The most impressive thing about No. 10 Stanford through the first two weeks of the season has been the team’s defense.
After holding San Diego State to 10 points in Week 1, the Cardinal defense stuffed No. 17 USC and freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels in a 17-3 win Saturday night. The Trojans had 332 total yards of offense but mustered just two field goal tries as their only scoring opportunities.
The game felt like such a formality through the fourth quarter that Stanford was content to run every second it could off the clock whenever it had the ball.
“I’m going to say this in the most respectful way possible. All we hear about is great athletes at USC. We’ve got great athletes,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “It was a tight matchup, it was a good matchup. Our guys played well. We could play much better. We have to play much better to be the team that we want to be.”
Bryce Love gets on track
Love rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown a week after San Diego State keyed in on him. The Aztecs’ focus on the running game opened up passing opportunities for QB K.J. Costello, who threw for over 300 yards.
Costello wasn’t nearly as dynamic against USC. He was 16-of-27 passing for 183 yards and a score.
Love was the only Stanford player to carry the ball until the fourth quarter when backup running back Cameron Scarlett got in on the action. Love’s touchdown in the first quarter gave the Cardinal a 7-0 lead and ended up providing an insurmountable advantage. We didn’t expect the rivalry game to be a shootout. But this lack of offense was something else.
USC has questions on offense
The Trojans needed to replace QB Sam Darnold, RB Ronald Jones and WRs Deontay Burnett and Steven Mitchell heading into 2018. That’s a lot of offense. But there were capable replacements at the ready and Daniels played well in Week 1 against UNLV. The Stanford game was a big test and it showed that USC’s offense is far from a finished product. A late fourth quarter showed why.
Daniels got the offense moving with completions to Tyler Vaughns and a great connection with Amon-Ra St. Brown. But on the next play after hitting St. Brown for a 28-yard pass, Daniels underthrew him near the goal line and the pass was intercepted. Stanford was able to run out the clock from there.
Daniels completed just under 50 percent of his passes, going 16-of-33 for 215 yards and two interceptions. Running backs Stephen Carr and Aca’Cedric Ware didn’t provide much boost in the run game and Daniels was sacked four times by Stanford’s defense.
The Trojans are set for another big road game in Week 3 as they travel to Texas, a team that nearly won in Los Angeles a year ago. Stanford plays UC Davis in Week 3 before heading to Oregon for a pivotal Pac-12 North matchup in Week 4.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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