Andrew Luck

Stanford Cardinal football: they’re even better in person

Jim Harbaugh and the Stanford Cardinal football team still are very connected, which means the San Francisco 49ers and Stanford are connected. Nothing new there.

Last night against the Washington Huskies, Stanford looked like the embodiment of Jim Harbaugh’s idea of football perfection.

If the 49ers ever reach that plateau that would really be something, and I’d be lying if I said that thought didn’t flash through my head while watching the carnage from the second level at Stanford Stadium in the visitors’ section.

My wife’s a UW alum who takes her college football more seriously than pretty much anything else in life (sports-related, anyway), so a got a package of 20 tickets and a bunch of us met in the Eucalyptus Grove and tailgated. We did it up right, all grownup-style and stuff — meaning we didn’t just buy beer and cups for beer pong; we also had tables, tons of food and plentiful non-alcoholic beverages.

Our tailgate execution on both sides of the (ping-pong) ball was far superior to the Huskies’ on the field, but as when my wife said, “It just isn’t our year” as we trudged back to the car after a long, fun day turned to dusk, I disagreed. Washington’s 5-2 with a sophomore QB who’s a better passer than Jake Locker ever was in Keith Price, and Chris Polk’s a future starting NFL tailback who kept the Huskies close early with a couple scoring runs. But last night wasn’t about Washington, it was about Stanford’s dominance.

Stanford’s defense is better than people think (4th in the nation in points allowed per game), and they showed it against a sneaky-good Huskies offense. That is, if you consider an offense that scores 35 ppg and gains 420 yards per game sneaky.

But Stanford’s o-line is simply incredible. The 50-yard-line is where you want to be to get the best overall view of a football game, but from behind the end zone you can really see what’s going on in the trenches, and Stephan Johnson, Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson looked like they had it easy. The Huskies aren’t exactly the stoutest run defense of all time, but they gave up 582 yards in their previous six games. The Cardinal ran for 446 yards.

It’s nothing other than amazing, the juggernaut that they’ve built on The Farm. Whether David Shaw ends up being looked as a George Seifert or Barry Switzer, only time will tell, but he’s taken what Harbaugh built and seems to have built upon it himself. Last night marked 10 straight wins over 25 points dating back to last November, an NCAA record.

Andrew Luck is the best quarterback in college football, and he looked good the few times he threw, but they didn’t even need him. During training camp, Harbaugh frequently grew frustrated with reporters who asked about the quarterback situation, and it was kind of evident why last night. When Harbaugh’s vision is truly realized, whatever positive yardage the quarterback produces is just icing on the ground-and-poundcake. With an impenetrable defense, dominant special teams and — especially — a truly special offensive line and run game, the quarterback’s jobs are simply to stay healthy and out of the way.

Stanford’s probably going to need Luck to throw a few more passes the next time they play at home, on Nov. 12 against Oregon. The countdown to that game has already started, and I’m thinking I should try to find my way back to Stanford Stadium somehow…

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