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Stanford set to take on Maryland in ‘home’ bowl game
Senior running back Remound Wright (center) has scored 8 touchdowns this season, of which 6 have come in the team's last two games after junior center Graham Shuler (left) and the offensive line finally turned in back-to-back strong performances. Senior wide receiver Devon Cajuste (right) will look to step up as the team's No. 1 receiver after Ty Montgomery was ruled out due to a shoulder injury. (BOB DREBIN/stanfordphoto.com)

Stanford set to take on Maryland in ‘home’ bowl game

In the end, Stanford will, in fact, get to play a game at Levi’s Stadium this season.

Granted, it’s 25 days later than the Cardinal (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) wanted, and against Maryland (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) instead of the Pac-12 South champion, but on the tail end of a disappointing season, Stanford will at least have the chance to make one final statement against a Power 5 opponent and hit the 8-win plateau.

“We’re trying to send the seniors out on the right note, go into the offseason on a good note, to start with the younger guys about aspirations for next year,” said head coach David Shaw. “But it starts with a bowl victory.”

Much has been made of the fact that Stanford is traveling just 11 miles to play, while Maryland will be making a cross-country trek of over 2,000 miles. But Shaw has been quick to warn his players that the environment likely won’t be as friendly to the “home team” as most think.

“It’s not going to feel like a home game,” Shaw said. “It’s going to feel like a foreign country. Different locker room. Different stadium. The colors are pretty close, which is great. But it’s going to be a different world.”

It’s not a home game, but it certainly isn’t a road game, either — Stanford’s allotment of 9,000 tickets has been mostly sold, and the 2014 edition of the Cardinal will take the field in their home red jerseys one final time.

In doing so, one of the more memorable senior classes in program history — including Henry Anderson, Blake Lueders, Kyle Olugbode, David Parry, A.J. Tarpley, Jordan Williamson and others — will make its swan song appearance against the Terps.

Conspicuously missing from that effort, however, will be senior wide receiver Ty Montgomery, who has played his final game in a Stanford uniform and will sit out the bowl with the lingering effects of a shoulder injury suffered in the first quarter of Big Game.

“To be honest, if this game was in a week, a week and a half, he’d be full go,” Shaw said. “There’s still a little lack of strength, a little soreness, which lets you know it’s not completely back.”

However, don’t expect the Stanford offense to miss a beat because of that. Against UCLA, senior quarterback Kevin Hogan didn’t let Montgomery’s absence hold him back, spreading the ball around to senior Devon Cajuste, sophomore Austin Hooper, junior Michael Rector and the remainder of his talented receiving corps as he hit nine different receivers on a sparkling 16-of-19 day for 234 yards.

He got a lot of help from his offensive line, which finally came together in a big way against the Golden Bears and the Bruins in the Cardinal’s final two games to give him great pass protection while opening nice holes for senior running back Remound Wright, who more than doubled his career touchdown production in those two games.

Expect Wright and the running game to be a significant part of the Cardinal’s formula — as always — against a Maryland defense that certainly hasn’t played to its potential all season, ranking in the bottom three of the Big Ten in both rushing and passing defense. That said, senior defensive end Andre Monroe has been a monster, ranking second in the Big Ten in sacks and 10th in tackles for loss, and sophomore cornerback Will Likely has been a stalwart in limiting opposing No. 1 receivers.

That could certainly change on Tuesday, though, as the 5-foot-7 Likely could find himself matched up against the 6-foot-4, tight end-like Devon Cajuste, who could present a serious physical mismatch to the relatively small Maryland secondary. In addition, the Terps have also had issues with teams beating them over the top, which has traditionally been one of Hogan’s strengths with Rector going deep.

And on the other side of the ball, Stanford’s defense is going to be free to wreak havoc on the Maryland backfield. The Maryland offensive line has been the team’s biggest weakness this season, providing less-than-adequate run blocking for whoever the team gives the ball and giving sixth-year senior quarterback C.J. Brown an unfair amount of pressure that’s limited his accuracy all season.

Stanford is a team that can get pressure against even good offensive lines rushing four defenders. It’s fair to assume that Lance Anderson’s defense will have another sparkling day against a Maryland offense that only mustered 6 rushing yards against Michigan State in an ugly loss.

In a season marred by inconsistency and questions, one thing has been a given: Stanford has dominated outmatched competition. Given how the Cardinal outmatch the Terrapins on both sides of the ball, more of the same wouldn’t be a surprise. As to that, only time will tell — at 7 p.m. on ESPN on Dec. 30.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park '16 honestly isn't quite sure what he does for The Stanford Daily anymore, apart from the fact that he still writes a lot about football, gets cranky at the sports editors and scares away the new freshmen. He also writes for (or has written for) The Bootleg, Sports Illustrated and MLB.com and has been a four-time Managing Editor at The Daily. After graduating in June with degrees in Chemical Engineering and Computer Science, he's begrudgingly staying on for his master's in Chemical Engineering as well. Please feel free to bother him at dhpark 'at' stanford.edu.