One by one they poured in. Patrick Peterson was first. Then came Le’Veon Bell. Tyrann Mathieu was next.
“Turn up young king,” he wrote to Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey on Twitter.
Week one of the 2016 season, and McCaffrey is already king.
“WOW!” added Patrick Peterson, a former All-American at LSU now with the Arizona Cardinals.
On Twitter, Peterson tweeted the following:
“(Christian McCaffrey is) starting right where he left off huh? #MommaThereGoesThatMcCaffrey.”
Indeed he did.
McCaffrey, following a season for which there is no precedent, ran for two touchdowns and 126 yards in a 26-13 win over Kansas State. He added another 40 yards receiving on seven receptions, and his 41-yard touchdown run at the end of the fourth quarter sealed a win that was never really in doubt, but that was still too close by his estimate.
“By nature, he’s not a patient human being. He wants everything to be perfect,” Stanford coach David Shaw said afterwards. “Like many players, he drives himself and he drives his teammates. At the end of the game, he kept saying it, `We’re so much better than this. We’re so much better.’ It’s not about his yards, not about his carries, it’s about our machine when we’re humming.”
Stanford was never quite humming, even with McCaffrey doing what he does best – and sometimes even when his best was waved off, as it was with a 97-yard punt return in which he was never touched but an illegal block set Stanford back to the two.
“There is a reason why there are no 97-yard punt returns because you should not catch the ball on the 3-yard line. He knows that,” Shaw said. “But what he did after he caught it, wow, that’s the best punt return that doesn’t count I’ve ever seen.”
Ryan Burns, in his first career start, began quite brilliantly, completing his first 10 passes, including a beautiful 40-yard bomb to Michael Rector.
It wouldn’t last. Burns, and Stanford’s offense as a whole, came to a grinding halt, picking up just one first down in the entire second half.
It was, in essence, the Stanford everyone thought it would be: Christian McCaffrey with supplemental contributions elsewhere, and an impenetrable defense.
The defense may have actually been more effective than McCaffrey was on offense. It posted eight sacks, logged a safety and forced two turnovers. Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz completed just 16 of his 34 attempts for 207 yards in his first start on the road, and not a single Wildcat ran for more than 50 yards.
“Not the prettiest game,” McCaffrey wrote on Twitter later, “but we’ll take a win.”
Yes, the Cardinal will. For while it was certainly not Stanford’s prettiest performance, it was a win, and when contrasted with last year’s ignominious loss to Northwestern – which all but eliminated Stanford from playoff contention from day one – it really doesn’t matter how ugly it may have been.