Notes and Quotes, UCLA Week

The Cardinal are dealing with three key injuries going into Saturday's Pac-10 matchup versus UCLA. Head coach Jim Harbaugh remained as tight-lipped as ever about divulging specific information regarding the health of his players during Tuesday's press conference. It's almost as if he's taking injury report lessons from the Bill Belichick school of thought...

Infirmary report

"Just like I've been saying, he's working through something, he's day-to-day. His mental state is very good," Harbaugh said of Chris Owusu.

The ball coach also admitted that Jeremy Stewart "has a little something now too, so he will be in the same situation." Go ahead and throw linebacker Shayne Skov into that category as well.

The most devastating personnel setback occurred in the first quarter of Saturday's contest when Levine Toilolo took a helmet to the knee. The promising tight end suffered a torn ACL on the play and will miss the remainder of the season. A surgery date has yet to be scheduled.

Harbaugh would not comment on who would start at tight end at UCLA, only saying they would determine that in practice this week. Stanford's official game notes have Konrad Reuland OR Coby Fleener listed as the starter.

RB committee breakdown

Coach Harbaugh doesn't want to call it a committee, but when you have five running backs with at least three carries but no more than eight, we don't know what else to label it.

Stanford's stable of running backs churned up 147 yards on the ground with three touchdowns versus Sacramento State. Here is what Harbaugh had to say about each individual's performance last Saturday:

"I was impressed with the way Stepfan Taylor played. He did a heck of a job; the one that really stood out was the screen. Jeremy Stewart was very good when he was in there. Usua Amanam, I think you saw some of the things that we've seen—a very explosive player. Tyler Gaffney got some good yards after contact. Anthony Wilkerson played the way we've seen him practice, he's coming on very strongly."

So will the five-headed monster continue to be used throughout the season (possibly four-headed this week, with Stewart ailing)?

"We're prepared to play the talented guys. If one guy rises up and is the lone carrier of the ball, then that's the way we'll play it," Harbaugh said. "If you want me to make a prediction, it's probably going to be like last year where three guys were getting touches. I don't call it running back by committee; we're a football team that has some good running backs."

Duckin' Luck

Wolf! Watch out! Move! Behind you! Get down!

All of those phrases were probably screamed at Andrew Luck a split second before he was blindsided by a blitzing Sacramento State cornerback last weekend. The defender infiltrated the backfield untouched twice and lit up Luck both times, causing a fumble on one occasion.

Harbaugh said there was no one in particular at fault, putting the blame on a "schematic thing" that the defense beat, but Luck was quick to fall on the sword.

"Looking back, one of them was my fault, not recognizing it," he said. "The other one was also my fault. I thought the protection had it picked up and it didn't, so it was my lack of understanding of the certain protection we were in."

Audible option

Peyton Manning and all the great quarterbacks have the ability to change the play at the line of scrimmage. With a full season under his belt, the Cardinal coaching staff is allowing Andrew Luck to experiment with reading the defense and altering the call.

"I think they are letting me a little bit and that's just part of being in Year 2 of the system," he said. "I think they trust me a little bit more with making my own decisions."

Luck said that he called one audible against the Hornets and this was the result: "I got hit in the back and fumbled."

Baldwin is back

After playing in 24 games, including nine starts, as a freshman and sophomore, Doug Baldwin fell of the radar in 2009. He appeared is just seven contests and totaled four receptions for 36 yards. Baldwin is the first to admit that things weren't going his way personally and on the field, which hampered his motivation.

"My mental state was in shambles," he said. "I don't necessarily think it was a confidence thing, I just had a little more of a negative attitude than I should have. My mental state was just not all there. Also, I was dealing with some injuries and that didn't help."

With Chris Owusu out, Baldwin made the most of his resurgent opportunity Saturday, leading Stanford with 111 receiving yards and two touchdowns on four catches. Harbaugh said that they started to see Baldwin's transformation back to an elite player during spring practice.

"Doug had some things he was working through in 2009. He wasn't always 100 percent," said Harbaugh. "I knew he was back when he was consistently making plays out there in spring and that continued through the fall camp."

Baldwin said that his faith in God, as well as support from teammates and family, allowed him to rebound from his tumultuous 2009 campaign.

"It's great to be out there again to not only help my teammates but represent my family as well," he said.

Happy returns

Harbaugh mentioned that the kickoff return goal for the Cardinal this season was to obtain an average drive start at the 30-yard line.

Doug Baldwin and Usua Amanam handled the kick return duties Saturday and they collectively averaged 25.0 yards on four returns. Baldwin said that phase of the special teams should have been better.

"To be flat out honest with you, I didn't feel like I did a great job," he said. "I feel like there is a lot of improvement that I can make in that area, especially in the kick returns. I was thinking too much out there and I just need to naturally go with the game, allow it to come to me."

Start me up!

A pair of Stanford players made their first career starts last weekend against Sacramento State. Derek Hall manned the right tackle position while Max Bergen started at inside linebacker with Shayne Skov out with a knee injury.

Harbaugh was complementary of both but also admitted there was room to improve.

"[Hall] got off to a shaky start the first 18-20 plays of the game," he said. "We know he was capable of more. I think it was a matter of starting and playing in his first game, and I'll think he'll be better this week. He was better after the first 20 plays and that's a great sign."

"Getting to start and play significant action, he really needed that for his development as a football player," Harbaugh said of Bergen, who led the team with eight tackles. "He acquitted himself very well. There are some things he can improve. The game slows down after you play in games, and you realize it's not that much different than practice."


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