Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Sunday, November 20, 2011
What we learned about Stanford

By Kevin Gemmell

STANFORD, Calif. -- Five things that we learned about the Cardinal in their 31-28 win over Cal in the 114th Big Game.
  1. Ryan Hewitt is a monster: Well, we already knew this one, but the fullback/tight end/wideout/everything-hybrid was all over the field Saturday night for Stanford. He caught seven passes for 64 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass. He carried twice for 7 yards, both coming on third-and-1 scenarios on the same drive in the fourth quarter. He converted one for 3 yards and another for 4.
  2. A win is a win: And this team needed one. It doesn’t matter how. Rarely are football games beauty contests. And this one was far from a looker. But coming off of the Oregon debacle, it was the kind of game the Cardinal needed. They trailed early, but didn’t panic. They were pressured late and didn’t crack. It was a nice reminder for the team that even when Stanford falls behind, it can still catch up -- a lesson it seemed to forget against the Ducks.
  3. All hope is not gone: What a weird 24 hours in college football. A lot of crazy things have to happen -- like, say, four of the eight teams ranked ahead of the Cardinal all lose in one weekend. Oh wait, that happened. We’ll see what the BCS picture looks like later today when the new BCS standings are released. Remember, Stanford still has a major disadvantage in the computer rankings, so don’t get your hopes up too much. But it should be interesting to see how human voters make their peace with the USC-Oregon-Stanford triangle.
  4. Andrew Luck rebounds nicely: Either he was amped up for this game or he miscalculated his receivers’ speed because of the rain. Early on he was over-throwing everything. But he settled down and turned in a nice performance. Not over-the-top great. Not horrific. The pick wasn’t his fault (which you can say about five of them this season) and there was one dropped touchdown. Not on him. It was a good, steady performance while some other Heisman hopefuls wilted. No one seems to be able to run away with it. But if Luck can have another steady performance next week, the Trophy will likely be his.
  5. The tight ends are back: There you guys are. We missed you last week. Speaking with Coby Fleener after the game, the big man expressed his personal frustration over the performance of the unit last week. Fleener caught four balls for 64 yards and Levine Toilolo had three catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-8 Toilolo had a drop, but made up for it a couple of plays later, using his height advantage on a 4-yard touchdown jump ball. With the injured Zach Ertz questionable for next week, the duo got the job done. But they are so much better as a trio.