Stanford Dominant Early But Needs To Develop Killer Instinct

By Scott Page
Robert Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Some call Saturday night’s Pac 12 opener between Arizona State and Stanford a tale of two halves; the first half belonged to the Cardinal and the second to the Sun Devils. It could be taken as a snapshot of what constitutes a “Stanford Man.”

Stanford coach David Shaw has built his team into an annual powerhouse by recruiting a certain type of person, not just player, to play for the Cardinals. Maybe, just maybe, those characteristics shone through Saturday night.

Other than a late flurry of three Sun Devil (2-1, 0-1) touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the game respectable, the No. 5 Cardinal (3-0, 1-0) looked like the bullies on the Pac 12 block Saturday night.

But Stanford lacked the killer instinct needed to bury ASU. Maybe that’s just the type of players, and people, these “Stanford Men” are – smart, tough and very good at what they do, as evidenced by the first three quarters.

There’s no doubt Stanford is really good, but are these guys too nice to win it all?

Those late touchdowns forced Shaw to run his starters back on the field to secure the victory – a victory that should not have been in question.

“I could care less about style points,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “I could care less about what it looks like. We played one great half, a solid third quarter and a bad fourth quarter.”

There are some lessons Shaw can glean from that nearly disastrous fourth quarter. But for the first 45 minutes of play, the Cardinals mercilessly beat up on the feeble-looking Sun Devils in every way possible.

Stanford showed more diversity on both sides of the ball than it had in victories against San Jose State and Army. The Cardinal’s total and absolute dominance over the Sun Devils through three quarters showed just how wide the gap is between the past four league champions – Stanford and Oregon – and everybody else.

But does Stanford lack the killer instinct to finish teams off? It seemed the Cardinals had it when they forced a block punt for a safety to go up 29-0 in the second quarter.

After the game, Shaw entered the press conference and said he would not apologize for winning a football game. Hinting at the looming questions about how the game ended and whether or not the Cardinal was too lax down the stretch.

But those questions are legitimate.

The final 15-20 minutes of play suggests this Stanford team, and its coach, might need to have a little less compassion to avoid calling off the dogs too soon again. Next time, Stanford might not be so lucky.

Scott Page is a college football writer for Follow him on Twitter, Like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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