Defensive Line: A
It was more of the same from this group against Arizona. Matt Masafilo and Terrence Stephens don't always show up in the boxscore, but theirs is a thankless job. They have to erase blocks on the offensive line, cancelling out the numbers to allow the glamour boys in the linebacking corps to rack up tackles and sacks, but you can tell they've done their jobs well when the opposing team's rushing totals are low. The official stats show that Arizona ran for just 51 yards on 23 carries for a paltry 2.3 yards per rush. But even if you remove the negative sack yardage from that, the yardage only jumps up to 91, which is great. Ben Gardner had another impressive game, and he even has some numbers to back that up, with three total tackles, 2.5 for loss, and a sack.
Here's the amazing thing. The heart of the defense, a guy who also happens to be one of the best linebackers in the nation, left with an injury during the second quarter, and yet this group still turned in a performance just as dominant as we've come to expect. Chase Thomas continued his All-Pac-12 season, and Jarek Lancaster, Shayne Skov's likely replacement, had five tackles. Skov's injury also led to more playing time for freshman James Vaughters, and he didn't disappoint, coming up with a huge third quarter sack that essentially snuffed out Arizona's last desperate hope.
Defensive Backs: A
Arizona's offensive is tilted towards the pass to an unhealthy degree, and not just because they don't run the ball well. They've got a great quarterback. Nick Foles had entered the game averaging over 300 yards passinig per game, and on Saturday he enjoyed the return of Juron Criner, the conference's best wide receiver who isn't named Robert Woods. All signs pointed towards a huge game from Foles, but his numbers ended up looking fairly pedestrian: 24 of 33 for 239 yards and a single touchdown. Interestingly enough, the backfield's finest play was probably a pass interference penalty. On what should've been the final play of the second half, Foles dropped back from the Stanford forty-three and looked deep. In a situation when Arizona realistically could only look to the end zone, Criner had still somehow managed to get behind the defense. Foles saw him streaking down the left side of the field and launched a perfect strike. A touchdown here would've given the Wildcats a 17-16 lead going into the half, and surely would've planted seeds of doubt in a defense that had lost its leader only minutes earlier. But just as Criner was readying to make the catch, cornerback Johnson Bademosi raked his arm across Criner's hands, essentially tackling him for an obvious interference penalty. Sure, Bademosi had made a glaring error in allowing Criner to beat him deep, but he more than made up for that with his quick thinking in the end. In the NFL, the ball would've been placed on the one-yard line, but it's just a fifteen-yard penalty in college, so Arizona received the ball at the twenty-eight for one untimed down. They missed the forty-five yard field goal, the Stanford lead was preserved, and the Cardinal outscored them 21-0 in the second half. Game over.