Andrew Luck is on pace to have his best season as Stanford's quarterback. At this rate, he'll pass last year's numbers in passing touchdowns with fewer interceptions and a higher completion percentage. He'll finish ahead in almost every category -- except one.
After rushing for 453 yards and three touchdowns last year, Luck has stayed home most of this season, logging just 60 yards through the first six games. His lone rushing touchdown was Stanford's first touchdown of the season against San Jose State. Outside of that, we haven't seen much.
Part of that is head coach David Shaw protecting Luck. He said the quarterback has the green light to scramble as needed, but they aren't calling as many designed runs.
Luck had a different explanation.
"I think we have eight running backs that can run a lot better than me," he said.
Shaw said there are designed runs in the playbook, but there hasn't really been a need to call on them.
Worth noting this week, Luck had a career rushing game against Washington last season, carrying five times for 92 yards -- including a 51-yard run for the game's first score.
With safety Delano Howell out for Saturday's game, starting responsibility falls to either sophomore Devon Carrington or true freshman Jordan Richards. Both are listed as a "one or the other" on the game's depth chart. Both have playing time, but it's probable that Carrington gets the majority of snaps. He's logged 19 tackles on the year with one pass breakup and two fumble recoveries. Richards, has eight tackles with one pass breakup.
One tall tree
At 6-foot-8, tight end Levine Toilolo has the distinction of being the tallest player on the Cardinal roster. He showed it last week, stretching to reach the pylon on his second touchdown in Stanford's 44-14 win over Washington State.
"We were joking that he could have gotten tackled at the 7 and still scored," said fellow tight end Zach Ertz. "He's an unbelievable athlete. Some of the things he can do are pretty remarkable. But it really wasn't out of the ordinary for him."
Perhaps there's a new Wildcat formation in the works with Toilolo under center.
"We can try it on a QB sneak," Toilolo joked. "I can just fall over ... we might have to test it out in practice to see how far I can score from just falling down."
Brimming with confidence
Shaw said he's not too concerned what will happen if Stanford finds itself in a tight game -- either Saturday or in the weeks to come.
"We've been in tight games early and I've seen our teams resolve and I've seen those guys fight back and seen those guys correct mistakes and re-focus," Shaw said. "I've seen my coaches adjust ... we've gone through a lot of those mental gymnastics so when what happens in the second quarter has to happen in the fourth quarter I feel confident we'll make those adjustments."
Shaw said that at times he's thought about calling a play in the red zone that might pad Luck's stats. The quarterback is in the hunt for the Heisman Trophy after finishing second last year. But then his head coaching judgment kicks in and he realizes it's more important to score.
"I would be lying if I said it's never crossed my mind," Shaw said. "But at the same time, the play-calling trio of myself, Pep Hamilton and Mike Bloomgren, we do a good job of balancing each other out. And we purely pick the plays based on what the defense is giving us.
"... After we run the ball in for a touchdown, there is no happier guy on the field than Andrew Luck. Our players know that. They recognize that. That's him. It's honesty. He's truly excited for other guys to be successful, which makes him the leader that he is."