The Stanford offense suffered death by a dozen cuts in its 16-6 loss to Northwestern on Saturday, but one gaffe might have been particularly revealing. The Cardinal burned a timeout before the first play of the third quarter. After a full 20 minutes of halftime, it appeared that they still weren't prepared to attack the Wildcats' defense with conviction -- another stoppage was needed.
As writers across America take stabs at what derailed Stanford's offense -- the USA Today's Nicole Auerbach examined Northwestern's approach on third down -- there have been calls for the Cardinal to streamline their attack. The Stanford Daily's podcast, for one, suggests that David Shaw should simplify the offense to give it more bite -- the "bells and whistles" of an NFL-size playbook are "too much at times," the hosts say.
The timeout to begin the second half, combined with two substitution penalties, does seem to imply that the Cardinal are juggling a challenging amount of moving parts. Perhaps a focus on quarterback Kevin Hogan's strengths -- he ran for about 50 yards per game during Stanford's late-2014 hot streak and found a decent rhythm in the hurry-up late on Saturday -- would highlight talented weapons and allow this offense to exude a more consistent sense of purpose.
The suggestions don't end there. The San Francisco Chronicle's Tom Fitzgerald writes that more aggressiveness, particularly on third down, would suit the unit well. His headline: "When conservatism decreases your odds." Along those lines, it will be interesting to see if Stanford attacks UCF deep more frequently this Saturday. Hogan threw only one bomb at Northwestern, and receiver Michael Rector dropped it.
The Cardinal won't be the underdog as they attempt to make the necessary offensive fixes this week -- they're favored by 19 points over the Black Knights -- but Vihan Lakshman writes that Stanford should benefit from its new role in which critics are viewing the team with major skepticism.