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Shaw responds to critics in wake of USC loss

Head coach David Shaw opened up Tuesday’s press luncheon by responding to criticism about Stanford’s play calling in last Saturday’s 20-17 loss against USC.

(SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

Many have questioned the play calling of head coach David Shaw (left) after two late turnovers, including a back-breaking interception in the red zone, doomed the Cardinal in Los Angeles last Saturday. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

“We did not deviate from our game plan,” Shaw said. “We never have and we will not. Nobody complained when we threw the ball 25 times against UCLA and Washington State in victories, but I know how it is when you lose. Everything’s the head coach’s fault, and everything goes to play calling.”

Some critics blame the loss on Shaw and his red-zone play calling, especially after Stanford’s final two trips to the red zone came up empty. In the third quarter, Shaw elected to throw the ball on first down at the USC 19-yard line. A loss of four yards on the throw pushed the Card back, and after an 11-yard run by Anthony Wilkerson, Shaw again chose to throw the ball on third-and-3 instead of sticking to the run. The pass was incomplete and the subsequent field goal was blocked.

On Stanford’s next trip to the red zone, Shaw went with the Wildcat formation on first-and-goal from the 6-yard line and the play again lost 4 yards. After an incompletion, Stanford was forced to throw on third-and-goal from the 10-yard line and Hogan’s attempted slant pass to Montgomery was intercepted.

“You can say what you want, that it’s all on Coach Shaw,” Shaw said. “That’s fine… But to think that the game goes down to red-zone play calling when we’ve been close to the top of the nation for years and been very good, that we can’t throw a slant on third down so every incompletion or interception turns into ‘We should just run the ball,’ that makes no sense. I’m comfortable with what we do. We’ve got to execute better. We can’t get a field goal blocked and we can’t throw an interception in the red zone. That’s the difference in the game.”

After the game, Shaw was seen waiting outside the USC locker room and shaking hands with some of the players. Shaw clarified that he only went to the locker room in order to seek out USC head coach Ed Orgeron. Shaw was unable to find Orgeron on the field after the game as the fans rushed onto the field.

“I believe in the postgame handshake,” Shaw said. “I think it’s right, I think it’s a great thing about sports, and I wanted to make sure that I got a chance to shake his hand after the game.”

Despite having limited USC to only 20 points — including just three in the second half — Stanford’s defense still feels that it could have done better, especially on the game’s final drive; USC converted a fourth-and-2 on its final drive on its way to the game-winning 47-yard field goal by kicker Andre Heidari.

“We come out trying to play a perfect game, trying to be great every game,” said senior defensive tackle David Parry. “Against USC, every member of the defense probably has a play or two that they want back. Letting up or making a mistake that one time and having those pay so costly in the grand scheme of the game is frustrating.”

Despite the frustration and disappointment, the Card will need to quickly regroup from the loss before facing Cal this Saturday.  Even though Cal limps into the matchup with just a 1-10 record on the season, the Bears seem to always give Stanford problems when the Cardinal least expects them, especially at Stanford Stadium. In 2009, Stanford lost to the Bears after big wins against Oregon and USC in consecutive weeks, and in 2011, Stanford had to eke out a three-point win after a deflating loss to Oregon the week before.

“Coming off a loss, our guys can’t wait to get back on the field,” Shaw said. “There’s going to be energy and there’s going to be fire because it is the Big Game and because there’s that Big Game atmosphere.”

Stanford and Cal will kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Stanford Stadium.

Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson is the football editor at The Stanford Daily. He has served as a beat reporter for football, baseball and men’s soccer and also does play-by-play broadcasting of baseball and men’s soccer for KZSU. Michael is a sophomore from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. majoring in computer science. To contact him, please email him at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.
  • Dong Fuller

    Both of these coaches are great the coach I do not get is Notre Dames Brian Kelly. He is a complete and total fat slob and I wish he would get his arse out of South Bend. He is a MAC coach and knows nothing about preparing his players for the season much less a national Championship. His play calling is down right childish . I would never send me kid to that catholic dark ages school. Notre Dame is not being fair to its players by not being able to recruit every year. They will not get the defense they need to push forward and they will be another 7 or 8 win team next year.

  • Ben Factor

    USC follower here. Both defenses were footballoutsiders.com top 10, featuring fearsome front 7s. I know that Stanford pounded Oregon, but Oregon’s run defense is not quite in the same leagues as USC’s run defense.

    USC couldn’t run at all in the second half. Helton kept trying, and trying on obvious running downs. Dumb. Shaw read the situation correctly. Stanford certainly was not going to succeed running on every play, and particularly on every first down play.

    That turned a large share of the outcome over the QBs. But they were rushed pretty good on many plays.

    Kessler was sufficiently rattled that he missed 4 or 5 open targets even when he had time. He also hurried his progressions and threw to a sub-optimal target at least twice. And of course, he fumbled just before the first INT.

    I didn’t follow Hogan as closely. It seemed like he outplayed Kessler in Q3. Obviously, the rush pressure led to some key errors in Q4.

    After a rather poor second half, Kessler finally made some plays on the last possession. And that was the game.

    USC compromises its standards more for athletes, and over five years, USC signed more than twice as many 4-star and 5-star players than did Stanford. Pat Haden would hire David Shaw in a New York minute, for many sound reasons. If David Shaw were coaching USC’s skill players and overall team speed, it would be all over for the rest of the Pac-12.

    Count your blessings. You’re witnessing the golden age of Stanford football. As USC followers learned under Carroll, it doesn’t go on forever.

  • brianc6234

    People are making too big of a deal over this loss. The last two years the Stanford-USC games were really close and USC could have easily won. You have to go back to 2009 for a bad game. When you lose by a field goal everyone wants to point fingers. Maybe USC’s players just really wanted to win. Lee made a great catch at the end of the game and that was a great kick to take the lead. That’s football for you.

  • Tahoe Duck

    “Oregon’s run defense is not quite in the same leagues (sic) as USC’s run defense.”? Seriously? Gaffney ran for 158 yards on just 24 carries against SC. It took him 45 to gain 156 vs. Oregon. Either way, thank you, SC.

  • Fight On!!

    David Shaw is a class act.. waiting outside sc locker room just to handshake coach O.. it doesn’t get any better than this..

    #1 reason i’ll never forget this upset cuz USC had 50 scholarship players on the field versus Stanford’s 80-85 scholarship players???????????

    and yes, it took stanford 24 carries to reach 158 yards against USC vs 45 carries & 156 yards against Oregon.. That’s cuz usc players played the entire game without any substitutions..okay maybe 1 or 2..

    USC 50 vs Stanford’s 80-85 scholarship players.. hmmm..

  • Ben Factor

    No, it’s not in the same league. You can count yards, or you can look at sustained drives and time of possession. Hogan did not have to win the Oregon game; he was put in a position in which HE had to win the USC game.

    Because of the spectacular Oregon offense, opponents are almost always playing from behind, and must pass a lot in the hope of keeping pace (rarely works). I assume that Oregon recruits with that in mind. It’s not a coincidence that you have some good secondary players. Anyway, the Oregon defense doesn’t have to get pounded on one run play after the next.

    Stanford was able to control the Oregon offense, probably in some measure because your QB was not 100%. Part of that Stanford success came from long, sustained drives. Stanford eschewed the pass in order to slow down the game. Probably, as Oregon adjusted to Stanford’s strategy, Oregon became more vulnerable to the pass, but so long as Gaffney et al could keep moving the chains, why pass more? The crucial stat was not yards per carry; what mattered was number of first downs and time consumed to achieve each first down.

    I don’t think Oregon’s front seven had experience with that kind of play–in practice or in a game. A traditional power run offense plays to USC’s strength. It’s what they practice against every day. If you want to embarrass USC, play offense like ASU…or Oregon.

    Games are often decided by match-up. What does your team practice and do well? Does the opponent have its own strengths that are likely to challenge what you know how to do, and have done.

    Really, what do I know? But that’s what I think, anyway.

    By the way, I’m a fan of the Oregon approach. I’d like to see USC shoot for Briles and the like. I would be delighted if Chip Kelly quit the NFL after 2014, and came to coach at USC in 2015. It’s a lot easier to recruit to L.A. than to Eugene, and Kelly would have a field day here. (As I wrote above, so would David Shaw, but with a different offense.)

  • Ben Factor

    Don’t be so philosophical and mature. You brainiacs make me sick. :)

  • Garrett Stallins

    Well, Stanford ran the ball pretty successfully. Some would say more successfully than against oregon.

  • 35 vs 85 Scholarship Game

    50 USC Scholarship players vs 85 Stanford Scholarship players..

    USC injury lists 15 of the 50 USC Scholarship players’ status as, “WILL MISS THE REMAINDER OF THE SEASON”..

    Stanford listed ONLY 2 players, “out for the season”

    So this “UPSET” win, seems more like 35 USC Sholarship Players vs 85 Stanford Scholarship Players?????????

    35 vs 85 Sholarship players in this game..

  • Dean

    Typical Shaw. Mr no responsibility. My players just didn’t execute my brilliant playcalls; oh boohoo, poor me ); I’m getting awful, awful tired of this shitbag’s arrogance. When your redzone offense is ranked 100th in fbs in touchdowns and you are the one who specifically calls redzone offense, YOU are the one who has the fucking problem. Wake up you delusional fucking egomaniac dumbfuck! YOUR RZ playcalling is dismal as dogshit. Your team fails to convert drives to touchdowns when YOU take over. Get over your own fucking self-serving, delusional, egotistical tricky dick playbook and stick to your teams strengths for Gods sake. How fucking hard is that? Did you watch the Oregon game just one week ago? Do you remember what you did wrong at Utah? Do you have fucking amnesia or are you just mentally retarded? Run it up the gut; enough of this fancy pansy bullshit. Your team is not a bunch of lightweight, pansy ass, tricky dicky bullshitters like Oregon. Your team is not a balanced attack. You have one of the toughest O lines in college football and they like a hardnosed run first game. And your just gunna leave them hanging in the RZ after they fought and bled there way down the field and then call a wildcat on first and goal or a pass play on 3rd and 2 or a double reverse flee flicker up my ass and around the corner on 3rd and 1 and them blame them for not executing your stupid, ridiculous out of character plays? How dare you, you delusional, arrogant fucking asshole. That’s like recruiting sumo wrestlers to wrestle and then having them play croquet. Oh and any idiot can tell you that the wildcat has always sucked, you delusional fuck. USC 2 years ago? There’s that selective amnesia again. How about you take some responsibility, just this one fucking time, for your shit fucking playcalling that has singlehandedly worked Stanford out of the national title race in games against Utah and now USC and maybe, just maybe, you’ll save just one scrap of dignity for your pathetic manhood. Someone had to say it.

    -An angry fan