting you that kind of yardage every play."
Taylor, who early in the game seemed to be on his way to setting a single game personal record for rushing yards, scored on a 70-yard touchdown scamper in the second quarter in which he went untouched through DeCastro's side of the offensive line.
A long touchdown rush in which your running back goes untouched has to make a lineman, the unsung heroes of a team's running game, feel pretty good.
"That's what you want as an offensive line, as an offense in general," said DeCastro. "Every play is scripted to be an untouched touchdown if everyone gets their block, that's what you like to see."
DeCastro, a Bellevue High School (Wash.) graduate, was heavily recruited out of high school and Washington was one of the colleges in hot pursuit. The number six ranked prospect in the state of Washington at the time, DeCastro had his eyes on Stanford throughout the whole process, with an interest in what the school has to offer academically in addition to athletically.
"They (University of Washington) were recruiting me but I always wanted to go to Stanford," said Decastro. "I couldn't pass up the education. I know football doesn't last forever. You have to have a backup plan."
After Saturday's game where the offensive line helped propel the Stanford offense to 615 total yards and 65 total points, DeCastro is more than happy with his choice of university.
"It obviously feels good," said DeCastro of his team's win over the Huskies. "It reinforces the fact that you made the right decision."