By King Jemison
Coming off the road victory at Utah where Stanford used two quarterbacks with relative success, head coach David Shaw seems prepared to play both senior Keller Chryst and redshirt freshman KJ Costello for the second straight game this Saturday vs. Oregon.
Shaw did indicate that Chryst will likely start and play the majority of the game once again, while being careful to mention that Costello will still see the field. When asked if he has a specific plan for getting both quarterbacks into the game, the coach gave an emphatic, “Nope.”
The two quarterbacks combined to throw for 188 yards on 13/24 passing last Saturday. Shaw praised the play of both signal callers. He noted that, “[Chryst] in particular stepped up in the pocket and proved a lot of guys wrong, making some big time throws to [senior wide receiver] Trenton Irwin to convert some third downs.”
Whichever quarterback is on the field will have the added services of junior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who is set to return from injury this week. He left the game against Arizona State and missed the win over Utah with an undisclosed injury. Arcega-Whiteside is second on the team with 192 yards receiving on 13 catches and is tied for the team lead with two touchdown receptions.
The uncertainty at quarterback has been largely offset by the brilliance of junior running back Bryce Love and the running game in general. Love has managed to amass 1240 yards rushing so far on the season, with over 600 of those yards coming after contact. When Shaw was asked about his running back’s ability to break tackles, he said, “I wish I knew how. I wish I knew that we could coach that.”
Love is also getting help from improved offensive line play. Shaw said the unit has progressed every week since the September 9th loss to USC. He especially mentioned the proficiency of true freshman Walker Little, who is starting at left tackle. “[Little] doesn’t look like a freshman out there,” Shaw said.
Later in the press conference, starting right tackle senior AT Hall took questions. He spoke about the line’s development as well. When asked if it was difficult as an offensive lineman to play with two different quarterbacks, he said, “I don’t even realize half the time that there’s a big change.”
Shaw was asked about the two fourth quarter targeting penalties called against senior defensive tackle Harrison Phillips and redshirt senior outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi. Coach Shaw was not critical of the officials, however, saying, “Both of those calls have to be made in today’s game.”
Phillips and Kalambayi will be suspended for the first half per NCAA rules. With Stanford missing two of its best defenders in the front seven, Shaw pointed to the depth at the outside linebacker position as a reason for optimism. He praised the play of sophomores Curtis Robinson and junior Casey Toohill in particular.
At defensive tackle, Shaw admitted, “we’re a little more thin.” But he went on to commend the growth of redshirt freshman Jovan Swann and mentioned two more redshirt freshmen, Michael Williams and Thomas Schaffer, that should see playing time in Phillips’ absence.
Even though it’s his first time facing Stanford, Oregon head coach Willie Taggart should know his way around Stanford Stadium. He coached running backs on the Farm from 2007-2009 and served alongside Shaw, the offensive coordinator at the time. When asked about their relationship, Shaw said, “Willie and I have always gotten along.” He later mentioned that the two have stayed in touch since Taggart left Stanford to take the head coaching job at Western Kentucky.
In his just four games coaching the Ducks, Taggart managed to equal Oregon’s win total from the year before. But after the undefeated start, his team has dropped their last two games and lost sophomore starting quarterback Justin Herbert for an extended period of time. Still, Shaw praised the Oregon offense, particularly senior running back Royce Freeman, of whom Shaw said, “I thought he had an outstanding opportunity to go to the NFL last year. Not super happy that he passed that one up.”
Media and coaches from the Pac-12 have been complaining recently about the late start times of conference games, especially since many voters for major awards such as the Heisman Trophy live on the East Coast. Stanford’s game against Oregon this Saturday will kick off at 11 p.m. eastern time and will likely not wrap up until some time after 2 a.m. Sunday morning.
Many have speculated that the late start times are hurting Bryce Love’s campaign for Heisman. Shaw has largely stayed out of this conversation, but when asked about it Tuesday, he said “Earlier is better.”
Not all of his players agree. When junior punter Jake Bailey was made available to the media, he said he preferred late night games. The Ray Guy award candidate remarked that, “The ball flies farther..kind of.”
Contact King Jemison at kingj ‘at’ stanford.edu.