The mood around Stanford football was lighthearted again, as Stanford could finally exhale after a dominant Big Game performance. For the first time since Sept. 8 against Duke, Stanford had a comfortable lead at the end of the game, a welcome sight on the Farm.
Certainly adding to the festive mood was the news that Ty Montgomery returned to practice Monday night. Coach David Shaw plans to evaluate how Montgomery feels in practice this week before deciding how much the receiver will play against Washington State, if at all. Still, even if Montgomery does not play on Saturday against an overmatched Cougar squad, this development is a big step towards the starting receiver’s eventual return to the field.
At Cal, Montgomery was not desperately missed, thanks to a dominant performance on the ground and defensively. Shaw thought there were around nine guys who played great defense, including redshirt senior Chase Thomas, who coach thought played maybe the most complete game of his career.
Shaw was especially impressed by a pass rush move Thomas used to get to Cal quarterback Zach Maynard. The move is called an ice pick spin move, a term which no members of the media recognized on Tuesday. This led to the press conference highlight of the season, when Shaw demonstrated the pass rush move on San Francisco Chronicle writer Tom Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald and Shaw have had some tense moments over the course of the season, leading to friendly jeers from around the room sarcastically egging the two on. That moment seemed to signify to the world that Shaw has moved forward from some of his most defensive moments earlier this season, going so far as to add, “Tom and I are buddies.”
The laughs were free-flowing all morning, showing just how much the Big Game victory really meant to the team. Shaw couldn’t contain his laughter when asked whether Joshua Garnett, the 325-pound offensive lineman who has spent some time at fullback in jumbo sets, might be given a carry near the goal line.
When it got back to business, the biggest personnel move discussed was Alex Carter’s promotion to a starting cornerback position. The true freshman is a freak athlete—Shaw called his vertical jump, broad jump, 40-time, and body fat percentage “NFL Combine numbers” at the age of 17—and now is starting to get the feel of the cornerback position.
Carter, whose father played cornerback at Notre Dame before a long NFL career, had an interesting experience two weeks ago in South Bend. His parents and two younger sisters flew to Notre Dame for the game, but everyone in the family wore Notre Dame gear except his mother, who proudly displayed Carter’s Stanford jersey.
“There’s nothing I can do,” Carter said. “The older one wants to go to Notre Dame and the younger one is an Oregon fan.”
The other freshman seeing a dramatic increase in playing time is quarterback Kevin Hogan. The redshirt freshman Hogan, after running read option a couple of times with Remound Wright over the past few weeks, started to see his playbook open up against Cal. This development culminated in a touchdown pass from Hogan to tight end Levine Toilolo. Hogan, who is the best runner among the Stanford quarterbacks, rolled out to his right and found Toilolo in the end zone.
Hogan told the media that his first instinct on that play is to run the ball, and about half the time he runs the play in practice he is able to run the football. However, because Cal was able to defend it well, he was forced to throw, and showed that he can deliver a strike on the run.
Look for Hogan’s role to increase, potentially in the way Ty Montgomery appeared midway through 2011. Stanford historically has tried to run up to ten plays per game with an athletic quarterback, most recently with Alex Loukas. If Hogan continues to have success in practice, he could continue to earn more snaps very soon.