Newly appointed Stanford Cardinal football captains Bryce Love, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, K.J. Costello, Alameen Murphy and Bobby Okereke, trotted into Stanford Stadium to take on their Week 1 opponent, the San Diego State Aztecs, of the 2018 college football season.
After last year, San Diego State made an example out of Stanford. Despite recording 998 yards of total offense in its first two games in 2017, Stanford put up only 254 against SDSU. Additionally, Stanford also scored 11 touchdowns and achieved 27 total first downs against Rice and Southern Cal in Week 1 and 2, respectively. But when it came time to playing SDSU in Week 3, Stanford wasn’t ready.
In its first two games of 2017, SDSU forfeited 556 passing yards between Arizona State and, here it comes…UC-Davis. Not only that, but SDSU allowed 16 first downs to UC-Davis, while SDSU confined Stanford to only eight. Stanford’s two touchdowns stemmed from its running game, dismissive of the five passing touchdowns that Rice and Southern Cal gifted to ex-Stanford Cardinal QB Keller Chryst.
The Stanford Cardinal defense also took a hit last year versus SDSU. For beginners, a defensive unit highlighted by Quenton Meeks and Harrison Phillips, Stanford collapsed at the hands of SDSU’s 359 yards and 18 first downs. This lack of effort handed Stanford its second loss of the season and SDSU remained untouched at a perfect 3-0 record behind Rashaad Penny‘s 175 rushing yards.
RB Bryce Love
Week 1 Stats vs. San Diego State: 18 carries, 38 yards
Player Notes: Rocky Long and the San Diego State defense did a great job utilizing the 3-3-5 defense against Bryce Love. Regardless if he ran on the strongside or weakside, Love couldn’t find any gaps and, for most of the night, was held to an average of only 1.6 yards per gain.
Love’s poor performance might’ve been due to a crippling offensive line that didn’t have Jesse Burkett, but do credit the Aztecs defense for shutting down the gaps and any other possible opportunities for Love to break free. The most recent time Love rushed for under 100 yards came against Washington State in 2017, when he collected only 69 yards in a 24-21 loss.
Grade vs. San Diego State: C
Draft Stock: Late first round
TE Kaden Smith
Week 1 Stats vs. San Diego State: 2 receptions, 18 yards
Player Notes: Kaden Smith was another starter that had a very quiet night. In the first half, he seemed useful in short yardage gain, but he had trouble with yards-after-catch. Stanford, of course, kept trying its luck with the run game that had no flavor and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside kept towering over coverage, giving him a 226-yard/three-touchdown night.
Nonetheless, Smith was one of the anchors behind Costello’s passing game, which desperately needed more bodies on the line to fend off Aztecs, like Kyahva Tezino. For the most part, Smith – called “the next Zach Ertz” – was over-shadowed by Colby Parkinson. With Parkinson at 6-foot-7 and the favorite tight end target of Costello’s, Smith may have a hard time overcoming his career-best game against Southern Cal (4 receptions, 80 yards, 2 touchdowns) of whom Stanford plays in Week 2.
Grade vs. San Diego State: D
Draft Stock: 6th or 7th round
OG Nate Herbig
Player Notes: Stanford had to end a lot of drives with the punt and that’s contributed to an offensive line that struggled to protect Costello and Love. Nate Herbig, for instance, seemed to always be thwarted off his stance. As a result, Herbig kept being bullied and pushed back into Costello.
Furthermore, it was hard for Love to find a decent running lane, which, unlike last year, wasn’t a problem when Herbig was on the field. At the end of the day, Herbig and the offensive line allowed just one sack and that’s a big deal, despite the tug-of-war between SDSU defensemen Chibu Onyeukwu and Noble Hall.
Grade vs. San Diego State: B-
Draft Stock: Late fourth round
LB Bobby Okereke
Week 1 Stats vs. San Diego State: 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, sack
Player Notes: Other than Alameen Murphy and Joey Alfieri, Bobby Okereke had a phenomenal night. After all, Okereke was the Mike linebacker accountable for containing a two-legged ground threat in Juwan Washington.
One of Okereke’s biggest plays came near the half against Christian Chapman as he burst out of zone coverage and nailed Chapman in the end zone for a safety, which gave Stanford its first points. Overall, Okereke read the SDSU offense well. The only improvements to be made before Southern Cal next week concern his gap assignments and open field tackles.
Grade vs. San Diego State: B+
Draft Stock: Mid third round
Week 1 Stats vs. San Diego State: N/A
Player Notes: DNP due to injury
Grade vs. San Diego State: N/A
Draft Stock: N/A