After yet another week in which the Cardinal seemed unable to find the end zone, head coach David Shaw took personal responsibility for Stanford’s uninspiring offensive performance.
“There’s been a lot of criticism of our offense and I deserve it,” Shaw stated in his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “[Our personnel] are too talented…not to be able to score points.”
Shaw promised that there would be changes to the offense’s game plan going forward, but he remained coy on many of the details. The fourth-year head coach did indicate that he needed to do a better job of designing strategies that would get the ball in the hands of his numerous playmakers.
“In spots, you’ve seen what our guys can do,” Shaw said. “You’ve seen what Ty Montgomery can do with the ball. You’ve seen Michael Rector average 30 yards a catch…You’ve seen Kelsey Young break tackles and make big plays. There is absolutely no reason why that can’t continue for an entire game.”
Quarterback Kevin Hogan’s performance last Saturday was one of the few things to escape Shaw’s criticism, with the coach indicating that it was “definitely not [Hogan’s] worst game.” The two-time Rose Bowl starter needs “better protection” and “more help [from the coaches]” in order to find his rhythm, according to Shaw. As he was discussing what it would take for backup Evan Crower to see action, Shaw stated that there would need to be “a lead”, crushing any prayers of fans that a new quarterback could unseat Hogan in the way that Hogan unseated the struggling Josh Nunes in 2012.
Defensively, turnovers are the primary focus of the team.
“We need to get more turnovers to put the offense out on shorter fields,” said senior safety Jordan Richards. “It’s hard to drive the ball 80 yards and get points every time. As a defense, we need to do better at getting takeaways, stripping footballs and [catching] interceptions so we can help out our offense.”
When asked whether some of Stanford’s offensive struggles were a result of other teams’ defenses locking down on his play-calling tendencies, Shaw responded that he “did not believe so.” Shaw is often criticized for drawing from a relatively small set of plays to move the ball forward, but the coach does not see this as a problem at all.
“I like building tendencies,” he said. “It’s a good thing…At some point in time, you’ll break those tendencies but you’ll break them when you want to.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s matchup against Oregon State, Shaw and others identified stopping Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion and finding a way through the tough OSU defense as areas of critical importance to the team.
Mannion, in particular, presents a unique challenge with his powerful arm and pro-style judgment.
“He definitely is up there with the strongest quarterbacks I’ve ever faced,” said junior cornerback Alex Carter.
The OSU playmaker has struggled some this year, but possesses the potential to quickly change the game with his ability to throw deep passes and find open receivers. Shaw also identified the scheme of Oregon State’s defense as a potentially difficult obstacle to overcome.
“On the outset, it looks very simple. But it’s not simple,” Shaw said. “They typically don’t have the tallest guys, but they move quickly.”
The Beavers also possess a defensive line that is “difficult for [Stanford] to run against” and have a secondary oriented toward getting as many guys near the ball carrier as possible.
Stanford will have to combat Mannion and running back Storm Woods without the services of defensive end Aziz Shittu, and likely without defensive tackle David Parry, who sustained a leg injury against Arizona State. Parry may be back for the following week’s game at Oregon. Offensively, Devon Cajuste is considered questionable for the Cardinal, and will likely play only in considerably reduced minutes.
Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.