DB Alex Carter has lived up to All-America hype
Though the Rose Bowl is over, The Bootleg's coverage marches bravely on. Relive the game's key themes as we grade Stanford's execution of three keys to victory and stick with us throughout the next few days as our coverage transitions into a look ahead for the Cardinal.
Wisconsin posed a unique challenge with its massive offensive
line, trio of explosive running backs, and sneaky play-action
passing attack. Quarterback Curt Phillips compounded the headache by
rushing for 64 surprising yards on a thrice-reconstructed knee.
Stanford's secondary was tasked with striking a perfect balance
between run support and play-action awareness. Jordan Richards'
game-opening sack from the safety position, a play that snuffed out
running back Melvin Gordon's attempted trickery, was an auspicious
But the Badgers frustrated the Farm Boys in the second quarter,
completing seven passes -- four of which the defense tipped.
Stanford's secondary struggled to stop Wisconsin's fly sweep, middle
gash and play-action combination. Phillips led the charge to a pair of
touchdowns in the frame, necessitating second-half Cardinal
Stanford answered the bell out of the locker room. Nearly all of
A.J. Tarpley's team-leading nine tackles came in run support, while
Shayne Skov's eight stops also fortified the middle of the field.
That allowed cornerback Alex Carter to unleash his prodigious
physicality on perimeter run support while the rest of the secondary
stayed home. Richards, in fact, had the luxury of dropping into the
deep safety position on a play-action pass before he pulverized
Wisconsin receiver Chase Hammond in one of the game's signature
That play epitomized Stanford's cold-blooded second half defensive
Grade: A (Wisconsin saw offensive success only in the second
quarter and sustained it only as tipped passes were finding
receivers. The Badgers' good times ran dry in the second half.)
Epic Defensive Effort
The Farm Boys overcame Oregon on the road despite being held
scoreless for 10 straight possessions, a testament to the monumental
defensive effort displayed in that game. Tuesday's Rose Bowl saw
similar offensive struggles following a fast start, though the Cardinal's defense didn't have to overcome any turnovers this time
Still, its performance down the stretch was epic. For the sixth
consecutive game, Stanford shut out its opponent in the fourth
quarter. Wisconsin, a team that had racked up over 600 yards of
total offense in its previous game, gained only 82 in the second
half. Josh Mauro, David Parry, Alex Carter, and A.J. Tarpley, four
second stringers at the beginning of the season, all
delivered instrumental plays down the stretch.
Grade: A+ (While much focus has been reserved for Stanford's
offensive development this season, the Cardinal's defense started they year playing excellently and improved from there.)
Balanced, Exhausting Attack
In my pregame
version of these keys, I noted that achieving this key wouldn't be
absolutely necessary if the Stanford defense delivered a heroic
effort. That certainly ended up being the case. After a
marvelous start that showcased a hybrid of the Andrew Luck era, the
Oregon offense, and a sample of what USC's attack should have looked
like this year, the Cardinal stalled. Six Daniel Zychlinski punts
later, while there was a desire for improvement from Stanford's offense,
that longing never materialized into regret because of studly play from
guys like Josh Mauro (and many others).
Still, it must be noted that Kevin Hogan's knifing scrambles and
Stepfan Taylor's tough running down the stretch chewed up just
enough to clock to keep the Cardinal defense on rested toes. The
attack performed a passable job. It's just going to have to improve
for Stanford to have a legitimate shot of running the table next
season without Notre Dame-type luck.
Grade: B- (The start of the game was impressive, but a 2013
national title bid will call for more than two offensive touchdowns
in big games.)
A lack of aggressiveness cost Stanford the Fiesta Bowl, but
early aggression and creativity put the Cardinal in position to win
the Rose Bowl. David Shaw and Pep Hamilton presented a mesmerizing
early plan of attack, heavily featuring Kelsey Young and a Wildcat
play that reeversed its normal, boring failure. After an Anthony Wilkerson
hand-off to Young and a pitch back, Drew Terrell found Jamal-Rashad Patterson for a 34-yard gain with pure offensive ingenuity. The
Cardinal were prepared to seize New Year’s Day.
Disappointingly, the early offensive spark disappeared when
creativity vanished on Stanford's third series, a three-and-out of
runs into the teeth of Wisconsin's stacked defense near the
Cardinal's own end zone. But again, following a season-long theme, the Farm Boys'
defense made that golden early aggressiveness stand.
Grade: A (Stanford's readiness for the moment coming out of
the gate was impressive.)
David Lombardi is the Stanford
Football Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him
out at www.davidlombardisports.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMLombardi.
Are you fully subscribed to The
Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on
all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our
award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in
Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com