Uploaded: Tuesday, September 18, 2012, 6:08 PM
Stepfan Taylor gains yet another national honor
|By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Stepfan Taylor not only gained a lot of yards against USC on Saturday, he's also gaining a lot of attention.
Taylor, Stanford's senior running back who rushed for 153 yards and scored twice in the Cardinal 21-14 win over the Trojans, was named the Maxwell Award Player of the Week on Tuesday.
In Saturday's come-from-behind victory, Stanford twice trailed in the game and twice received remarkable plays from Taylor to even the score. His 59-yard touchdown run in the first quarter put the Cardinal on the board, and his 23-yard screen pass reception for a touchdown in the third quarter changed the momentum of the game.
Taylor's 213 offensive yards (153 rushing, 60 receiving) were a career high. The senior tailback ran stronger as the game went on, with 11 fourth-quarter carries that averaged 4.1 yards. Of his 27 rushes in the game, none were stopped for a loss.
"Stepfan showed the nation what we already know; he's not only a dependable running back but also a gamebreaker. He can make plays in the running game and passing game which can break open a football game," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "Stepfan is a great pass protector, a great teammate, and you can see why our players voted him as a team captain."
On his first-quarter 59-yard touchdown run, which made two defenders miss and then ran away from the USC defense, Taylor broke the 3,000-yard career mark. Taylor has 3,108 rushing yards for third place all-time at Stanford, trailing second-place Toby Gerhart by 414 yards and first-place Darrin Nelson by 925 yards.
Taylor averages 112.7 yards a game. He's on pace to finish with 1,352 yards this season and 4,122 yards for his career, which would set a school mark.
The surprise carry by Kelsey Young that went for 11 yards and a critical first down was accomplished with just 10 men on the field.
"That's what I'd like to know," Shaw said. "We were missing a lineman on the strong side, which would not have affected the play too much since it was a weak side run."
Young has now carried the ball twice in three games, each time for 11 yards.
Shaw said Young might have been able to break it open for a touchdown had the safety made one more false move.
Kicking the kicker
The last thing Jordan Williamson needs is someone reminding him of all those missed opportunities, including three misses in the win over USC.
"The good news is that it has nothing to do with ability," Shaw said. "He makes 50 yard kicks in practice without much effort. He just needs to be consistent."
Shaw said Williamson has everything set up for me and just needs to concern himself with technique.
Shaw also said his holder, Daniel Zychlinski, has been doing a perfect job for the last three years.
The sight of fans storming the field after Stanford's 21-14 victory over visiting USC on Saturday night was both electrifying and disappointing to Shaw.
"I love the fact that we're excited about wins," he said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "It wasn't long ago that some people thought this area didn't care about football. I love the excitement and enthusiasm, I think that's awesome."
However, the idea of storming a field usually stems from a feeling of surprise, that the home team wasn't expected to win. That is what bothered Shaw.
"Whether people say we should or shouldn't win, we have to go into games expecting to win," Shaw said. "We expect to play at a high level, no matter who our competition is."
That's what the fans need to remember.
"I don't want to treat it like a national holiday," Shaw said. "We won a football game, great. We've got another one in about 10 days."
Another dimension for Nunes
Quarterback Josh Nunes showed another dimension to his game when he scrambled on a crucial fourth-quarter third-and-10 play, broke a tackle and gained the first down. Shaw said he's discovering more and more about the first-year starter in each game, but he's not about to incorporate running plays, as Stanford did in past years for Andrew Luck.
"I'll continue to say no," Shaw said. "But sometimes the best quarterback runs are the ones that you don't call. Josh just showed he's a good football player."
Shaw said even though plays may not be designed for a Nunes run, the threat of one should help open up the offense.
"I used to give to quarterbacks things to think about for each season, and one was that a quarterback's got to run for two first downs a game," Shaw said. "Josh did that in this game, which is great because there are third downs where they've got great coverage and great pressure. If a quarterback can pick up first downs in those instances, we can pick up first downs in other ways."
Anthony Wilkerson, Stanford's No. 2 running back behind Taylor suffered a lower leg injury against USC and will "probably be out for the Washington game," Shaw said. "We'll see how he progresses after that."
However, that doesn't mean that true freshman Barry Sanders is any more likely to see action. Shaw said that Sanders will almost certainly redshirt.
Far from playing a complete game, Shaw has several areas where the team needs to improve.
The top items on Shaw's list:
• "We've got to be a 60 percent completion football team. That's the way we're built."
• "We have to complete those balls to (6-foot-8 tight end) Levine Toilolo. When we have the big guy matched up one on one, we've got to give it to him."
• "We've got to incorporate the receivers into what we're doing. I feel like we are deep at receiver. We've got to make sure those guys get opportunities."
• "We've gotten better, but we need to be better at short yardage."
• "We're known for scoring touchdowns in the red zone. We've got to score touchdowns, we can't be trying field goals. And if we kick them, we've got to make them."
Enough football, already
When Shaw returned home after Saturday's game, his wife Kori wanted to replay the game on TV. David said he'd rather watch something else.
"I watched it already," he said.
Shaw said he is not one to savor a victory, no matter how big.
"You can't linger," he said. "Tom Brady is hungry every day. I was around Jerry Rice for a year, he holds every single record, he was 39 years old, and he's there an hour before practice and an hour after practice.
"If you want to be good at something, you have to concentrate on the work. You can't concentrate on the achievements and you can't concentrate on the pats on the back. That's what we're training our guys to do."
Linebacker Shayne Skov has 11 tackles in two games. Good numbers, but ones that don't come close to illustrating his impact since returning from a knee injury that caused him to miss most of last season.
"We've had great leadership on that side of the ball, but there's something extra on game day that Shayne gives you: that energy, that presence," Shaw said. "He doesn't have to make any tackles, it doesn't matter. The fact that he's out there and guys know he's going to bleed for him.
"He'll take on a block, he'll take on two blocks, if it's going to get somebody else free. That extra something continues to elevate our defense."
-- Stanford Athletics contributed to this report.
— Dave Kiefer/Stanford Sports Information contributed
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