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Long ball wasn't needed vs. SJSU

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- There is no cause for alarm. The passing game is fine.

When you see 57 points on the scoreboard -- against a team that had one of the worst pass defenses in the nation last year -- and have a Heisman candidate slinging the ball, the first thought is that the quarterback must have had a monster game.

Monster doesn't exactly describe it. But neither does monstrous. Andrew Luck completed 17 of 26 passes for 171 yards and two passing touchdowns in Stanford's 57-3 win over San Jose State. Not gaudy numbers, by any means. But certainly not terrible.

And yet his longest completion of the day was just 17 yards. His longest pass in a game had never been so short. His previous long-low was 24 yards against Washington in '10 and USC '09.

Was this the offense keeping it vanilla in the first game? Or is there a timing issue with Luck and the receivers?

"First, we have no timing issues with our guys," insisted head coach David Shaw. "Our guys are doing really well. We dropped a couple of shots ... For us, it was just running our offense. We didn't go into it making a point that we wanted to throw the ball a whole bunch down the field. We wanted to work on the things that we thought were going to be successful and just play our offense."

Yet it was because of the defense and special teams that the offense never really got into "sustained-drive" mode. Luck & Co. essentially spent the better part of the game hanging out in Spartan country. In 13 offensive drives, Stanford's starting field position was the 50. Credit the defense for creating turnovers and special teams for some good returns (average of 20.3 yards off three punts and 30 yards off three kickoffs). The average of all 13 offensive drives was five plays for 28 yards.

"I think it was more of a result of how the game was going," Luck said. "... I don't think we were holding anything back or overlooking San Jose State. We definitely came in with a full arsenal. Or a loaded gun, as our coaches like to say. I think it was just a product of how the game was going.

"When you're starting at the (opponent's) 13, you can't really throw the ball 23 yards ... It was a little weird because we had so many short fields."

The upside to that is the defense and special teams were doing their jobs well and making things easier for the offense. The downside is that the offense, as wide receiver Chris Owusu put it, never really got into a rhythm.

"It was more of a tempo thing than a timing thing," said Owusu, who led the Cardinal with seven catches for 76 yards. "Our defense did such a good job giving us a short field. I think if anything it gave us a chance to work on some red zone stuff and we need to keep working and getting better at that."

Plus, Luck escaped the contest sack-free, thanks to strong pass protection from his work-in-progress offensive line.

"I think we were solid in pass protection," said guard David DeCastro. "That was a bright spot for us."

This isn't completely atypical of Luck, either. Last season he had three passing performances of fewer than 200 yards while averaging 256.7 yards per game. In fact, his "best" passing game -- 341 yards -- came against Oregon, Stanford's only loss of the 2010 season.

The longest pitch and catch of the day came from backup quarterback Brett Nottingham, who connected with tight end Coby Fleener on a 39-yard touchdown strike in the fourth quarter.