Stanford Football: The Tuesday Media Sessions
Moving on. That is the Stanford drumbeat this week as the Cardinal try to rid themselves of the memory of an ugly 13-10 loss to USC on Saturday and prepare for a difficult Army team this Saturday -- a team that poses challenges in scheme and in heart as much as actual talent.
One question will be if the Cardinal can emotionally recover from what some want to say is one the worst all-time defeats. "All of our losses are frustrating," quarterback Kevin Hogan said at Tuesday's media conference. Head coach David Shaw called the game an "opportunity lost."
Shaw wanted to focus on many of the positives. The defense played extremely well against an explosive offense, 13 points should be enough to win the game, the offense had some great bright spots, and the return game and coverage game were great. But in the end, Stanford's inefficiency in the red zone turned what could have been a lopsided win into an ugly loss. "If we are a little better in the red zone we'd probably win," Shaw said.
"I put it on my shoulders," Shaw said of the defeat. "We can and we will do much better execution-wise in the red zone."
Shaw said the things that make teams good in the red zone are not making mistakes, being able to run efficiently, throwing touchdown passes, making good formations, and going out and executing. These were all things the Cardinal had no problems with between the 30s, but as the field closed in, the offense bogged down.
There was no single explanation of what went wrong. The simple fact is that it was a little bit of everything. With a penalty here, a bad snap there, a turnover, and missed field goals, nothing seemed to work and Shaw was willing to take the blame for that.
Another issue Shaw addressed was why he punted twice from deep in Trojan territory rather than take a shot on a field goal. Shaw said the wind had picked up and was playing a significant role in the kicking game. Because of his trust in the defense, he wanted to play field position. The decisions, he said, had nothing to do with any loss of confidence in kicker Jordan Williamson who missed two field goals.
Despite the troubles of this past weekend, Shaw says there is no need to change the approach of the red zone offense. "We have been top ten in red zone efficiency in all but two years (that he has been on the coaching staff)," Shaw said. "I trust the red zone plan, we just need to do it better."
As for recovering from the loss, Shaw said the team was definitely disappointed on Sunday but by Monday they seemed to have recovered and showed good energy in practice. "I'm not hitting the panic button. We're not retooling. We just have to do it better."
The fact that adds to the frustration is that the Cardinal played tremendously in many phases of the game. Shaw mentioned a few players like David Parry who is playing as well as he ever has at Stanford. "He is healthier than he has ever been. It's the quickest, most explosive he has been." When asked about Parry's future Shaw said he has the talent to play in the NFL. Not bad for a walk-on from Iowa who grew up in the Bay Area as a Cal fan. Born in Daly City, Parry grew up in the Bay Area before moving to Iowa. Parry's grandmother went to Cal. Spending his high school years in Iowa, Parry had hoped the Hawkeyes would come calling with a scholarship. As he looks back now he is thrilled they didn't. Parry says when he was granted a scholarship his second year, he called his mom who broke down in tears.
Shaw also pointed out the strength of the front seven across the board. "I love our linebackers. I love our front seven. I think our front seven is really gelling." The stats would certainly agree with the coach based on the USC game where the defense seemingly deserved a better outcome.
Shaw also discussed the decision to have both Ty Montgomery and Christian McCaffrey on the punt return. Shaw says just having Montgomery back means team would kick away from him. "I think they are both special returners. (having them both back there means) a better chance for a return." Shaw continued his praise for his true freshman. "You're going to hear his name (McCaffrey) a lot in the next few years."
Austin Hooper has looked good. "84 is off to a great start. He'll tell you he didn't play perfectly, but he is only scratching the surface." Shaw said the standard set for tight ends on The Farm is Jimmy Dray. He likes the future that Hooper has in front of him.
"Resiliency is a sign of a good team," Shaw said. He hopes his team can build on the positives.
USC athletic director Pat Haden was fined $25,000 by the PAC-12 Conference for arguing on the field with the referee. Shaw's comments: "I have nothing but respect for Pat Haden. He has apologized. Football is an emotional game for everyone."
HERE COMES ARMY
Army is coming off a 47-39 home win over Buffalo. The Black Knights offer matchup problems for teams in their style of play. There is a new coaching staff, but the triple option is still king for the military school. And the legendary cut blocking lives on as well. "The (defensive) steps are still the same but I have to play more with my hands," nose tackle Parry says of trying to stay above the cuts. He says defensive linemen are used to getting cut but it is more the linebackers who can suffer from the cut blocks Army will do in the open field.
The triple option is always a challenge just because so few teams run it anymore. Shaw said the new coaching staff has added a few wrinkles as well. So while Stanford clearly will have an athletic advantage, trying to prepare for a team like Army is never easy. "It is a tough challenge ahead," Shaw said. "They have an interesting offense, with a little more passing."
Defensively, Army will blitz from everywhere to try to gain an advantage. "Usually a team will throw one or two looks at you. They bring it all," Hogan said.
One thing Stanford definitely has when it plays the military is respect. "They deserve it and they give it. They play hard. You are glad that they are representing and defending our country. It is an honor to be on the field with them," Shaw said.
CARDINAL GET HEALTHY
One good thing is that Stanford didn't suffer any big injury news. Remound Wright was "banged up" a bit but Shaw says he expects him back at practice this week. LB Kevin Palma who missed the USC game is expected to be back at practice this week as well and should be available for the Army game.
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