Paul Sakuma, Associated Press
STANFORD, Calif. — Andrew Luck has been doing things no other quarterback in the country has for most of the last two years. Now he's taking on responsibilities most can only imagine.
For the first time in his career, Luck called his own plays during stretches of No. 7 Stanford's 45-19 victory over UCLA on Saturday night without any input from coaches. No script. No questions. Just Luck.
"We put the formation out there and let Andrew call the play," new coach David Shaw said. "It's 100 percent up to him to get us in the right play. We feel we have a phenomenal quarterback. I don't know if there are too many college quarterbacks that can truly call the game. It's not coming from the sideline. It's coming from him on the field."
That could be a scary thought for opposing defenses.
The Cardinal (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) unleashed the new hurry-up offense with vengeance against UCLA, a game Shaw said he had been plotting to start the scheme all summer. Luck even split out to receiver on several occasions as a decoy — making an acrobatic one-handed catch from receiver Drew Terrell on one play starting behind center — and showed he can do more than just play quarterback.
Call him Coach Luck.
"His plays were a little bit better than mine," Shaw said.
The new responsibilities are rare for a college quarterback or even in the NFL, where Peyton Manning — the player whom Luck is often compared — has mastered the skill. Former coach Jim Harbaugh had talked about letting Luck loose offensively last year, although even he never let the strong-armed and fleet-footed quarterback take his role.
And Luck did it his first time to near perfection.
The Heisman Trophy runner-up last season threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns and had the Cardinal in cruise control against the Bruins, minus a pair of stalled drives in the third quarter. He completed 23 of 27 passes and extended Stanford's winning streak to 12 games, the longest in the nation.
"It is a lot of fun. Our coaches, they challenge us intellectually, as they do the defense. Here's the scheme. Here's how we're attacking the opponent this week and it's up to you to go execute," Luck said. "All the guys will attest to it. We want to make it challenging on ourselves because we know that's going to play an advantage. I think that's why a lot of guys come to Stanford. To be challenged both academically and athletically. It's fun to be in that offense."
The play that could pad Luck's Heisman Trophy resume more than any other so far didn't even come at quarterback.
Early in the first quarter, Luck handed the ball off to Tyler Gaffney and sprinted out to the right side between the cornerbacks and safeties. Gaffney ran left and flipped the ball to Terrell on a reverse, and the receiver lobbed a pass to Luck along the far sideline.
Luck made a one-handed catch and tiptoed the sideline with his left foot for a 13-yard reception that officials initially ruled incomplete. After a review, Luck had only the second reception of his career and first since a loss at Arizona on Oct. 17, 2009.
"It was pretty unbelievable," said tight end Coby Fleener, who had a one-handed snag himself among his two touchdown receptions.
Luck also had some motivation.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered the Friday night pep talk to Stanford players. She talked about keeping things moving, about avoiding mistakes and moving forward.
Apparently the message resonated with Luck.
Stanford also showed off a wildcat formation with Gaffney and other new formations as part of an offensive innovation and imagination that might only be the beginning of the playbook's possibilities.
"When you've got a great player, don't hold him back," Shaw said, crediting the Indianapolis Colts' former offensive coordinator Tom Moore for the quote. "We're trying to let him go."
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
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