By Joseph Beyda
Head coach David Shaw confirmed on Tuesday that junior safety/nickelback Zach Hoffpauir will miss this Saturday’s game at No. 5 Oregon, while fifth-year senior nose tackle David Parry remains questionable.
Hoffpauir left the second quarter of the Cardinal’s 38-14 win against Oregon State with an injury. If Parry, who hurt his leg the previous week at ASU, is ruled out as well — the coaching staff should know his status for sure in the next couple of days — Stanford will be down two starters in the game in which its defensive depth will be tested the most heavily.
“He’s one of a kind,” said fifth-year senior inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley of Parry. “You’re not going to find a guy that gets more penetration and can physically manhandle someone like he can.”
The Cardinal survived similar attrition on the defensive line against the Ducks last year, when they were without then-fifth-year senior Ben Gardner, and they would look to a combination of freshman Harrison Phillips and junior Nate Lohn if Parry is unavailable.
Another freshman, Terrence Alexander, is expected to take many of Hoffpauir’s snaps at nickelback.
The only defense that has limited Oregon’s quick-strike offense in 2014 belongs to Arizona, which defeated the Ducks for a second straight year by holding them to just 24 points on Oct. 21.
“Oregon’s going to make their plays,” Shaw said. “They just are. Quarterback’s too good. Running back is too good. Receivers are too good. But [Arizona] kept those minimized.”
Shaw was particularly effusive in his praise of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, whose mobility, strength and intellect have taken him to the top of many Heisman and NFL Draft boards.
“Two years ago, the first time I saw him, I said, ‘Here’s the combination of Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck,’” Shaw said. “The last couple of years, he’s been the best player in college football. I really don’t think it’s been that close. There have been a lot of guys who people have fallen in and out of love with over the last couple of years; this guy has been consistent.”
Other than the Wildcats and the Cardinal, no team has beaten Mariota and the Ducks since 2011. In its four losses to Stanford and Arizona since the start of the 2012 season, Oregon has been held to just 21 points per game; in its 30 wins over that same stretch, Oregon has scored just over 50 points per game.
To keep the Ducks offense off the field, the Cardinal will turn to a running game that has struggled at times this season.
“We still need to run the ball,” Shaw said. “We still need to have some measure of ball control, just because it limits the number of possessions that the other team will have, because you don’t want to give that offense too many opportunities.”
Shaw expressed his support of the reforms adopted by the Pac-12 on Monday, including provisions to guarantee athletic scholarships for four years and cover medical expenses for injured athletes after they leave school.
“I think these changes are all the big ones that needed to have happened now,” Shaw said.
He mentioned that the reforms will make it easier for former Cardinal football players, specifically those who have left for the NFL and “are not making huge money,” to return to school to finish their degrees.
Along with the new Pac-12 reforms being releases this week, the NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) report was also released. Stanford University received a GSR of 98 percent in the latest report, including 20 teams with a 100 percent GSR. The rates are based upon classes entering from 2004-07 and graduating within six years.
Stanford football received a GSR of 99 percent. It is the highest mark in the Pac-12 and ranks second nationally among Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institutions.
Junior center Graham Shuler was finishing some homework on Monday night when he, and the rest of the Cardinal’s starting offensive line, received a text message from left tackle Andrus Peat.
“‘We’ve got to play our most physical game,’” Peat’s message read. “’We’ve got to close our gaps. We’ve got to use our eyes. We’ve got to communicate.’”
“You get goosebumps a little bit,” Shuler said.