Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - October 28, 2011

Stanford's Shaw discovers a new way to describe Luck: 'He's like a vitamin'

by Dave Kiefer

Each time Stanford football coach David Shaw enters his weekly press luncheons, he knows he will be asked questions about Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck, his standout quarterback.

And each week, Shaw provides thoughtful and original answers, often to out-of-town media asking these types of questions for the first time.

But on Tuesday, Shaw announced, "I'm running out of words. I'm running out of things to say."

He then proceeded to provide perhaps his most original soliloquy of all.

"He's like a vitamin," Shaw said. "Once A Day. Once a day, he does something that makes you say 'Wow.' And it's been 'once a day' for four years.

"You look at the film that night and say, `Oh my God.' Moving to his left, throwing 30 yards across his body. It's just stuff that other human beings can't do. And he just comes back to the huddle and says, `What's the next play?'"

Shaw said he's trying to tone down his praise.

"It's just, you get tired of saying, `Nice throw,'" Shaw said. "You get tired of saying, `Good read.' You get tired of saying, `Nice job in the pocket.' `Nice job escaping.' `Good decision.' You know, he gets tired of hearing it.

"We get to the point where I try not to compliment him too much. The problem is, there are not a lot of flaws."

Howell questionable for USC

Stanford strong safety Delano Howell will likely miss his second consecutive game because of a hand injury, though Shaw said he could return for the Nov. 5 contest at Oregon State.

So, how did the Stanford secondary do without their hardest hitter? It missed definitely missed him, particularly given the missed tackles that contributed to Washington back Chris Polk's 46- and 61-yard touchdown runs.

"It's a product of poor decision making by everybody on that defense," Cardinal free safety Michael Thomas said. "It's not one man's fault. But, yeah, missed tackles, not being physical at the point of attack, and that's something we have to clean up."

The game put Howell's replacement Devon Carrington and sophomore cornerback Terrence Brown on the spot.

"I remember playing in my first game as a defender in a big time role, it's different," Thomas said. "You get nervous, but those guys definitely settled down in the second half. I talked to them, and I think they realized, Hey, I'm not out there by myself. I just need to do my job and focus on that. And that's what got them settled down and got them doing their job better."

USC (6-1, 4-1) will present a new set of challenges for the newcomers.

"Just from practice, we've already started communicating a little better," Thomas said. "That's going to be key to this game because USC does a lot of different looks, a lot of different motions. It's going to be key for us to get lined up properly for our defense to play well."

An important aspect of continuing to improve as a team is continuing to practice hard and play physically in training.

"It definitely starts in practice, but it's not how many plays that you do, it's a mindset and the way you approach every play," Thomas said. "And it starts in practice and how you approach every tackle -- don't shy away from contact. Late in the season, guys' bodies are wearing and tearing, but you can't allow that to take away from the game. You still have to go hard in practice."

Heading this way

Shaw said he understands the difficult jobs officials face in having to make split-second decisions on high-speed collisions. Still, he has some questions in his mind after games in which his tight end Coby Fleener and receiver Chris Owusu were victims of unpenalized helmet-to-helmet hits and linebacker Chase Thomas was flagged for one.

"We've gotten two players laid out with hits to the head that didn't get penalized and then got one on Saturday that was penalized against us," Shaw said. "I have no answer for it."

Asked for an explanation on how his kicker, Jordan Williamson, got penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, Shaw, a former Oakland Raiders' assistant, replied:

"First of my career. And I spent four years with Sebastian Janikowski."

(Dave Kiefer is a member of the Stanford Sports Information Department)

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