If there's one sign that Stanford fans are a bit high strung, it's this. There has been some concern about Andrew Luck. Still working with a somewhat truncated playbook, Luck opened things up a bit against Duke, and his numbers show it. He finsihed 20 of 28 for 290 yards and 4 TDs. Sure, he had the interception that was returned for a touchdown, but it was a deflection of a ball that wasn't poorly thrown, so we'll let that slide. He's still the best college quarterback you've ever seen.
Offensive Line: B-
It might look like I'm bowing to the pressures of those who complained about the inflated grade the offensive line received last week, but that's not what's going on here. Quite simply, I expected to see a lot more improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, so this grade reflects my concern. Aside from maybe the USC game last season, I don't think Andrew Luck has seen anything close to the degree of pressure he felt in the first half against Duke. There was only one official sack during that half, but Luck was never comfortable, and that discomfort clearly affected a few of his passes. The run game looked much better, up from last week's 141 yards to 205, but we're still waiting to see this offensive line have a complete game. Perhaps we'll see it in Arizona.
Running Backs: B
Without question, after two games this is the most perplexing unit on the team. Yes, the team rushed for 205 yards, but if you take away a forty-yard run by the back-up fullback and a thirty-yard dash by the the third-string tailback, they would actually have been a bit worse than last week. Stepfan Taylor averaged over five yards per carry, but his seventy-five yards gained was surprisingly low. Most troubling was the near absence of sophomore Anthony Wilkerson. I expected Wilkerson to steal some more carries from Taylor and have a breakout season, but instead he's taken a step backwards. He carried the ball just eight times for fifteen yards in the opening week, and on Saturday he was almost invisible, getting the ball only twice for six yards. David Shaw and his coaching staff have preached the need for their players to compete every day in practice, so maybe Wilkerson's decline in playing time stems from poor performance against the other backs in practice, but we'll obviously never know for sure what's going on. All we know is that he's fading into irrelevance, and that's a shame.
Wide Receivers: A-
Griff Whalen caught two balls for thirty-one yards and Jamal-Rashad Patterson and Drew Terrell caught one pass each, but Chris Owusu's day was good enough to make up for all that. He had seven catches for 106 yards, and there was no one in the Duke secondary who could begin to match up with his combination of speed and strength. His biggest play came late in the second quarter after Duke had scored to pull within 10-7. The Cardinal had driven to the Duke ten-yard line, where Luck found Owusu with a quick bubble screen to the left flat. Owusu zig-zagged through and around three or four defenders before walking into the endzone untouched, and the game was essentially over.
Tight Ends: A
I'm not going to waste much time here. Coby Fleener and Zach Ertz continue to form a fearsome one-two punch from the tight end position, combining for 107 yards and a touchdown apiece. Fleener accounted for more than half of those yards on the Cardinal's longest play of the game, a sixty-yard touchdown pass from Luck that demonstrated what separates Fleener from every other tight end in the country. He got behind the defense to make the catch, but no one in the Duke secondary was able to track him down. Reports surfaced this week that the 6'5" Fleener is the second-fastest player on the Stanford offense, which is absolutely insane.
Defensive Line: A
The Cardinal run defense was absolutely stifling for the second week in a row as the Blue Devils managed only twenty-seven net yards rushing. Combined with their performance against San Jose State, Stanford is allowing an average of 28.5 yards per game, good for second in the nation. The first team is doing even better than that, though, as a good chunk of the rushing yardage gained by Duke and San Jose State came in the fourth quarters after the starting defense had left the field.
Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas are the two best linebackers in the Pac-12, and they're definitely on the short list nationally. Skov did what he always does, leading the team in tackles with eleven and coming up with one and a half sacks, and Thomas wasn't far behind with six tackles, including two sacks during a crucial three-and-out following Duke's momentum-grabbing surprise onside kick in the second quarter.
Defensive Backs: B-
With the front seven almost eliminating the threat of Duke's running game, the defensive backs weren't able to take advantage. Four Duke quarterbacks combined to pass for 305 yards, and even though more than a third of that yardage came against Stanford's second-team defense, those numbers are still a bit troubling.
Special Teams: B
David Green punted twice, once for fifty-six yards and again for fifty-eight, though one was a touchback. That's about all I have to say about that.