Of the lasting images from Saturday night's 31-14 victory against Washington, one stands alone.
It happened so quickly, you might have missed it. It will be replayed in the film rooms of upcoming opponents and NFL scouts, and showed why Stanford senior left guard Joshua Garnett might be the best player in the country at his position.
On the team's first offensive play of the second half, quarterback Kevin Hogan threw a screen pass to fullback Daniel Marx, an oddity itself. Not only was it the sophomore's first catch of the season, he has yet to run from scrimmage.
After catching the ball in the left flat, Marx followed the 6-5, 321-pound Garnett, who threw a defender to the ground like a rag doll at the line of scrimmage, then sprinted out and de-cleated another Husky, paving the way for a 15-yard gain.
Selected to the Rotary Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy watch lists, he demonstrated brute strength, speed, athleticism and aggression, all in a manner of seconds.
"It's so much fun watching what the O-line does," said sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey.
The group has been in sync since the second half of the season's second game against UCF. The ability to run the ball has allowed Hogan to use more play action and deception, and Cardinal now leads the nation in time of possession at 35:36.
"Garnett and (Kyle) Murphy are playing at a high level," said Cardinal head coach David Shaw. "Graham Shuler, over the last month of the season, is playing the best football of his career along with Johnny Caspers. They are starting to become what we anticipated them becoming when we recruited this group."
More night games
Counting the 5 p.m. PT time start at USC, eighth-ranked Stanford has now played six straight night games. The trend will continue next Saturday night at Washington State, where kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN for the third week in a row.
Streaking at night
The Cardinal has won a nation-best 26 consecutive home night games.
"I don't know if it's an advantage or not," Shaw said. "Our guys take it seriously whenever we play at home, no matter what time. We have a really good home record over the last four-plus years. I think the stadium is also really, really beautiful in the sunlight."
McCaffrey is all-purpose
Coming off his second straight 300-yard game, McCaffrey increased his national lead in all-purpose yards and now averages 259.71. He is also tied for ninth in rushing with 953 yards.
Hogan ranks 19th in completion percentage at 66.7, while senior inside linebacker Blake Martinez is tied for fourth in tackles, averaging 11.4 per game.
As a team, Stanford ranks 18th in rushing offense (221.1), 19th in third-down conversion and 32nd in scoring defense at 20.6 points/game.
Washington State, which features the Air Raid Offense, ranks second in passing (414.0) and 28th in third-down conversion (44.8).
Sophomore quarterback Luke Falk ranks first in completion percentage (72.9) and third in passing yards (2,885) and total offense (403.3). He has thrown 26 touchdown passes.
Junior wide receiver Gabe Meeks is eighth in receptions with 57 for 717 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Stanford and Washington State have played two common opponents: Oregon State and Arizona. The Cardinal beat the Beavers in Corvallis, Oregon, 42-24, and the Wildcats at home, 55-27. The Cougars defeated Oregon State, 52-31, and Arizona, 45-42, both at home.
Finishing at home
Of Stanford's five remaining regular season games, the next two are on the road and the last three are at home. Those opponents have a combined record of 20-9. Washington State is 5-2, Colorado is 4-4, Oregon is 4-3, Cal is 5-2 and Notre Dame is 6-1. Only Notre Dame, at No. 9, is ranked.
Stanford president John Hennessy served as Stanford's honorary captain for the Reunion Homecoming matchup against Washington.
Council of Chiefs
Last Friday afternoon, Stanford football held its Council of Chiefs lunch in the skybox at Stanford Stadium. It continues a long-standing tradition started at Stickney's Restaurant in Town and Country Village, where former Cardinal baseball standout and long-time football and basketball announcer Bob Murphy presided over a weekly breakfast.
More than 100 guests, including several former players, were entertained by host Matt Doyle, senior associate athletics director and director of football operations.
Speakers included Mike Bloomgren, the Andrew Luck Director of Offense, defensive assistant T.J. Rushing, wide receiver Francis Owusu, free safety Kodi Whitfield, and former all-conference guard Alex Karakozoff, the program's latest inductee into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame.
Among the highlights:
- Former Cardinal All-American linebacker Chase Thomas demonstrated the virtual reality system and gave others a first-hand look.
- From Karakozoff: "When I was here, we were Quarterback U. Now we're Offensive Linemen U."
- Bloomgren on his title: "My company line is, 'Anything associated with Andrew Luck, I want to be part of.' It's very special to me." And on why the offensive line is playing so well: "All they did during the offseason was shut their mouths and work."
- Owusu comes from a family of athletes, including older brother, Chris, who starred at Stanford as a kickoff returner and now plays for the New York Jets. Asked what it feels like to be the fifth-best athlete in the family, he said, "Sixth, including my mom."
- Owusu credited Tavita Pritchard, the team's quarterbacks and wide receivers coach, for helping him make the circus catch against UCLA. Each day in practice, he runs a "distraction drill," intentionally blocking the view and distracting receivers.
- Whitfield, on making the switch from wide receiver to safety to last year: "Being the aggressor is very different. I was always a nice guy growing up."
- Rushing, Stanford's all-time kickoff return leader and a two-time participant in the Super Bowl: "The last time I was here, it was for breakfast."
- Long-time supporter Bob Williams was honored for among other things, suggesting players sing "Hail Stanford Hail" with the Stanford Band after home victories.