Stanford sophomore Ashton Daniels appeared in 10 games last season as a wildcat quarterback, recording 25 rushes and six pass attempts.
So when he found out Wednesday that he would be Stanford’s starting quarterback in the opener against Hawaii, he was eager to showcase his all-around ability.
“I think that the way I was used last year on the field, it was kind of a misconception that I could only run the ball,” Daniels said. “Just knowing that I have a lot to prove just lit a fire underneath me. Let me go out there and show everyone that I can throw the ball.”
Daniels did that Friday night, completing 25 of 36 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns as Stanford beat Hawaii 37-24 in its season opener. Despite making his first start on the road, Daniels didn’t commit a turnover or take a sack, while also rushing a team-high 11 times for 42 yards.
“His demeanor was great throughout the entire game,” Stanford coach Troy Taylor said. “It’s a pretty big deal on the road. He’s just really calm. He was never flustered. He didn’t play perfectly, you know, but nobody did. But he played really well. And he made great decisions when he was under duress a number of times.”
Cardinal quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Kevin Hogan, Davis Mills and Tanner McKee have all been drafted since 2012. It remains to be seen whether Daniels is next in line – next Saturday’s game at No. 6 USC will be a huge step up in competition — but he certainly passed his first test.
Here are some other big takeaways from Stanford’s win:
Bailey and Yurosek shine
While Daniels was unproven entering the game, Stanford did have one expected standout on each side of the ball, and they both dominated the Rainbow Warriors.
Senior tight end Benjamin Yurosek, the Pac-12 preseason second-team tight end, had a career-high 138 receiving yards, and sophomore David Bailey, who was an honorable mention pick at linebacker, had a career-high three sacks.
Bailey’s trio of sacks were the most by a Cardinal since Harry Anderson had three against Utah in 2014. He added a fourth tackle for a loss and a QB hurry.
“David is a really talented young man — quick, explosive, powerful,” Taylor said. “I think he’s just gonna get better and better as his confidence increases and he becomes just a more experienced player, but it’s all there for him. He’s as talented a guy as I’ve been around, and it’ll be fun to watch him grow.”
Yurosek was able to exploit 1-on-1 matchups against linebackers and hit 100 yards receiving three minutes into the second quarter. He finished with nine receptions, one off his career high.
“He’s an NFL tight end,” Daniels said. “He’s long, he’s strong, he’s fast. You always kind of have him as a safety blanket to get the ball to.”
Yurosek and Bailey were the only Stanford players to receive preseason all-Pac-12 recognition.
Defensive line dominates
The Rainbow Warriors’ run-and-shoot offense isn’t known for putting up big numbers on the ground, but Stanford held Hawaii to minus-5 rushing yards, the fewest for an opponent since 2014 against Washington State.
“Really proud of how they hung in there and they made them a very one-dimensional team,” Taylor said. “Obviously, the running game was non-existent.”
Besides shutting down Hawaii’s running game, Stanford recorded six sacks, including Bailey’s three and the first career sack for junior defensive tackle Anthony Franklin.
The defensive line is the Cardinal’s most experienced unit on the field, so it was important to see it leading the way.
Taylor’s successful debut
Friday may have been one of the longest and most memorable days of Taylor’s life. At 2:45 a.m. Hawaii Time he woke up to texts that Stanford would be joining the ACC next season, and at 8:49 p.m. he would win his first game as Stanford coach.
“Very happy for our guys who have been through so much,” Taylor said. “You know, coaching changes are difficult. And they’ve embraced us and it was a great feeling to get a win and win on the road.”
Kurtenbach: Cal and Stanford are in the ACC and college football is officially dead
Stanford Cardinal open Troy Taylor era with win over Hawaii
Stanford, Cal joining the ACC is ‘really thrilling,’ Tara VanDerveer says
Stanford and Cal join the ACC: The third newcomer, SMU, could be the key to reducing travel demands on the West Coast schools
Stanford and Cal moving to the ACC following the Pac-12’s collapse
Taylor drew up two misdirections that led to touchdowns in the first half – a flea-flicker that led to a 32-yard TD from Daniels and Yurosek, and a jet sweep out of a tight formation near the goal line that led to a 2-yard TD run by receiver Bryce Farrell.
But perhaps more important to Taylor’s long-term success was what happened off the field, with Stanford securing a landing spot in a major conference after the breakup of the Pac-12.
“We’re thrilled to be joining the ACC next year,” Taylor said. “Great conference with great football, great coaches, incredible academic institutions, and I think it’s really a good fit for us. So we’re thrilled and it turned out to be a really good day for the Card.”
NOTES: Playing in his native Oahu in front of 70 friends and family, senior safety Alaka’i Gilman had a team-high seven tackles. The Cardinal practiced at Gilman’s alma mater, Punahou School, on Thursday. … Stanford had eight first-time starters, including three offensive linemen. Eight Cardinal players made their collegiate debut, including freshman receiver Tiger Bachmeier, who had three receptions.