September 8, 2012; Palo Alto, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal safety Ed Reynolds (29) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Duke Blue Devils at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Washington State sure found a fortunate week to play the 5th ranked Cardinal. Stanford is at this point without the services of All-American safety Ed Reynolds for the entire first half on Saturday night, after he was ejected from last weeks’ game against Arizona State. Remember Reynold’s pick-6 last year ended up as the winning score when the Cougs came up short in Palo Alto.
The ejection was made as part of a new rule in college football for helmet-to-helmet contact in which Reynolds was judged to have launched himself into a “defenseless” Sun Devil receiver. WSU fans saw this ejection first hand two weeks ago when Southern Utah’s safety was ejected late in that game for the same type of contact “leading with the crown of the helmet” as the official described it.
The penalty for such an ejection is the remainder of that football game and the first half of the next. Reynolds has appealed the ejection to the conference but it’s unlikely the appeal will be upheld. His replacement figures to be fellow senior safety Devon Carrington, who is capable but doesn’t have quite the athleticism, experience or accolades of Reynolds in that secondary. Even with Reynolds in the game, Jeff Tuel racked up over 400 yards in the passing game against Stanford.
It is however possible that Reynolds isn’t the most important missing piece for the Card this weekend. Another returning All-American, guard David Yankey will miss the entire football game. We found this out Tuesday evening:
Nov 12, 2011; Stanford CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal offensive tackle Jonathan Martin (55) and offensive tackle David Yankey (54) at the line of scrimmage during a play against the Oregon Ducks during the third quarter at Stanford Stadium. Oregon defeated Stanford 53-30. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports
The 6’5″, 311 lbs senior NFL prospect from GA is more than just a key cog in the all important Cardinal run-game, he might be the best of the bunch. It’s a run game, by the way, that averages 211.33 yards a game, which is surprisingly only good enough for 41st in the country. In contrast, Stanford ran for 174.29 yards a game in 2012 which was good for 50th nationally. If they had ended last season with their current average (albeit through just three games), they would have figured in as the 23rd best rushing team just behind Kansas at 211.67.
In an interesting twist with this information, a WA product will play a key role for Stanford this week.
Pretty cool opportunity for a local kid, but there’s no doubt the Cougar defense will have a golden opportunity to take advantage of young Mr. Garnett and that o-line. In fact Garnett made his first start against the Cougars last season, a game in which the Cardinal only tallied 256 total yards, including only 120 on the ground.
For reference, WSU is only giving up 146.5 yards a game in 2013, a much better clip than the 163 yards plus they gave up in 2012. Partially that’s because of a bulked up and more experienced front-seven and partially it’s a decision by defensive coordinator Mike Breske to go 4-down a lot more in running situations this season.
If the Cougs can come close to their performance from last season’s Stanford contest on the ground this week, I like the chances of Washington State a whole lot. But that’s not the only issue that Stanford will face with the loss of Yankey on Saturday. The Cougs have been blitzing right at the offensive guards this season and linebackers Cyrus Coen and Kache Palacio have taken advantage for four sacks between them.
Between the blitzes and well timed stunts of players like Ioane Gauta and Toni Pole, the Cougs forced two key sacks and two more all-important pressures that ended in Damante Horton interceptions in WSU’s defeat of USC just weeks ago. With Yankey out, expect coach Breske to dial up a few more blitzes to that side to effect quarterback Kevin Hogan, who to this point has only been sacked three times on the season.
Interesting and concerning developments for Stanford going into this weekend. Can the Cougars take full advantage of the less experienced replacements? Only a few days til we find out.