Uploaded: Monday, December 31, 2012, 4:08 PM
Not many secrets left between Stanford and Wisconsin
|By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
The last time Stanford played in the Rose Bowl, its defense knew everything there was to know about Wisconsin's big, burly, physical running back Ron Dayne and he was still unstoppable.
This year, his name is Montee Ball and the Cardinal knows everything there is to know about him. Is he stoppable? Well, maybe.
Stanford coach David Shaw said there's no secret in what his defense must do Tuesday when the eighth-ranked Cardinal (11-2) and the Badgers (8-5) kick off the Rose Bowl sometime after 2 p.m.
"We've got to play great team defense, because they do have multiple weapons, the three headed monsters, we call them," Shaw said Sunday. "The running back, the back field, they've got a go-to receiver that's made plays in every single game. They've got two quarterbacks that have led them to wins. They've got a big, physical offensive line. So our guys on defense, just knowing their jobs, making sure that we gang tackle anybody who has the ball and make sure we don't give up the big play."
Ball rushed for 1,730 yards and scored 21 touchdowns this season. He averaged 133.1 yards a game and 5.2 yards a carry. He rushed for nearly 2,000 yards as a junior. This year he shared the ball with James White (802 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Melvin Gordon (540 yards, 3 touchdowns).
Ball isn't the only running back for the Badgers, but he is the one who carries the most swag.
"He's so patient," Shaw said. "He's got great vision, great balance. He waits for the blocks and to happen and then he explodes. You never see him get in body position. He doesn't turn the ball over. He doesn't sacrifice the good play to try to make the big play. He makes the plays he's supposed to make and then makes more."
Like Stanford, Wisconsin runs the power offense. The two teams are so similar with physical specimens on both sides of the ball and a run-at-you mentality, that the coaching staffs could have just reviewed their own game films and come up with answers.
"We run the power play. They run the power play. It's going to be strength against strength," Shaw said. "They're going to do what they do. We're going to do what we do. We always have things that are different, just in addition. But what you do to get to a place like this is what you do here. Our running game is not going to be a mystery to them. It's going to be fun to watch."
Stanford will be looking for its first win in the Rose Bowl since the 1972 game, when the late Don Bunce led the team past previously undefeated Michigan, 13-12. The Cardinal has never beaten the Badgers in five meetings, losing four and tying once.
Will familiarity breed contempt or will it produce moments of creativity? Is there something up the sleeve of either coach?
"We've tweaked some things that we do. We know we're going to see tweaks from them," Shaw said. "Every game you play, you know something is going to come up that you don't see on film. Our guys always know it's alignment, assignment, adjust; play making. It's going to come down to that just like in every other game."
The Badgers have used three different quarterbacks this season and still managed to win the Big 10 championship. Stanford is on its second starting quarterback. Kevin Hogan replaced Josh Nunes during the Cardinal win over Colorado and Hogan has done everything possible to keep the job.
There's not many starting quarterbacks who can say they helped beat four ranked opponents in succession, including then No. 1 Oregon. That's what Hogan has accomplished.
Nunes gets a ton of credit for helping Stanford beat then No. 2 USC, sparking the Cardinal run for the roses. Hogan interjected a spark at just the right time though.
"First and foremost, he matured a lot as far as understanding what we need to do and the growth has been phenomenal," Shaw said. "His athletic ability is something you can't teach. When he gets out in space and makes a guy miss or breaks a tackle, that's such a plus. It's something defenses have to account for. He's ultra competitive. He's very demanding of himself. No task is too daunting for him. And he stays even keel."
Although his college career is just beginning, Hogan has already faced down three of the top teams in the country in Oregon, Oregon State and UCLA (twice). He's even led the Cardinal to victory at the Rose Bowl this season. He's experienced a world of adversity since stepping onto the field in Boulder on Nov. 3.
Now he's had an additional month to prepare for the biggest game of his life. Somehow, he already seems like a veteran.
"When you have a quarterback you don't have to call the perfect play for, you can still make plays when nobody's open," Shaw said. "When you can call runs with him as a running option, that affects how the defense plays you. Here's an athletic quarterback who is ultra competitive, who can not only beat you with his arms or his legs, but affects how defenses play you, that's great."
Wisconsin has lost five games by a total of 19 points, three in overtime. Oregon State beat the Badgers, 10-7, in the second week of the season in Corvallis. Nebraska beat Wisconsin at home the first time they played. The Badgers lost three of their last four games before destroying Nebraska in the conference championship.
Stanford's only two losses have come on the road at Washington and in overtime at Notre Dame. A total of 11 points separates the Cardinal from a berth in national championship game.
For both teams, this is the national championship.
Are you receiving Express, our free daily e-mail edition? See a sample and sign-up for Express.
There are no comments yet for this story.
Be the first!