Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 11, 2018 at 9:16 pm.

Cardinal faces UC Davis after steamrolling USC

Before last Saturday, the last time the USC had been held to a field goal or less in a game was before many of the current Stanford players were born.

No. 10 Stanford, behind a stout, fast, relentless and versatile defense, pounded No. 17 USC, 17-3. The last time the Trojans had been held to three points or less was 1997, and the Cardinal constantly frustrated true freshman quarterback JT Daniels.

Now, Stanford (2-0) invites a Football Championship Subdivision team to the Farm in UC Davis (2-0) for an 11 a.m. matinee on Saturday. Cardinal star running back Bryce Love won’t play because of an undisclosed injury.

The Cardinal are heavy favorites in their fourth all-time meeting with the Aggies, after producing four sacks and three turnovers against USC.

“That means we have an entire football team,” Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello said, praising the Cardinal defense. “I’ve been going against our defense a long time and I knew what these young guys were up to.”

Stanford has seen a string of dominant defensive linemen over the past few years, including Solomon Thomas (2016) and Harrison Phillips (2017). Now, the Cardinal are guided by defensive end Jovan Swann and others.

And the linebackers, well, UC Davis quarterback Jake Maier (748 passing yards, 59 completion percentage, four touchdowns, one interception) should be studying them.

Linebacker Sean Barton tied for a team-high 10 tackles against USC with a sack; Bobby Okereke had 10 tackles as well and Joey Alfieri had 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for a loss.

Even when Daniels managed to avoid the barrage of linemen and ‘backers, the talented Stanford secondary was waiting to thwart him. Safety Malik Antoine had two interceptions, including one that saved a potential touchdown.

UC Davis is coming off a suffocating defensive performance in a 34-0 win over San Diego — including holding the Toreros to 65 yards on 30 carries.

Love, the runner-up in last season’s Heisman Trophy voting, rushed for 2,118 yards last season. With him out this weekend, senior Cameron Scarlett is expected to get the majority of the carries this week.

The Aggies have been making plays left and right against San Jose State and San Diego, averaging 125 rushing yards and 411 passing yards per game early on.

But it will all come down to how that success translates against a defense that could propel Stanford into the College Football Playoff in January.

“We have a saying around here that ‘there’s a party in the backfield,'” Shaw said. “I don’t think we were that team last year. I challenged them to be that team this year.”