By Joseph Beyda
Despite head coach David Shaw’s insistence in Tuesday’s press conference that senior quarterback Kevin Hogan was not responsible for most of Stanford’s offensive struggles against Arizona State, and that better pass protection, in particular, was needed, offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren defended the play of the Cardinal offensive line later that same day.
“In pass protection, against a pretty aggressive front with a lot of different pressures last game, for the offensive line to not give up a sack was pretty good,” Bloomgren said after Tuesday night’s practice.
Yet Hogan was, in fact, sacked twice and hurried often against Arizona State. On a day that saw Shaw take the blame once again for Stanford’s offensive struggles, it was unclear whether the coaching staff was simply avoiding criticism of its players.
For example, Bloomgren also praised his offensive line’s success in the run game, though the Cardinal only netted 76 rushing yards (98, if you don’t count the two sacks) and averaged 3.5 yards per carry on Saturday. Arizona State came into the game with the nation’s 85th-ranked rush defense.
“We only had 18 called runs the other day, and there wasn’t a whole lot where there wasn’t a hole open,” Bloomgren said. “So I’d say that they’re doing a pretty good job moving people and doing what we want them to do.”
One offensive lineman who has caught the coaching staff’s eye is senior Brendon Austin, who lost the competition for the starting right guard job to junior Johnny Caspers during fall camp.
Austin played primarily as an Ogre before spending significant time at right guard during last week’s game, and Shaw said Tuesday that the battle between Austin and Caspers was raging once again. According to Bloomgren, Austin’s biggest improvements have come in pass protection.
Hogan said that he and his fellow team captains were sending a confident message to the team, noting that the Cardinal still control their own destiny and claiming that there was no reason to panic. However, he also claimed that the offense had to focus more on its preparation.
“People can just hone in on the details of their assignment,” Hogan said, “Just be more focused, locked in during practices and meetings and knowing exactly where they have to be, who they’re getting.”
In 2012, when Stanford lost a second game against Notre Dame, captain Chase Thomas was visibly upset the following week and channeled that disappointment into an eventual Rose Bowl run. Presented with that example, Hogan refused to single out any players who were taking particular ownership of the Cardinal’s struggles this time around.
“Everyone’s really taken it upon themselves,” Hogan said. “All the older guys who are playing, they really care. We all want this to end the right way. There’s no one person that’s caring more than anyone else.”
Shaw would not provide many hints as to the specific changes he would be making to the Cardinal offense, but Bloomgren confirmed that more designed runs for Hogan were on the horizon.
“Even just when we can get him to keep the ball in some of the red zone runs we’ve done historically, he’s been really good,” Bloomgren said. “And we do have to do more of those.”
Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.