Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 21, 2012

Upset of USC earns host of honors for Stanford but no rest for Shaw

by Rick Eymer

David Shaw could have given himself a few days to reflect over Stanford's important Pac-12 football victory over USC last Saturday. The coach just doesn't think like that.

Stanford earned all kinds of accolades after winning it conference opener, 21-14, against the then-No. 2 ranked team in the country.

Ben Gardner and Stepfan Taylor were named Pac-12 Players of the Week, Taylor was named Maxwell National Player of the Week, Zach Ertz was named the John Mackey Tight End of the Week and Stanford was named national Team of the Week.

And coach Shaw? What was he up to the past few days?

"I've been watching Washington film," he said. "Once the coaching staff goes through game tape of the previous game we move on. You can't linger. If you want to be good at something , you concentrate on the work. You can't look at the accomplishments."

The ninth-ranked Cardinal (1-0, 3-0) gets the weekend off as it prepares for a Thursday game at Washington. There's no rest for the coaching staff though.

"This is a big recruiting week for us," said Shaw, who is sending his coaches across the country in search of the next great players. "All wins help recruiting."

Washington (2-1) is coming off its own big victory, a 52-13 thrashing of visiting Portland State. The Huskies lost to LSU and also beat San Diego State.

Washington is advertising its game with Stanford (6 p.m., ESPN) as "Blackout Day," in which black gloves, dark sunglasses and black coffee will be offered to fans.

As for the Cardinal, Huskies' coach Steve Sarkisian told the team's website "Stanford looks like Stanford. A big, physical team."

Stanford has a four-game winning streak over the Huskies, the same streak its now owns over USC.

Shaw did learn a few things about his team against the Trojans, especially regarding quarterback Josh Nunes.

"I knew he was tough. I knew he was competitive," Shaw said. "I wouldn't have know he would take off and run and break tackles. He's a good football team."

And yet?

"We have to be a 60 percent completion team," Shaw said. "That's the way we're built. When Levine Toilolo is matched up against a smaller cornerback, you have to complete that pass."

Stanford has completed 53.8 percent of its passes over the first three games, while opponents are completing 61.9 percent.

Stanford's win over the Trojans also showed one of the hidden costs of a two-year bowl ban. While USC was on the sidelines, the Cardinal was able to to get two extended periods of practice for the Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl.

That was a significant difference for Stanford, as most of its defensive secondary worked against Andrew Luck and his bevy of receivers. There's no replacing that kind of added experience.

With the help of a terrific pass rush, the Cardinal secondary was extraordinary against former Heisman Trophy favorite Matt Barkley and his receiving corps.

"Terrence Brown was awesome," Shaw said. "They did not complete a pass on his side of the field. The tackling was better in space. It was a collective defensive effort."

Shaw cited some red zone, short yardage and pass protection deficiencies. "When you have to kick them, you have to make them," he said. "What we have to do is score touchdowns."

Meanwhile. Stanford looks ahead to its contest.

"What's next? You have to concentrate on the next step," Shaw said. "You have to enjoy the work, the day to day stuff."

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," 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 before he ran away from the USC defense, Taylor broke the 3,000-yard career rushing 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.

"He showed the same thing he's been doing the last two years," Nunes said. "He's a great guy to have on the field. He's a rock. I love seeing what he's able to accomplish after contact."

More importantly, Stanford is showing the rest of the Pac-12 that it's a serious contender to reach the conference championship game. It's a process in work — something Shaw is well aware of.

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