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ASU Football Film: Picking apart the Stanford Cardinal

Welcome to the film room.

Stanford v San Diego State Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

In the last decade, the Stanford Cardinal (2-2, 1-1 Pac-12) have proven a potent running system.

Toby Gerhart, then Christian McCaffrey and now NCAA Division I rushing yard leader Bryce Love (787 yards). Each have produced as stars in cardinal and white. Likewise, the Cardinal have expressed a great defense in recent years, but this season, that’s changed.

The Cardinal own the nation’s leading sack-getter in senior linebacker Peter Kalambayi, who has eight, but rank 100th in rushing defense and 106th of 130 FBS teams in passing defense this season.

Offensively, the Cardinal boast the 12th best running game in the nation, averaging 259 yards per game and a nation-high eight yards per carry. Love as an individual, averages 10.8 yards per carry.

Let’s dig deep into the Cardinal, its defensive woes and offensive pros.

They will run no matter what, fearlessly

It’s an obvious run. UCLA has stacked the box with six defenders, but the Cardinal could care less. Watch the No. 64, fifth-year offensive tackle David Bright, the second left-most player on the offensive line. As soon as the ball is snapped, the entire line moves to its left, while Bright darts to the right side of the field, throwing off UCLA to move with the rest of the line to the left. This creates a major whole on the right side.

Love then bullets through the hole right into the back of Bright. Had he not been in his way, it could have been easily been a first down.

Speed, power, versatility and don’t forget... Love

Stanford sets up in a shotgun formation with four receivers. In doing so, the Bruins line up just four to rush with two deep safeties and with a decent amount of space left open up front. Stanford’s experienced junior Nick Wilson, who played in all 13 games last season, and 6-foot-7 highly-touted freshman Walker Little create a major whole on the left-most side of the line. Then, it’s the receivers who do the rest of the blocking. With speed and versatility, Love then jukes out his first defender and only has two more to beat. One is flat footed, the other is well blocked by No. 2, wide receiver Trenton Irwin. With great blocking up front and a receiving corp with unselfishness, Love picks up 27 yards.

Passing defense: Blitz, then leave the middle open

The Cardinal sent their safety to blitz on the left side of the screen to blitz, leaving fellow safety, No. 2 Brandon Simmons behind him. Rather than covering the space in front of him, Simmons paced backwards, leaving the middle wide open. UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen knew it. He managed to spot Wilson down the middle for a first down. Had Simmons scooted in earlier, it would have been no more than a 5-yard gain.

Miscoverage, confusion, who knows?

Stanford corner Quenton Meeks had one-on-one coverage with UCLA wide receiver Eldridge Massington. When Meeks collided with Massington, he decided to stay put. Massington then sprinted by him into the end zone. It was then a piece of cake for Rosen. Ben Edwards, the safety obviously didn’t communicate Meeks. The two eyed each other in frustration in the end zone. Had Edwards recognized the man-to-man coverage and given Meeks help, it wouldn’t have been a cake walk for the Bruins.