Cardinal gearing up for season opener | August 31, 2018 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - August 31, 2018

Cardinal gearing up for season opener

Stanford QB K.J. Costello ready to play

by Glenn Reeves

It seems so strange that Stanford and San Diego State are considered the epitome of smash-mouth football these days.

That was not the case when Bill Walsh and Don Coryell were the head coaches at those schools.

But times change. Oklahoma, which used to blow out opponents without ever throwing a pass running the wishbone for Barry Switzer, now has filled the air with the forward pass for over a decade.

So while the West Coast was once known as a fortress of finesse football, when Stanford hosts San Diego State in the season opener for both teams on Friday at 6 p.m., the outcome will likely be determined by which team is most effectively physical, by who overpowers who.

Stanford is not in short supply of respect for the Aztecs, 20-17 winners over the Cardinal last year.

"They beat us last year, outplayed us,'' Stanford coach David Shaw said. "They took the fight to us rather than the other way around. We know what their M.O. is. They'll be strong and physical up front. What they do program-wise I have a lot of respect for. It's football for tough guys, football for smart guys.''

Shaw said he likes the way the Stanford offense has looked in fall camp. The defensive line is a concern in part due to the departure of standout Harrison Phillips.

"The defensive line is still young,'' Shaw said. "We'll find out if they show up or not. If not they'll run the ball right down our throats.''

Juwan Washington is San Diego State's feature back this season, following Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny and continuing the program's impressive running back lineage.

Christian Chapman returns at quarterback for the Aztecs.

"One of the more underrated quarterbacks on the West Coast,'' Shaw said. "They had a great running back last year in Rashaad Penny. I don't think their quarterback got a lot of credit for what he did last year. He's more accurate than people give him credit for and he's slippery, he breaks tackles.''

Stanford counters with Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Love at running back and returning starter K.J. Costello at quarterback. Costello underwent hip surgery in the off-season.

"I like where K.J. Costello is,'' Shaw said. "He emerged from camp ready to play.''

While Love will be asked to carry the load again for the Cardinal, Shaw said three other running backs will also likely play: Cameron Scarlett, Trevor Speights and Dorian Maddox.

JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Trenton Irvin return at wide receiver as does Kaden Smith at tight end.

Center Jesse Burkett, cornerback Alijah Holder, safety Brandon Simmons, inside linebacker Jordan Perez and outside linebacker Curtis Robinson are out with injuries. Drew Dalman will start at center. Alameen Murphy will start at corner in place of Holder, who Shaw said is very close to being able to return. Frank Buncom will start at strong safety in place of Simmons.

These are two teams with very similar modes,'' Shaw said. "Whoever blinks, whoever misses an assignment ... the team that makes the fewest mistakes will most likely win.''

NOTES: Stanford's success in home openers has mirrored its rise as a football program. In 2008, Stanford began a winning streak in home openers that has reached 10. In those years, the Cardinal has accumulated a 98-35 record and reached bowl games the past nine seasons, including three Rose Bowls . . . Costello will make his eighth start at quarterback and is 4-3. He's the fourth different first-game starter in as many seasons for Stanford. Previously handling the duties were Kevin Hogan in 2015, Ryan Burns in 2016 and Keller Chryst last year . . . Shaw is pleased about the new NCAA rule allowing players to compete in four games without losing a year of eligibility. "I think it's changed us more than them," he said. "There's no longer a redshirt program. There's a constant improvement program. More than anything, it's changed our outlook of a freshman. Those last four games are a great opportunity for those guys." . . . Arcega-Whiteside, Costello, Love, Murphy, Bobby Okereke and Simmons have been named teams captains this season.

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