The Cardinal’s looming visit to Eugene was on everybody’s mind as Stanford concluded its second practice of the week this Tuesday. The Stanford-Oregon rivalry has grown into one of the premier matchups of the Pac-12, and despite some struggles for both teams this season, it will still likely attract significant national attention.
For Stanford head coach David Shaw, however, this week is just like any other. Sure, there is a more difficult quarterback to stop in Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota and a particularly hostile road environment to get ready for, but ultimately, the Cardinal will not be preparing differently from how they would for any other game.
“[We haven’t done] anything extraordinary at practice,” Shaw said. “Where we are in the season right now, it’s not like this [game] is the Super Bowl. We have other games to win if we can try and find a way to win this one. The big thing for us is just to recognize what they do well and to make sure that we do what we do well.”
In some sense, however, the upcoming competition will go a long way toward determining whether Stanford can salvage anything from this season. The Cardinal have lost three consecutive games to ranked competition, and while the remaining teams on their schedule are certainly not gimmes, this visit to Oregon likely represents their last opportunity to make a big statement.
Such a statement would require a standout performance by the Stanford offense. The Cardinal did a better job of spreading the ball out wide and varying their offensive pace last Saturday against Oregon State. As it stands, signs point to a continued emphasis on this type of play-calling going forward.
“We have to have some variety in our offense. Our personnel dictates that,” Shaw stated. “I think we can still be a physical running football team…but I think also we have to spread people out a little bit. [We need to run] some screens and some quick gains with quarterback movements while also being able to throw the ball down field to Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector.”
Shaw also again defended the recent play of quarterback Kevin Hogan, saying he “hasn’t had a bad game” yet. Hogan impressed Stanford fans greatly in his first start away from Stanford Stadium two years ago at Eugene, and he will likely need to make yet another step in his progression for the Cardinal to have a serious chance this Saturday.
Hogan will also need support from his running backs to take some of the pressure off him. Tyler Gaffney filled this role impressively when Stanford played Oregon last year, carrying the ball a record-setting 45 times over the course of the game. With Gaffney now on the roster of the New England Patriots, the Cardinal will have to count on a number of options to replace their former starter.
“All the running backs have a significant role coming up in this weeks game,” said senior running back Kelsey Young. “We’re all going to get our fair share [of carries] and we’re all going to deliver for our team.”
Shaw also confirmed that Aziz Shittu will miss the rest of the season at practice on Tuesday. Shittu was injured in practice during the week before Stanford played Arizona State. Stanford will have to count on freshman Harrison Phillips and others to fill the void left by the junior defensive end.
Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.