By Joseph Beyda
With Senior Day approaching, the two-week stretch between Stanford’s loss to Oregon and Saturday’s showdown with Utah has given the Cardinal’s elder statesmen a chance to reflect and prepare to finish out their careers on a positive note.
“It’s kind of surreal. Looking back at the whole career, it really flew by,” said fifth-year senior fullback Lee Ward. “It’s on my mind, but it’s not going to affect how I play.”
A Missouri native, Ward will also have the rare opportunity to play in front of his parents, who will be in town for the game.
Ward has certainly come a long way since walking onto the team in 2010, earning the captaincy and starting fullback job this season.
“I couldn’t envision it, but I set out goals when I first came in,” Ward said of his journey. “I had the goal of being a starter at some point and playing on this team. So having realized those goals and having them come true, I guess it’s not too big of a surprise because I made sure I put in all the work to achieve those goals.”
At 5-4, meanwhile, Stanford won’t be able to achieve many of the goals it had set at the beginning of the season. But the captains’ message to their team over the last week was simple.
“We have three games left. [Our goal] is obviously to win three games,” Ward said. “Just preparing mentally and physically for what we have ahead of us…lock in, and even though it’s the end of the season, give it our all.”
Up this week is a Utah team that ascended to No. 17 last week before a 51-27 loss to Oregon. According to Ward, the Cardinal are focusing on protecting Kevin Hogan against the Utes’ strong front seven, which leads the nation in sacks (43), and “spreading the net” against dynamic returner Kaelin Clay, who leads the nation in average yards per punt return (22.4).
Another fifth-year senior, kicker Jordan Williamson, is looking to build on his strongest performance of the season. He was 3-for-3 on field goals against the Ducks in the hostile confines of Autzen Stadium.
“I did feel like I was hitting the ball well,” Williamson said. “It’s hard not to get hyped up and feel good in an environment like that, where there’s just so many people and so much going on. It’s fun, and it’s easy to perform well when you’re out there having fun.”
After starting his season 5-of-10 on field goals, Williamson has now made six of his last seven kicks.
“I think a lot of it’s just been mental,” he said. “I did start off a little rocky and I think things are starting to pick back up and be where they should’ve been. And so you’ve just got to grow and move on.”
Asked to assess his running backs’ ability to break tackles, head coach David Shaw noted that senior Remound Wright has had the most opportunities, but that senior Kelsey Young and junior Barry J. Sanders probably break tackles on a higher percentage of their carries. Freshman Christian McCaffrey and senior Ty Montgomery are probably even more elusive if you count the passing game, he said.
Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.