Stanford players and coaches met with the media Sunday for the last time before the end of final exams to discuss Stanford’s Rose Bowl matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers. The themes from Stanford’s winning streak, head coach David Shaw’s relaxed attitude and the players’ relentless focus on their goals, prevailed once again.
Stanford will not do too much in-depth game planning until after final exams. However, the first glance at Wisconsin and its run-first style — only six teams throw the ball less often than the Badgers — has gotten some Stanford players excited.
Senior outside linebacker Trent Murphy is “excited about the opportunity to play a team that’s a run-first team.” Senior nickelback Usua Amanam expects a “smashmouth football” game that the “old school” fans will really enjoy. Senior defensive end Ben Gardner, a Wisconsin native, had a similar perspective.
“It’s going to be a bloodbath,” Gardner said. “It’s going to be a physical game up front. We’re going to show we can play physical in the Pac-12 as well.”
Shaw wasn’t asked to give too much of a breakdown of Wisconsin just yet. Instead, he focused on a few of the bigger-picture items revolving around the program and college football as a whole.
Shaw, along with many other Stanford coaches, is out on recruiting visits over the next two weeks. Though he emphasized that the Cardinal looks for a very rare type of prospect who combines top football ability with a focus on academics, he acknowledged that Stanford’s Pac-12 championship win is a boost to his recruiting efforts.
“It helps to put on the Stanford jacket with the little Rose Bowl pin,” he said.
Keeping in the tradition of his most recent press conferences, Shaw added a bit of humor to the room. When asked about college football’s upcoming change to a four-team playoff, he took a comedic twist to his support of the move to the playoff. Shaw purposefully “misspoke” when voicing his support for an “eight- [pause and smile] I mean four-team playoff.”
As has also become semi-tradition at a 2012 Shaw press conference, the Stanford head coach weighed in on another Andrew Luck ‘12 comeback performance for the Indianapolis Colts. Earlier that day, Luck led the Colts back from two scores down in the final minutes to throw the game-winning touchdown pass on the game’s final play.
Shaw told the room that he was “running out of words” to describe how well Luck has played in his rookie year. Colts fans certainly are not disappointed, as Luck has put his new team in a great position for a playoff berth at 8-4. A spot in the NFL playoffs would be the only thing that could keep Luck from Stanford’s sideline at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, a conflict that Shaw and Luck both hope he has.
Part of Shaw’s good mood could stem from the promising injury report, as he announced that senior punter Daniel Zychlinski will most likely be back for the Rose Bowl. Zychlinski injured his arm when he could not corral freshman Reed Miller’s low long snap on a punt in time to avoid a big hit from UCLA’s junior outside linebacker Anthony Barr in the team’s first game against the Bruins. If Shaw’s prediction on Zychlinski is correct, he’ll play back-to-back games at the Rose Bowl, missing only last week’s Pac-12 Championship Game.
As for senior defensive lineman Terrence Stephens, his status is much more uncertain. Shaw could not report anything new on Stephens, who has missed the last two games due to a “personal matter.” In Stephens’ absence, junior David Parry and senior Josh Mauro have taken over most of the nose tackle duties and by all accounts have performed very well.
Shaw wasn’t the only one to throw in some humor at the press conference. The lightest moment involving players occurred when senior defensive end Ben Gardner was asked about his famous mullet. Last year, Gardner drew ire and blame for the Fiesta Bowl loss after cutting his hair before the game. His teammates convinced him to keep this year’s mullet until after the bowl game.
Gardner reaffirmed his earlier position that he would cut the hair immediately after the Rose Bowl, drawing an angry look from teammate and fellow senior inside linebacker Shayne Skov. Later that night, Skov reassured fans on Twitter that he would make sure Gardner would not cut the hair until at least after the team’s last game on Jan. 1. However, from the look on Skov’s face, he might have a later haircut date in mind for Gardner.