The bye week is over and it is time to get back to work for Stanford football. That is the focus as the Cardinal prepare for the first road trip of the year taking on the Washington Huskies in Seattle on Saturday at 1pm.
The Huskies are 4-0 to start the season but they have played inconsistently against subpar opponents so far this year. It started with a one point win at Hawaii. There was a shootout 59-52 win over Eastern Washington. Then there was a blowout at home over Illinois. Last week the Huskies trailed Georgia State 14-0 at half before turning it into a 45-14 blowout win.
From listening to Stanford Head Coach David Shaw speak on Tuesday don’t let the scheduling or the inconsistency fool you. The Huskies are a dangerous team.
“Moments of absolute dominance on both sides of the ball and moments where it is not quite all together,” Shaw said. “Honestly, right now it sounds like a lot of good football teams from across the nation from watching football on Saturday. I don’t think there is a truly dominant football team right now. I think there are a lot of good football teams that have moments of not playing great. When you watch Washington at their best they are as good as anyone.”
It is the first time that Shaw and Stanford have gone against a Chris Peterson lead team. To prepare Shaw said he did go back and look at some Boise State films to see the origins of the schemes they play. Of course the team has dissected the first four games the Huskies have played this year. Shaw said there wasn’t much point to looking at last year’s Washington game film as they know the players but the schemes would be confusing.
What does Shaw see from Washington?
“They run a different scheme than last year on both sides of the ball. They are athletic, explosive, big, and in some respects extremely big. On the defensive side they have guys that get after you. They got guys that can make open field tackles in space, but at the same time get their hands on the ball, they get off blocks. Offensively the quarterback is a good athlete that can throw the ball deep but can also run. They have multiple running backs that can hurt you. There are a bunch of nuances to the things they do. If you over play one thing they will take advantage of something else. We have to be very sound.”
Shaw said to be wary of knocking Washington’s schedule too much, especially the win against Eastern Washington. “That little quarterback, I don’t know his name, but I think we are all going to know his name pretty soon. That guy is special. He is quick, he is explosive, and he has a rocket for an arm. He made some throws that not many guys in college football can make. That game was unreal to watch. He was a one man show to watch. Honestly in that game they (Washington) played really, really, well against Eastern Washington. Their coverage was perfect most of the time it was just the ball was more perfect.”
For the record, that quarterback’s name is Vernon Adams Jr.
As for Stanford, Shaw said there were improvements that they needed to make as well and the bye week was a good time to do that. Shaw said the team did work on red zone offense but it wasn’t about making big changes to it as much as just cleaning up mistakes. Shaw likes his red zone offense and says it is mostly mistakes that have cost them so far.
One thing that they did emphasize during the bye was ball security. Stanford has nine fumbles in three games having lost five of them. That is unacceptable to the coaching staff.
“Ball security is paramount,” Shaw said. “I reminded the team last week that the two biggest things that go under appreciated for how many games we have won the last four years is how great we’ve been on defense and how we have protected the ball on offense. Those are the two biggest factors for winning football games.”
Of course winning at Washington also means putting up with crowd noise. This will be Stanford’s first trip to the Huskies new stadium. The game two years ago was played at the Seahawks stadium. Shaw says he hears the new stadium might be even louder. To prepare they will have the stereo blasted during practice and work on their silent communications.
“We’ll put them in those situations throughout the week just to make sure our non-verbal communication is what it is. That our guys can still play fast and not be surprised by what happens on Saturday and not be intimidated but go out and execute their jobs.”
Talk of the Pac-12 world is still about the Hail Mary that Arizona completed against Cal on Saturday to complete an amazing 4th quarter comeback. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez said the team practices that play each week. Coach Shaw was asked if they practice that as well.
Shaw said that they do practice the Hail Mary in spring ball, training camp and then occasionally during the season. They don’t practice it at live speed. They let the players walk through the play and get in the right spot and then they throw the ball twice. The first time the receivers go up and catch the ball, the second time the defenders go up and knock the ball to the ground.
The goal of doing it that way is so players get a feel of the arc on the ball and a feel for where everyone is, but they keep the safety of not getting any injures in a big jump ball live practice situation.
49ERS VS EAGLES
A fun portion of the conversation Tuesday was about the upcoming San Francisco 49ers game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. Chip Kelly vs Jim Harbaugh, Zach Ertz and Jonathan Martin, there are plenty of Stanford and Pac-12 roots in the game. Shaw enjoys it.
“It’s fun. We are at a time right now with so many NFL guys all over the place that it is hard to root for anyone to beat anyone but I enjoy when they are on the field together and I congratulate who wins. Zach called the other day hoping I could come out to the game. I might make it for the pregame warmups for a little bit to say hello before I come back to the office and get back to work.”
Shaw’s Stanford teams had as much success as anyone in stopping Chip Kelly at Oregon so he is considered a resident expert. It is a subject Shaw enjoys.
“Chip Kelly is one of my favorite subjects. He is so much more simplistic then we all think he is. Chip is very straight forward, very honest, very open, this is what we are doing and why. It is going to look like a lot, it is going to look very complicated but it is not. They are going to run the football. They are going to run it and hopefully they are going to run it to their advantage. And they are going to look and see what you do and take advantage of what you are doing to stop the run, and use the pass or counter runs. I think he enjoys the fact that he is in the eye of the tornedo where everybody thinks all these crazy things are going around and he sits there quietly in the middle and says let’s run another zone read.”
Shaw continued. “He is very confident in what he believes in. It is very calculated. When they go for a two point play, there is something specific that they see that they are going to attack. Guys are well trained on it during the week and they are going to go out there and execute it. I think that is the thing Chip and I said before he left. Their mentality at Oregon and now Philadelphia is really not much different than the mentality we have here. Try to run the ball and then try to use what people are doing to take away the run to add to our passing game.”
Linebacker Joe Hemschoot and defensive back Ra’Chard Pippens will both be held out of the game due to injury.
Other than those two though Shaw said the team is doing pretty well right now in terms of health.