Stanford looks to put exclamation point on football season


Stanford football coach David Shaw keeps telling anyone who will listen that Tuesday's Foster Farms Bowl game against Maryland will be anything but a home game.

Levi's Stadium, situated less than 15 miles from Stanford Stadium, represents a short drive but a great distance in terms of amenities and atmosphere.

"It's going to feel new," Shaw said. "It's not going to feel like we're close to home. We're staying at a different hotel, we're practicing at a different place and we're playing in a new stadium where we don't know what the field is going to be like. It's going to feel like we're miles away. It's going to feel like a different world."

The Cardinal (7-5) will actually be busing to the game from a San Francisco hotel, an extra 30 miles of travel. Stanford coaches and players will be spending their time in the city, away from campus, and will be involved in different activities from visiting Alcatraz Island to volunteering at Glide Memorial.

Stanford will be practicing at San Francisco City College, while Maryland (7-5) will be practicing at Laney College in Oakland.

Tuesday's kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and will be carried on national television by ESPN.

The Cardinal is playing in its sixth consecutive postseason, which included four BCS appearances. The Terrapins will be Stanford's third straight Big Ten opponent.

Maryland and Stanford are each appearing in their 26th bowl game and each team has won 11 times. The Terrapins are appearing in the game for the second time, after losing to Oregon State, 21-14, in 2007, when it was known as the Emerald Bowl and played at AT&T Park.

Stanford is making its first appearance in the 13-year-old bowl and the seventh Pac-12 school to appear. Utah also played in the game before joining the conference. Including the Utes, Pac-12 teams are 8-2 overall (UCLA lost in both of its appearances).

Stanford's biggest question mark is whether star receiver and kick returner Ty Montgomery will be available for the game. Montgomery suffered a shoulder injury that forced him to miss most of the last two games of the regular season.

Coincidentally, Stanford's offense had its two best games of the year over the last two weeks of the season.

Shaw hopes Montgomery can return to practice following Christmas and he remains a game-time decision.

With freshman Christian McCaffrey taking on additional duties, Stanford showed its offense found its rhythm.

"We want to continue what started to do late in the year," Shaw said. "I thought our two best games were Cal and UCLA at the end of the year. We need to play with high efficiency. We need to run the football with high efficiency and throw the ball with high efficiency and have the ability to make big plays down the field."

Of course, the Cardinal defense never wavered during the year, despite a lop-sided loss to Oregon.

Palo Alto grad Kevin Anderson, who played remarkably well in last year's Rose Bowl, is part of the defense that gave Stanford a chance to beat USC, Notre Dame, Arizona State and Utah.

The Cardinal lost by a combined 29 points in those four losses, which included three 3-point setbacks. The Ducks beat Stanford by 29 points.

"He's been one of our more productive players on the team as far as getting the job done, making the plays he can make," Shaw said of Anderson. "He's gotten more pressures on the quarterback than he ever has, more tackles for a loss. Kevin is a worker. He comes in and works extremely hard. He does what he is supposed to do. He doesn't think about anything except the next play. He just goes hard."

Anderson ranks fifth on the team with 50 tackles, which includes five sacks among 11 tackles for a loss. He also has five quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.

"He's just a high-energy, high-effort guy that, you point to the younger guys and say, 'that's how you're supposed to play.'" Shaw said.

If Montgomery doesn't play, tight end Austin Hooper enters the Foster Farms Bowl as Stanford's leading receiver. He was named a freshman All-American.

"Austin's been great," Shaw said. "He's learned and progressed, and there's a ton more that he can do better."

McCaffrey, who has shown the same type of versatility Montgomery has, could take over the majority of kick returns.

"We've been able to be versatile with him as a running back, a receiver, he's helped us in the return game," Shaw said. "The sky is the limit for what he can do. His future is everywhere."

McCaffrey rushed for 243 yards, accumulated 251 receiving yards and had 164 return yards. He scored twice, both on touchdown passes.

"He's so quick and explosive," Shaw said. "He's shown a tremendous amount of maturity, high football intellect, and he's quick as a cat."

All-American tackle Andrus Peat comes into the game as the Pac-12's top offensive lineman, as voted on by his peers.

"That's a huge amount of respect, for a bunch of 18-22 year olds, to look at another guy and say, you know what, 'that guy is the best in our conference,' Shaw said. "We all know his ceiling is even higher."

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