Talk with Big Baba on the D

If you were one of the few who actually saw Saturday's game in Husky Stadium, you undoubtedly are still haunted by the 53-yard run by Rich Alexis that torched the vaunted Cardinal run defense. Was that a sign of things to come, as more potent offenses prepare for Stanford, or was there another explanation? Nose tackle Babatunde Oshinowo helps us out with answers. Also, more notes from Tuesday's practice...

The toast of the Cardinal Nation through the first two games of this 2003 Stanford Football season has been the rapidly maturing and dominating defense.  In particular, the run defense was seizing headlines, holding San Jose State to a total of just nine yards on the ground and BYU to a minus-five yards.  Extrapolation of those numbers through the remainder of the season was simply not realistic, but there was still a measure of disappointment (if not surprise) by Stanford fans that this attacking defense could be taken for 165 yards rushing at Washington.  And this from a Husky team that has been lambasted by both fans and the media the last few years for an anemic ground game.

The backbreaker came when Rich Alexis exploded through Stanford's three-man pass-preventative defensive front for a 53-yard touchdown that turned the tide in the game.  The perception by most fans (myself included) at the time was that Washington exploited a weakness in the 3-4 defense and did so in a perfectly opportune time.  But as it turns out, Stanford actually made a mistake on that play.

"We were running a stunt," redshirt sophomore nose tackle Babatunde Oshinowo explains.  "We were in a 3-4 and I was lined up over the center.  I stunted to the left and the defensive end should have started moving to the right, but didn't.  That left a gaping hole they ran through."

"It's kind of a sick feeling because we were really playing well," he continues.  "There were three to four plays in the game where things broke down and we made a fatal mistake.  We watched it all on film and it just killed us.  [Washington] took advantage, but they aren't more talented or more physical.  We were playing well.  After the game, the Washington offensive coordinator said that they didn't have an answer to what we were doing.  Aside from that run, I think we did really well."

Though Oshinowo is focused on the holistic performance of his defense, he will also allow a little pleasure with his own status report.  "I'm most happy right now just because I'm healthy," he admits.  "This time last year I was getting nicked up and things went south.  I also have to say I'm getting a lot more reps than I originally thought I would."

Oshinowo is also pleased with his ability to "get home" so far, with numerous quarterback pressures.  He has recorded two sacks already on the young season, and leads the team in unassisted tackles for loss with four.  Even more amazing is that in either the 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, his position at the nose (or "zero technique") is one by design faces double teams from the offensive interior of the line.  Typically a nose tackle serves to tie up blockers and let other defensive personnel get into the offensive backfield, but Oshinowo is showing that a freakish athlete with a nonstop motor can do so much more.

"We just have to communicate better," he says - never pleased with past performances.  "When we do it right, I don't think there is an offense in the conference that should beat us straight up."

In other football news...

  • As expected, "Sam" linebacker Jared Newberry did not practice Tuesday.  That left Jon Alston to the #1 spot at that depth.  Head coach Buddy Teevens expects Newberry back later this week...
  • Nick Frank took some significant work at fullback Tuesday.  It was good to see Pat Jacobs back on the field.  Cooper Blackhurst was very limited in what he did, which did include running at the end of practice but not include full-contact snaps...
  • The offensive line is as healthy as it has been all year right now.  Right tackle Mike Sullivan had his most work in the last two weeks, and at least from the looks of Tuesday's practice, he has regained his starting spot atop the RT position.  I do believe that Jon Cochran is pushing him hard, though, and I won't be surprised to see both play in rotation.  Cochran will probably be starting again at some point this month.  Matt McClernan is also back at left tackle.  That renewed tackle depth means that Drew Caylor can focus again on the center position.  That in turn pushes Tim Mattran down to the third team, which moves Mikal Brewer over to right guard.  Guys will get banged up again, but it's nice to have some semblance of depth for a bit...
  • Teevens commented in this week's press conference that a few receivers are indeed moving up at that hotly contested position.  He named Mark Bradford, Evan Moore and Gerren Crochet.  All three are backing that vote of confidence with their play in practice, though I have been most impressed with Crochet.  He had a superb week last week and more nice catches Tuesday...
  • The Stanford head man also says that he wants to use this bye week to give more time and teaching to his younger players on offense.  Bradford and Moore were mentioned, as was Matt Traverso and Patrick Danahy.  The latter pair underscores the emphasis on the tight end in this offense, which was best shown Saturday of any of the games this year...
  • Frosh tailback David Marrero appears to be an important key to the missing "big play" in this Stanford offense, and he showed some hints at his production in Washington.  Touching the ball once on offense, though, won't cut it.  "He obviously has explosive potential and the more we can work to get the ball in his hands, the greater the opportunity he will have to demonstrate his skills," Teevens says of Marrero.  "We want to be select about when we use him and how, though"...
  • The next three games look rather brutal, folks.  Playing at USC, at "home" against Washington State, and then finally at Oregon.  Woof.  I will frankly be pleasantly surprised if Stanford can pull any win out of those three, putting the team at 3-3 heading into November.  It's a well-worn theme, but this schedule continues to wreak havoc.  Teevens' approach appears less melodramatic than that of the fanbase, though.  "It's a tough conference.  We're in it.  And we will play our schedule," he plainly offers.  OK, saddle up...

Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!


The Bootleg Top Stories