Stanford head coach David Shaw opened up Tuesday’s press luncheon in an unconventional matter with an opening statement, read from hand-written notes on a Stanford football notepad, repeating what he had stated earlier in the day during the Pac-12 coaches’ teleconference.
“First and foremost, we do not fake injuries,” Shaw said. “We never have, we never will…I don’t care what [Washington head coach] Steve Sarkisian thinks he saw, we didn’t do it against Oregon and we’re for sure not going to do it against Washington.”
Sarkisian publicly accused Stanford defensive line coach Randy Hart, who spent two decades as an assistant at Washington, of encouraging his players to fake injuries in order to slow down the Huskies’ offense. Two key players—fifth-year senior captains Shayne Skov and Ben Gardner—went down as Washington drove late in the game to prompt Sarkisian’s accusations.
Shaw said that Gardner and Skov are still battling these injuries and Skov even sat out of practice on Monday in the aftermath of the hyperextension of his surgically repaired knee.
“I believe it’s unprofessional to call out an assistant coach on another team,” said Shaw regarding Sarkisian’s accusation. “It’s unprofessional and it’s disrespectful. The only D-line coach that I know of that’s ever instructed players to fake injury works at the University of Washington and not Stanford. That’s not calling someone out, that’s stating a fact.”
Shaw was referencing Huskies defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, who was suspended for a game in 2010 after admitting to teaching the fake injury ploy to his players for a game against Oregon.
Shaw continued to defend Stanford and, specifically, the program that he runs.
“I have strict instructions from every boss that I have on campus, from the president of the University to the provost to our athletic director, to run a program that’s above reproach, that doesn’t do anything questionable,” Shaw elaborated. “We don’t allow it, we don’t teach it, we don’t coach it.”
The comment from Sarkisian that seemed to irk Shaw the most was his quip that faking injuries was “how they play at Stanford.” Shaw was especially forceful when responding to that statement.
“How we play here at Stanford is averaging 5.5 penalties a game,” Shaw responded. “How we play here at Stanford has led to three BCS bowl games in a row, a Pac-12, a Rose Bowl and an Orange Bowl championship and a 100 percent graduation rate. We’re one of the most well-respected programs in the nation. I’m not going to put that all on the line just to beat Washington.”
When not talking about accusations of fake injuries, Shaw addressed one of the major factors that powered Stanford to victory last Saturday against Washington: its performance on special teams.
Ty Montgomery’s kick returns and Barry Sanders’ punt return may have stolen the show, but the punt coverage unit was equally important and impactful. Unlike many other programs around the country, Shaw and Stanford continue to use key players from offense and defense on special teams units.
“Special teams and particularly coverage units are about running and hitting,” Shaw explained. “You put your best guys at running and hitting out there. At the same time, we don’t worry about if a guy gets hurt. No, the guy plays football. Find me a better guy on a punt coverage team than Skov.”
On the offensive side of things, Stanford struggled to find success in the passing game all evening long. Washington’s cornerbacks locked down Montgomery and junior wideout Devon Cajuste and gave junior quarterback Kevin Hogan very little room for error.
“I think [Washington’s defenders] contributed to us not being in rhythm in the passing game,” Shaw explained. “They are very good, very sound, have very good athletes, and have a very good scheme.”
Hogan struggled to find any throwing lanes and didn’t have one of the better games of his career, finishing 12-of-20 for 100 yards, a touchdown and an interception. With Washington quarterback Keith Price playing impressively on the other side, Hogan’s performance appeared especially mediocre to those skeptical of his abilities.
“He still hasn’t started 12 games,” said Shaw in defense of Hogan. “His ceiling is extremely high. We’re going to go through some more growing pains here and there; he’s going to have a couple more unbelievable games and a couple rough games. He’s not a finished product…He knows he’s not perfect but he’s pushing himself to be as good as he can be.”
Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.