There aren't many plays that really stand out to me from Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck in his first game against the San Jose St. Spartans. The competition was clearly inferior in terms of offensive versus defensive personnel and the game was over pretty quickly. But there were a few things that stood out to me that I wanted to point out to remind people that Luck is the class of the conference when it comes to quarterbacks, and the real fight is about who's second-best.
1st and 10, San Jose State 41, 4:30 left in the 1st quarter
Luck, A pass complete to Whalen, G for 15 yards to the SJSU26, 1ST DOWN STAN.
Originally Luck was looking for the deep option on the throw, but San Jose State apparently had committed to the deep pass and the coverage was too strong downfield. So Luck started rolling out to the right the moment the deep option was denied, and started looking for secondary options.
When Luck found his man Griff Whalen trailing down the right sideline he was running toward, he drew in one defender because of his threat to run the ball, leaving Whalen temporarily alone. Yet Luck didn't throw it to him immediately, even when signalling to Whalen that he's the target. Now Whalen was originally hanging right next to the sideline, so it looked originally like Luck was going to throw this ball to the outside and let Whalen teeter the sidelines.
But when a cornerback eventually started coming up from behind to the outside to anticipate the comeback route to Whalen, Luck threw it to the inside of Whalen. This forced Griff to adjust and haul in the throw while going forward (rather than going backward to catch the original pass), ensuring Stanford gained some extra yards on the play.
That type of decision-making on the fly is pretty superb from a junior signal-caller.
You can see video of Luck's most impressive play of the game (which we talked about above) at :28 into this video.
2nd and goal, San Jose State 1, 1:05 left in first quarter
Luck, A rush for 1 yard to the SJSU0, TOUCHDOWN, clock 00:57.
That isn't to say Luck doesn't get some help. There are still tough Cardinal football players ready to block for Luck in the trenches, even when he's on the run.
Luck again on a rollout to the right. His tailback Stepfan Taylor goes into pass protection, goes low and cuts out the legs of one of the blitzing Spartans. Fullback Ryan Hewitt leaks out and starts going on an out short pattern toward the right sideline. San Jose State defenders are sitting back in their pursuit of Luck out of the pocket to monitor the recievers, while backside defenders pursue him from behind.
You know what blanket coverage of Luck's receivers means? No one has responsibility on handling Luck.
Now, San Jose State is probably originally weary of a pass on the run, as Luck just burned them on the play previously described. So the Spartans probably want to fail safe any possibilities of being burned again by a crazy Luck pass. But someone has to be monitoring one of the most mobile quarterbacks in football, or he's going to reach for that goal-line. And off he went. And there he scored.
When his primary short read (Hewitt) is being covered well by his defender, Hewitt turns the table and gets a little block from ahead to force the pursuing defender to stumble from behind. That gives Luck the outside angle to reach for the end zone and get the first touchdown of the game. It shows how dangerous Luck can be regardless of situation, because defenses have to respect his ability to run and pass.
You can view video of Luck's rushing score on the first play shown here.
In a poor Saturday for the Pac-12, the Stanford offense looks like the mightiest unit of the conference, and Luck is 90% of the reason why.