Defense dominates Stanford's spring game

Publish date:

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) The unconventional scoring system Stanford uses for its spring game might have been the only drama this year.

The defense dominated again Saturday, winning 23-7 by the school's official count. Of course, the unit had been ahead 27-7 on the scoreboard and didn't receive points for another turnover, which even had coach David Shaw questioning the final tally.

''I would like to have control of the scoreboard on the sidelines every game that we play,'' Shaw quipped.

Regardless of what the scoreboard showed, the game summed up exactly what Stanford is right now: a work in progress.

The offense trailed 20-0 at the half and scored its only touchdown - a 2-yard run by Remound Wright - on its 12th possession. Conrad Ukropina missed all three field goals and Alex Robinson punted poorly. And highly touted backup quarterbacks Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns turned in underwhelming performances.

Both sides played without key contributors, but the defense's smothering effort came as a bit of a surprising considering only one player - linebacker Blake Martinez - has ever started a game before. The unit forced two turnovers and received points depending on where they stopped the offense on the field.

''Throughout the past three years I've been here, we kind of just dominated on defense. Every single scrimmage we won,'' Martinez said. ''Whereas this spring, it was kind of the first three scrimmages the offense had the bragging rights. They did so well. And all of the sudden we got this. I feel like this game has a little more bragging rights.''

Here are some takeaways from Stanford's spring:

FEEDING McCAFFREY: The Cardinal will rely heavily on Christian McCaffrey, the son of former NFL wide receiver and Stanford standout Ed McCaffrey. After bursting onto the scene as a freshman, the running back and wide receiver was Stanford's biggest playmaker this spring. He ran for 38 yards on 10 carries and caught three passes for 55 yards Saturday. The troubling trend for the Cardinal is the running backs behind him - Wright and Barry Sanders - are showing little improvement.

KICKING GAME: Ukropina missed field goals from 46, 46 and 31 yards and Robinson struggled punting as well. ''The bottom line is we missed too many field goals last year, and we missed too many field goals today,'' Shaw said. Translation: expect incoming freshman Charlie Beall and Jake Bailey to compete for jobs.

STEADY HOGAN: Perhaps the most encouraging part of the spring for Stanford is fifth-year senior Kevin Hogan looks more like the quarterback who carried the Cardinal to three straight wins at the end of last season than the inconsistent player during their 5-5 start. He completed 13 of 18 passes for 187 yards and said he feels as good as ever. ''I thought it was a great spring all together,'' Hogan said. ''We moved the ball efficiently down the field. We were efficient in the red zone. Defense is going to make plays. But I thought overall offensively, we had a great spring.''

BACKUP QBs: Chryst and Burns are expected to succeed Hogan next season, though for all the accolades they piled up in high school, each looks like he has a ways to go before becoming a starter. Burns threw for 62 yards on 9-for-18 passing. Chryst, the son of San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, completed just 1 of 8 passes and threw an interception.

NEW GUYS: If Stanford wants to contend for a Pac-12 title again, it will need to have several players in new roles improve rapidly. Shaw said he was particularly pleased by the strides made by defensive linemen Harrison Phillips and Solomon Thomas this spring as well as converted safeties Dallas Lloyd (a former quarterback) and Kodi Whitfield (a former receiver). Lloyd intercepted a tipped pass from Chryst, and Whitfield made a couple of pass breakups. Cornerback Alijah Holder, who redshirted last season, also came up with the play of the day when he ripped the ball away from tight end Austin Hooper after a big catch down field.


Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: