What we learned about Stanford

STANFORD, Calif. -- Five things we learned about the Cardinal in their 28-14 win over Notre Dame Saturday night.

  1. Stanford can start fast: Normally this is a question; phrased by swapping the "can" and "Stanford." It’s been an off-and-on issue for the Cardinal this season. But they came out, with the exception of one or two plays, and looked solid on both sides of the ball in the first half. Andrew Luck moved the ball efficiently through the air (save the interception), Stepfan Taylor rushed for 75 yards in the first half on nine carries (an average of 8.3 yards per carry) and the defense held the Irish to just 75 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes.

  2. Chris Owusu got his play: Classy move by Stanford head coach David Shaw to allow wide receiver Chris Owusu to take the field on the victory formation kneel down to end the game (more on this later today). Owusu’s tale of concussions has been well-documented, and for him to be able to be on the field -- on senior night -- and be a part of the victory was a special moment.

  3. The tight ends are back: Good to see the Tree Amigos reunited. Zach Ertz returned from a knee injury he suffered on the opening kickoff against USC. He didn’t do much statistically -- one catch for zero yards -- but his presence allowed things to open up down the field for Coby Fleener and Levine Toilolo. Fleener had a monster game: four catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns, including a 55-yarder in the fourth quarter. Toilolo also had a 3-yard touchdown reception. Ertz simply being on the field impacts how teams defend the Cardinal.

  4. The Cardinal have a case: Probably not for a spot in the national championship, but certainly for a spot in one of the other BCS bowl games. An 11-1 record and a Heisman finalist should be enticing enough to get the Cardinal into one of college football’s red-carpet gatherings. Wherever they land, the Cardinal can make a case that they shouldn’t play again until 2012.

  5. The Farm’s farm system looks OK: There are several spectacular players and a once-in-a-generation college quarterback who played their final game at Stanford Stadium Saturday night. But the cupboards aren’t totally empty. Guys like Ty Montgomery (six catches, 77 yards, touchdown), Jarek Lancaster (six tackles, one for a loss) and A.J. Tarpley (two tackles, sack) provided a glance at what Stanford’s future will look like. And it looks promising. David Yankey and Cameron Fleming will continue to grow. James Vaughters (one tackle) will get bigger and faster. The foundation is there for a pretty good football team.