Posted October 13, 2013

Utah topples Stanford to shake up the Pac-12; more late Week 7 Snap Judgments

Pac-12, Stanford Cardinal, Utah Utes
Travis Wilson

Travis Wilson (7) and Utah downed Stanford in the first major upset of the 2013 season. (George Frey/Getty Images)

Snap Judgments from the Week 7 late slate. For more content, check out our coverage of Texas-Oklahoma, Oregon-Washington, Michigan-Penn State, Missouri-Georgia and our early and midday Snaps.

Utah 27, No. 5 Stanford 21: The Pac-12 may have been weak at the bottom in years past, but that’s not the case anymore. Utah, which had never beaten a top-five opponent at home in program history and gave UCLA a scare last Thursday, toppled a shaky No. 5 Stanford team that couldn’t get things going on offense. The Cardinal frequently stalled and struggled to make big plays as the Utes took a halftime lead and never looked back, winning 27-21.

Over the past season-plus, Stanford has often resembled a machine on both sides of the ball, with powerful linebackers, a tough secondary and a dominant offensive line repeatedly wearing down opponents. The Cardinal have talent all over the field and outlasted a tough Washington team in Palo Alto last Saturday.

This week’s game against Utah was never a gimme, but plenty of viewers weren’t paying attention (or couldn’t watch the game on Pac-12 Network) as Penn State and Michigan failed their way to four overtimes on ESPN. The assumption was always that Stanford would pull it together and win, something it has done with regularity under former coach Jim Harbaugh and current headman David Shaw.

The Cardinal almost did; with less than two minutes to play, Stanford was deep in Utah territory trailing by six points. Quarterback Kevin Hogan had two chances to get two yards for a first down or put the ball in the end zone, but his first pass fell incomplete, and his second pass sailed through the back of the end zone and had no chance of being caught.

This was the most vulnerable Stanford has looked in a long time, and that’s partially a credit to Utah and offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson, who used a mixture of looks and different tempos to keep the Cardinal off balance. It was clear Stanford was uncomfortable on both sides of the ball, and it wasn’t just a matter of the team playing an imperfect game. The Cardinal never woke up for long enough to take control, and the Utes, behind 89 total yards and two scores by Dres Anderson, successfully completed the upset.

The Pac-12 is quickly becoming a league in which it might just be impossible to escape a season undefeated. Oregon was impressive in its 45-24 win over Washington on Saturday, but the Ducks still have to play UCLA and at Stanford. The Bruins have Stanford and Washington left, in addition to the game in Eugene. And the rest of the teams, including Utah, Arizona State and a rejuvenated USC under interim coach Ed Orgeron, could sneak up on anybody on a given week.

This isn’t a gimmicky league; it’s a power conference with varied offensive and defensive looks and a lot of bright football minds. Winning it is going to take a marathon effort, no matter how many sprinters are on a particular team. [RECAP l BOX]

No. 1 Alabama 48, Kentucky 7: The outcome was never in doubt, but the Crimson Tide certainly got off to a slow start against the Wildcats on Saturday. This was a scoreless game until Cade Foster converted a 25-yard field goal early in the second quarter, and whether Alabama was disinterested or Kentucky just got up for the challenge early (probably a little bit of both), this can’t be a proper execution of Nick Saban’s process.

The Tide eventually rushed for 299 and five scores, and both T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake surpassed the 100-yard mark. Mark Stoops’ team is going to continue to take its lumps until his recruits arrive, but the Wildcats can take a bit of solace in the fact they played toe to toe with ‘Bama for nearly 20 minutes. [RECAP l BOX]

No. 9 Texas A&M 41, Ole Miss 38: Punch for punch, this one was fun for pretty much the entire game. The combination of quarterbacks Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti for the Rebels was almost enough to negate the performance of Johnny Manziel, who continues to extend plays and make exciting things happen. Manziel finished 31-of-39 for 346 yards with one interception, but he added 122 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including a six-yard run with 3:41 remaining that tied the game at 38. After forcing a quick punt, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner led the Aggies down to field goal range, and Josh Lambo gave Texas A&M the win.

Ole Miss was in a battle and did not come out without incident. Star freshman Robert Nkemdiche went out with a hamstring injury chasing down Manziel early in the game, and junior linebacker Serderius Bryant had a scary collision with the Aggies quarterback and was down on the field motionless before having the stretcher brought out. (He would later give a double thumbs up.)

Texas A&M still has all sorts of problems with its defense, but that offense behind Manziel, that great line and those talented receivers give the Aggies a shot in every game. A&M survives to win its 10th straight on the road, and returns home to play Auburn next week. [RECAP l BOX]

12 comments
TimSodergren
TimSodergren

It's always easy to criticize coaching decisions with the benefit of hindsight. Stanford was out of timeouts and Utah had been tough against the run all night. Hogan had been picking apart the secondary on that drive so a pass wasn't an unreasonable call. You have to give Kalani Sitake, Utah's defensive coordinator, credit. He dialed up a max blitz on that last play. Hogan had no time to run through his reads; he had to get rid of it. Even a power run in that situation would probably have been stopped. Plus, one or two plays does not a game make. Stanford's weaknesses were exploited all night. When you put yourself in a position where the whole game comes down to one play you've probably made plenty of mistakes throughout the night.

hight
hight

utah exploited stanford's d.  they have trouble tackling in open space because they are slow.  beefy but slow.  over and over were the stupid horizontal passes that went for 10-15 yards.  well played by utah.  great calls by dennis erickson.  utah was also able to run the ball which was a shocker.  they won both  sides of the ball in this game.  the score was much closer than the game.

MALIK1
MALIK1

The play calling at the end of the game was terrible! At third and two you run the ball to at least get the first down then you have four chances to get the ball into the end zone. Further, Shaw insisted on calling running plays all night when it was clear that Utah's game plan was to clog the middle. I just do not understand!!

mbroncofan
mbroncofan

Man...I just don't understand this.  When you are the number 1 team in the country, the two time defending National Champions, number 1 in your conference, and playing on the road, you are going to get EVERYONE'S best shot!!  Any and every team can perform well for a quarter.  (well...unless you are Notre Dame in last year's Championship game)  The adrenalin, their "surge" as Saban calls it.  You have to withstand that.  Then you just impose your will on them.  48-7...and you still bad mouth the effort.  I just don't get it.

WHO*IS*ESPN
WHO*IS*ESPN

UTAH? Really?  At least lose to a top 10 team, not some NOT ranked. Over rated.AGAIN

atwood.t
atwood.t

Shaw has gotten arrogant. He believes that he can just line it up and ram the ball down the throats of the other teams. However, he no longer has Stepfan Taylor and All American tight ends. An o.k. runner and only one decent receiver cannot be overcome by a great line. Shaw needs to be a bit more creative and stop thinking that no one can stop a run only offense.

WestCoastSteve
WestCoastSteve

Stanford went with the west coast offense as demonstrated by the 49ers in last year's SuperBowl: when you have the talent to run it in for a game-winning TD and a few downs to get ot done, try throwing a few passes instead. Doh!

Blinker
Blinker

POOOOORRRRR Standford

JeffBockert
JeffBockert

@WHO*IS*ESPN  It looks to me like many of the rankings were terrible to begin with. Every year we get more and more evidence that we need a playoff system. 

jafco99
jafco99

@atwood.t IF he believed that, Stanford would have run power three or four times in a row to secure the win against Utah.  Instead he went with plays that have no history of success and gave the game away.  I'm sure he's defending his calls as "probabilistically the right thing to do" just as he has defended his bonehead calls down on the goal line in the Fiesta bowl.  He maybe arrogant, but it's by trying to be too smart by half.  Do what has been working until they show they can stop it.  Quit trying to "trick" them.

JeffBockert
JeffBockert

@WestCoastSteve  I agree, Stanford lost that game because of play calling. Just like they lost to Ok State two years ago because of play calling. Shaw has a habit of making terrible calls in crucial times. If Stanford just runs the ball on 3 and 4 last night, they win the game. 

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@JeffBockert Blah, blah, blah.  There is a reason that the games are played.   Upsets do happen.   And the playoff system is coming and I can't wait for that, simply to watch you chronic complainers moan and groan about it as well.