Widgets Magazine

Wednesday roundtable: Importance of the season opener

With Stanford football opening the season against a massive underdog in UC-Davis, which went only 5-7 in FCS play last year, the result of the game is really all but certain, barring a miraculous performance from UC-Davis reminiscent of Appalachian State defeating Michigan in 2007. We asked football writers Joseph Beyda, Vihan Lakshman and David Cohn to determine what, other than winning, is most important for the Cardinal to do against UC-Davis with USC looming just a week later.

David: Let me first state that UC-Davis, like any opponent, should not be taken lightly. Michigan State’s fans had a lot of fun at my expense after the Rose Bowl for even suggesting that a particular opponent could be easier than others on a schedule. (For the record, I still think Oregon was a tougher opponent from last year than Michigan State, despite the outcomes in both games. If the Spartans knock off the Ducks at Autzen Stadium, then Spartan fans can make fun of me some more, but I don’t think it will happen.)

That being said, in any football game, injury prevention is of the utmost importance. With senior All-American wide receiver Ty Montgomery already dealing with injuries that may limit him in Saturday’s contest, the Cardinal can ill afford to lose any other playmakers on either side of the ball.

The Cardinal's game against UC-Davis might be an opportunity for some of the

The Cardinal’s game against UC-Davis might be an opportunity for some of the younger players, like Luke Kaumatule (above), to prove they are worthy of a bigger role. (TRI NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily)

With the Cardinal figuring to be heavy favorites against the Aggies, coupled with the fact that the Card have not lost to a team outside of Oregon at home since 2009, Stanford should be looking to get past UC-Davis without losing players to injury.

Joseph: Though David makes a good point about protecting Stanford’s top players, there’s one starting unit that I’d like to see get as many snaps as possible on Saturday afternoon: the Cardinal offensive line.

From everything coming out of the program during training camp, those five junior starters make up the most athletic group up front for Stanford in recent memory, if not in Cardinal history. But they still have to come together as a unit, which is very much a work in progress. The group is really tight off the field; don’t get me wrong. Yet David Shaw has said that the new-look offensive line still hasn’t gelled fully in the trenches, which must happen for that historic recruiting class to live up to its potential.

Even though the offensive line has always been important to Stanford, its successes and failures will only be magnified in 2014. The Cardinal’s running backs this year are built better to speed through an open hole and into space than they are to muscle through defenders at the line of scrimmage, and the departure of Tyler Gaffney at that position also signals a likely dropoff as far as pass protection is concerned.

Both of those factors put more pressure on the Tunnel Workers Union, and with USC’s impressive defensive line licking its chops for that Sept. 6 showdown, there’s a pretty tight timetable for the Stanford front’s development. If the offensive line can build some confidence against UC-Davis, the Cardinal will have a great shot against the Trojans one week later.

Vihan: Joey hit the nail on the head by calling for Stanford’s prodigiously talented, but relatively inexperienced, offensive line to get as many reps as possible during Saturday’s game. On the flip side, I’d like to see the Card’s defensive front seven showcase its depth during Saturday’s game.

A key ingredient in Stanford’s secret formula to slowing down Oregon and surviving the grind of the Pac-12 season has been the ability to rotate up front with virtually no drop-off. With big-time names like Skov, Gardner, Mauro and Murphy moving on to the next level, the Cardinal’s younger players have the chance to step up and become an integral part of the rotation. We know what kind of impact Henry Anderson and A.J. Tarpley can have on a game, but on Saturday, I’ll be looking to see if players like Aziz Shittu, Noor Davis, Luke Kaumatule and Peter Kalambayi can step in with a lot of confidence and make big plays.

The #partyinthebackfield has never been a one man show: It’s a revolving door of menacing talent, with each contributor ready to add to the celebration. Saturday’s game will be a great opportunity to get the party started in 2014 with new faces added to the mix. Establishing strong defensive depth will be important in the long run and right away with the Trojans coming to town in week 2.

David Cohn, Joseph Beyda and Vihan Lakshman are just ready for the 2014-15 season to startregardless of what opponent awaits. Share your enthusiasm for the upcoming Cardinal campaign with them at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu, jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu and vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Joseph Beyda

Joseph Beyda is the editor in chief of The Stanford Daily. Previously he has worked as the executive editor, webmaster, football editor, a sports desk editor, the paper's summer managing editor and a beat reporter for football, baseball and women's soccer. He co-authored The Daily's recent football book, "Rags to Roses," and covered the soccer team's national title run for the New York Times. Joseph is a senior from Cupertino, Calif. majoring in Electrical Engineering. To contact him, please email jbeyda "at" stanford.edu.

About Vihan Lakshman

Vihan Lakshman's journey at The Stanford Daily came full-circle as he began his career as a football beat writer and now closes his time on The Farm in the same role. In between, he has served as an Opinions columnist and desk editor, a beat writer for Stanford baseball, and as a member of The Daily's Editorial Board. Vihan completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematical and Computational Science in 2016, and is currently pursuing a master's in Computational Mathematics. He also worked as a color commentator on KZSU football broadcasts during the 2015 season. To contact him, please send an email to vihan 'at' stanford.edu

About David Cohn

David Cohn '15 is currently a Sports Desk Editor. He began his tenure at the Daily by serving as a senior staff writer for Stanford football and softball, and then rose to the position of assistant editor of staff development. He served as the Summer Managing Editor of Sports in 2014. David is a Biology major from Poway, California. In addition to his duties at the Daily, he serves as the lead play-by-play football and softball announcer for KZSU Live Stanford Radio 90.1 FM.