Stanford got blown up a couple of times by stunt blitzes. With left tackle Jonathan Martin and right guard David DeCastro the lynchpins of the Cardinal offensive line, Duke focused on attacking the interior. Duke's strongside defensive end took advantage of gaping holes left by the left guard and center to attack on two passing downs.
When Stanford started sealing the left side, they attacked on the right side of the formation on an outside stunt with the defensive ends twisting. Then they stunted the linebackers to get Andrew Luck on the ground again.
It's a credit to Luck that he took almost no sacks and was able to even get throws off (some nearly completed) against pressure, but it's a worrying development for Stanford fans--their offensive line doesn't look nearly as good as it did last season. Improvement needs to come fast.
Andrew Luck looked good. Not great, just good, which is enough to beat probably 115 FBS programs when the rest of the Cardinal are functional. His mechanics were all in place as always, and his footwork has never looked better. He hit down the easy throws, particularly on screens and against cushion coverage. He took advantage of mismatches with his incredible tight ends and used rollouts or quick outs to find receivers in space. And he didn't take negative plays either when sacks seemed likely. His release was high enough to avoid rushers and soar above the arms of intermediate pass defenders.
But the timing on some of his more difficult throws were off, and it kept Duke in the game for most of the half. Luck waited too early. His pick-six was probably the mistake of his receiver, who tipped that ball back and up to the safety. But otherwise it was more of a conventional performance--making the easy throw and letting others handle pressure.
Of course, he had some problems making decisions because of his pass protection (more on that later), and the humidity was probably tough to adjust to, but it's something to keep your eye on with Luck as he enters Pac-12 play.
(And yeah, this is like whining about free samples of pilzner. Might not be the greatest pilzner you've ever imbibed, but it's still pilzner.)
The growth of Stepfan Taylor is somewhat offseting the Cardinal run blocking youth. The Cardinal have some young offensive linemen up front, and while they're imposing and can push around players, they aren't executing as consistently as they did last year. They don't seal off on power plays quite as well and that helps defenders recover and blow up the play before the running backs can attack the second level. Stanford is already down 40 rushing yards per game and 0.2 rushing yards per carry from last season, and we haven't even hit conference play.
But the good news is that Taylor is a much improved running back. He's stronger, he breaks tackles, and he's able to keep moving forward when defenders are on him. His pass protection is iffy though, which could be something defenses will try to exploit on pass protection.
The Blue Devils came out with an excellent offensive gameplan. Duke used misdirection to take advantage of aggressive defenders. The Cardinal front seven got duped on a play-action misdirection, half rollouts by moving the pocket, and many outside screens. Duke seemed to enjoy great success with that effort.
But all that led to was three Duke missed field goals. Silly Blue Devils.
David Cutcliffe did all he could. He went for it on 4th down, fake punted it successfully, even executed a great onside kick in an unexpected situation. If only Cutcliffe wasn't at a Division III program, he could really make upsets happen.
Shayne Skov is a beast. Vontaze Burfict might get all the pub, but Skov isn't too far behind in terms of ferocity, and will probably be a Pac-12 inside linebacker to be reckoned with. He used a rip move to force himself behind an offensive guard (and generally got outside leverage on any offensive linemen he faced to get to the quarterback), he tipped and broke up what could've been a big completion on a post route. Eleven tackles, two for a loss, and the aforementioned sack.
Stanford pass defense giving up a lot of yards. The Cardinal were definitely giving up a lot of cushion during the second half, but Duke's quarterback did manage to make a lot of nice throws and beat Cardinal coverage throughout the game. The Stanford defensive backs don't look horrible, but giving up a 72% completion clip and 7.8 yards per attempt to the Blue Devils won't be satisfactory down the road, particularly when they face all the strong Pac-12 quarterbacks on their schedule.
On the other hand... The Cardinal front seven is giving up less than one rushing yard a carry, most of that due to the sacks (eight in all this season). We know where the focus of this defense is. We'll see how well the front seven can disrupt Pac-12 offensive lines.