Maybe something positive did come out of last weekend's 13-10 loss to visiting USC. It has strengthened Stanford's resolve.
The Cardinal pledged to improve in the areas that cost the team in a painful loss in which Stanford largely outplayed the Trojans, but failed to cash in on a series of scoring opportunities.
"I put that on my own shoulders," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "I don't put that on the players, I put that on me. We can and we will do much better execution-wise in the red zone."
Stanford (1-1) will put that will to the test Saturday when the Cardinal plays Army (1-0) in a 2 p.m. kickoff at Stanford Stadium.
"The red zone is about not making mistakes," Shaw said. "It's about running the ball efficiently, it's about being able to throw touchdown passes, it's about putting guys in position to be successful, it's about being in good formations. It's about going out and executing. If we didn't execute it well enough, that's on me. We didn't practice it well enough to get it executed."
The Cardinal was limited to one touchdown in five trips into the red zone (inside the 20) against the Trojans.
"I trust the red zone plan that we've developed here," Shaw said. "I trust the guys that we have doing it. We just have to do it better. I'm not hitting the panic button and I'm not re-tooling what we're doing. We're just going to do it better."
Stanford offensive left guard Josh Garnett agrees with the assessment.
"We're going to come in even more locked in and focused and figure out what we need to do as an offensive line to put the ball in the end zone."
In other words, the time for mental self-punishment is over.
"The best thing about it is you have another game to play, you have a chance to line up with your guys," Shaw said. "We try not to dwell. We learn our lessons and move on and apply them to the next game. We look at things that we can do better, things we won't do again, and things we're going to work on until we get it right."
Different members of the offensive line were called for holding and false starts in the first half that wiped out sustained drives.
In the second half, a devastating chop block call (that many observers said was non-existent) took a 23-yard touchdown pass off the board.
Missed field goals, two fumbles and getting stuffed on a fourth-and-one deep in USC territory also hindered things.
Hogan replayed the pivotal blindside hit, sack, and fumble that effectively ended the game for Stanford on USC's 25-yard line in the final minute.
"Ty had the guy beat and I was getting ready to throw it," Hogan said. "Disappointing. In field goal range. I still like the idea that we're going for the win, but you can't turn the ball over in that situation. Just take the sack. I didn't see him coming, and he made the play."
Stanford's decisions to punt from the USC 29- and 32-yard lines and go for it on fourth-and-1 inside the 5 had nothing to do with a lack of faith in the kicking game, Shaw said. In the cases of the punts, Stanford was driving toward the north end zone, against the wind.
The combination of the wind, the importance of winning the field-position battle, and the play of the Stanford defense all contributed to the decisions.
"The defense is playing extremely well, which always plays into going for it on fourth-and-1 inside the 5," Shaw said. "If we don't get it, the defense has the offense backed up we trust the defense that much. We try to play a smart football game. We played on the other team's side of the 50 almost the entire football game. If you do that and execute your offense, you win the game. We did that, but we didn't execute."
Garnett is a first-year starter who received his internship from his predecessor, former teammate David Yankey, now with the Minnesota Vikings.
"Fifty-four was my mentor," Garnett said. "All throughout camp I would watch film of David. 'OK, today is a gap scheme, look at the film about how David Yankey did it.' That probably helped me most in my pass protection and my pulling, watching David. Those were things he really excelled in."
Garnett knows what he wants to do when his football career is over.
"I want to be an emergency room surgeon," he said. "I want to be in ER and help all the people with traumatic incidents gun shots, wounds, all that stuff.
"Growing up, there was a show called 'Untold Stories of the ER.' It was all these stories about all these crazy things that happened. I thought it was really interesting. I've always been interested in the human body and wanting to help people. What better way than traumatic incidents. In the ER, all that adrenaline's pumping, it's kind of like being in a football game."
Stanford was effective in the no-huddle against USC, which is a sign of third-year starting quarterback Hogan's growing command of the offense.
"He's so much more confident in everything, knowing what to do and how to do it," Shaw said. "He's way ahead of where he was a year ago mentally. You've seen it in our no-huddle.
"When we do a no-huddle, I'm not doing it from the sidelines. He's running it. He's doing the running game, he's doing the protections, he's doing the pass concepts. Now, we talk about what to get to and what looks, but he's got to recognize it.
"He changed it late a couple of times because he saw something, which is great. That's a function of his growth and maturity, and I think he's in a great place mentally."