More to No. 6 Stanford than Andrew Luck
DURHAM, N.C. (AP)
With Pac-12 play starting this week, that can only help them.
The defensive starters still haven't allowed anyone into the end zone. The overlooked ground game rolled up 205 yards. Ten receivers caught passes.
That across-the-board production made Luck's latest four-touchdown performance seem like an afterthought.
The 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist threw four TD passes for the fifth time in a 44-14 rout of outmanned Duke that kept the sixth-ranked Cardinal (2-0) unbeaten heading into the conference opener at Arizona.
''The running game, I thought, was great,'' coach David Shaw said. ''I thought it was good from start to finish. We were hitting four, five yards a chunk early on. We were just waiting for the breakout run.''
And the defense, Shaw said, ''did a great job of responding to adversity all day.''
That was perhaps most evident during the sequence shortly before halftime that ultimately decided the game and erased virtually any chance the Blue Devils (0-2) had of pulling their biggest upset in decades.
Duke took a rare Luck interception 76 yards for a touchdown to pull to 10-7, recovered an onside kick and took over at the Stanford 39.
That's when the Cardinal defense got rolling.
''I don't think we expected them to blitz that much coming into it,'' Duke receiver Conner Vernon said. ''We tried to pick it up. Sometimes we did, and sometimes we didn't.''
Linebacker Chase Thomas sacked Sean Renfree twice in a three-play span during a drive that netted minus-15 yards. That was followed by a 13-yard punt that didn't even make it back to where the Duke drive started. In all, the Cardinal sacked Renfree five times.
''It starts with the guys up front,'' Thomas said.
And it ended with Luck doing what he does best - leading touchdown drives. From there, he led the Cardinals into the end zone on four straight possessions before giving way to backup Brett Nottingham, who polished off the rout with a touchdown drive of his own.
But there was so much more to the Cardinal's offense than Luck. Stepfan Taylor rushed for 75 yards, Geoff Meinken added 40 of his 61 yards on one particularly impressive run and Jeremy Stewart dashed 30 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter.
They were the key components of a ground game that outrushed Duke 205-30.
''The bottom line is, they had 11 on the field and we can only block 10,'' Shaw said. ''So someone's got to be unblocked. We're trying to challenge the running backs. You've got to make somebody miss or break the tackle.''
With so many people playing key roles again for the Cardinal, they continued to look like a prime contender to reach the first Pac-12 championship game, keep a firm hold of their spot in the top 10 and remain in the BCS conversation for a second straight year.
''As far as the ranking stuff, I don't think we get too caught up in that,'' Luck said. ''We like to watch football and see what other teams are doing, maybe see what games are playing, but I don't think we get caught up in, `Oh, this team looked great this week,' `We should be ahead of them,' or `This team looked so good, they should be ranked higher.' We sort of let all that other stuff take care of itself.''