Stanford routed by Kansas State in opener

It didn’t matter who was playing quarterback for Stanford on Saturday.

With senior Jack West and sophomore Tanner McKee splitting time, the Cardinal offense was completely ineffective in a 24-7 loss to Kansas State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The unproductive offense was reminiscent of Stanford’s 2015 season opener, which also kicked off at 9 a.m. Pacific Time. The Cardinal lost that game 16-6 at Northwestern.

A 14-yard touchdown pass from McKee to Brycen Tremayne with 3:16 to play meant Stanford avoided its first shutout since a 42-0 loss to USC in 2006. That was the 1-11 season that ended with the dismissal of coach Walt Harris and the hiring of Jim Harbaugh.

West played five series and completed 8 of 12 passes for 76 yards. McKee played four series and was 15 of 18 for 118 yards. Neither player seemed to earn the starting job. West had two bad overthrows that were intercepted, while Stanford had to burn multiple timeouts when McKee couldn’t get the snap off in time.

Deuce Vaughn ran for 124 yards on 13 carries to lead Kansas State.

Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn (22) is cheered on by wide receiver Malik Knowles (4) as Vaughn sprints past Stanford cornerback Ethan Bonner (13) on his way to the end zone for a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) 

A blown coverage led to a 56-yard pass from Skyler Thompson to Phillip Brooks, and a 6-yard QB keeper by Thompson on the next play put the Wildcats up 7-0 with 3:06 left in the first quarter. Kansas State doubled its lead midway through the second quarter on a 59-yard run by Vaughn on a third-and-13 draw play.

The biggest highlights for Stanford came on defense. Cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly made an acrobatic interception in the Kansas State end zone in which he tapped his foot down just before falling out of bounds. And defensive lineman Tucker Fisk, who played tight end exclusively in his first four years at Stanford, recorded a sack in the second quarter.

Stanford got as close as the Kansas State 30 in the first half, but a holding penalty took it out of field goal range. It then had first-and-10 from the KSU 24 in the third quarter but McKee was sacked twice on three-man rushes, and the Cardinal punted from the 36.

Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee (18) is pressured by Stanford defensive end Aaron Armitage (97) and others as he prepares to throw a pass in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) 

The Stanford run game never got going, with Austin Jones rushing for 25 yards on nine carries. Sophomore E.J. Smith had three carries for 18 yards and four catches for 12 yards with his father, Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith, looking on.

The road gets even harder for Stanford next week. The Cardinal plays at No. 15 USC Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

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Author: Harold Gutmann