After taking a back seat to the defense the past several years, the Stanford offense emerged victorious Saturday in the Cardinal and White Spring Game.
Playing in front of a capacity crowd under overcast skies at Cagan Stadium, the offense (Cardinal) overcame a slow start and then pulled away to a 42-31 win. The contest was televised live on the Pac-12 Network.
Quarterbacks Ryan Burns and Palo Alto High grad Keller Chryst, competing to succeed Kevin Hogan, each played well and now take positive momentum into the offseason.
Burns completed 17 of 23 attempts for 153 yards two touchdowns, while Chryst hit 16 of 25 for 156 and two scores.
"It took a little bit to get into my rhythm," Chryst said. "Once I did, I felt pretty good out there. There are definitely things I can work on."
Asked to evaluate their performances, Shaw said he won't know until he watches the film.
"Hard to say who had the upper hand," said Shaw. "We have to see what the decision making looked like. I was excited to see both guys come back and make some big-time throws. There were a lot of positives for both guys."
Offensive standouts included sophomore running back Bryce Love (11 carries for 48 yards and two touchdowns), and wide receivers Michal Rector, Francis Owusu and Trenton Irwin. Rector, Irwin and tight ends Greg Taboada and Dalton Schultz snared scoring passes.
Asked what area he has improved the most, Love said, "How much I have progressed with the playbook and knowing assignments. Being able to run with confidence without second-guessing myself, wondering if you're doing the right footwork or making the right read. Playing a lot faster."
Rector believes the team's biggest accomplishment this spring was to establish a new identity after winning the Pac-12 title, Rose Bowl Game and finishing No. 3 in the country.
"The growth everyone had individually was a big thing for us," he said.
Defensively, linemen Jordan Watkins and Solomon Thomas asserted themselves. Watkins produced two tackles for loss.
"To see the way he played today was exciting," said Shaw.
Cornerback Frank Buncom led the defense with eight tackles, while Barton added seven, and outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi, cornerback Alijah Holder and strong safety Dallas Lloyd had five.
Cornerback Quenton Meeks was active in the secondary with an interception. Noor Davis also picked off a pass.
Despite the graduation of leading tackling Blake Martinez, Shaw has good depth at inside linebacker.
"Kevin Palma is the most consistent he has been," Shaw said. "He's really stepped his game up. Bobby Okereke does a lot of great things but he's got a lot to learn. He's long and athletic and explosive. Noor Davis made some plays in pass coverage and he's physical against the run. Sean Barton made some plays and we have high aspirations for him. And Mustafa Branch is coming on and Jordan Perez has a lot of experience. Nobody should get worn down."
Defensive back Zach Hoffpauir, who left school to play professional baseball last year, recently rejoined the team and made the first tackle of the scrimmage. He finished with four stops.
"He plays with passion and energy and has that chip on his shoulder," said Shaw. "I'm excited that he's back and he's going to help us."
LINE THEM UP
Shaw must replace three starters on the offensive line and is pleased with the progress being made.
"We're seeing glimpses of what we want to see from the group," he said. "We still might shuffle the lineup a little bit during training camp to make sure we have the right combination of guys.
"One guy whose name really doesn't get mentioned very much is the guy who helps me sleep at night right now -- David Bright. I know he can play left tackle, I know he can play right tackle, and I know he can play guard. He's really smart, knows all the positions, and he's physical."
Record-breaking sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting last season, made three fair catches on punts but did not participate on offense.
Shaw said McCaffrey had more than 400 touches last season, and given how hard he runs and the physical pounding he took, it made sense to rest him until fall training camp.
"He went through all the practices," Shaw said. "For me, it was just a mileage thing. We tried to make sure that we got him completely recuperated before we starting beating him up again."
"I wish I could be out here, but it makes sense," he said. "I feel great, and excited to be a part of this team."
McCaffrey is looking forward to teaming up with the speedy and shifty Love, who broke several tackles Saturday.
"We've been seeing that all spring," said McCaffrey. "That's a guy who can do it all. I'm extremely excited to share the backfield with him. We have other guys who can do some great things as well."
The game has previously been played at Stanford Stadium and Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.
"This was awesome," Shaw said of the new venue. "Hopefully we'll continue with this. Women's lacrosse is going to play Monday in our stadium, so I'm going to go by and check those ladies out. But the environment was great.
"The second half I didn't call plays; I passed them off to the staff. So I was able to walk around and shake people's hands and thank them for coming."
More than two dozen former players attended, and Evan Moore served as color commentator for the Pac-12 Network's broadcast.