Gearing up for the Pac-12 opener | September 7, 2018 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 7, 2018

Gearing up for the Pac-12 opener

Stop the run? Utilize the passing game

by Glenn Reeves

Stanford's annual football game with old rival USC is always regarded with a great amount of anticipation.

Somehow it just doesn't seem right for the game to take place on Sept. 8, as the second game of the season.

Stanford coach David Shaw said he wished it could be pushed back; at least to the third week.

"I'd like at least to have two games under our belt,'' Shaw said.

This Saturday's game (5:30 p.m.) marks the fourth time in the last five years that Stanford has played USC in the second week of the season. It's the 98th time the two have met in a series that dates to 1905. USC leads the series 62-32-3, but Stanford has won seven of the last nine.

Stanford made a statement of sorts in its opener, a 31-10 win over San Diego State. The Aztecs made a concerted effort to take away Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Love. They stacked the box and held the explosive breakaway threat, who rushed for a school record 2,118 yards last season, to 29 yards on 18 carries.

But the Cardinal, a team known for the running game, showed it can win putting the ball in the air, as well, as K.J. Costello completed 21 of 31 passes for 332 yards. JJ Arcega-Whiteside caught six passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns.

"At some point this was going to happen, someone was going to check our hold card, someone's going to call our bluff and say, 'we're not going to give you any place to run the ball,' '' Shaw said. "I was a receiver. For JJ to have one on one the whole game he'd say, 'yeah, sign me up.' I know USC will have varying coverages, but for us to put on film that we can make plays when teams try to shut down the run, we've got to do that.

"As much as anybody, Bryce was excited about it. If that's what they want to do I know JJ and Trent and our tight ends are going to make plays downfield. And if they try to take those guys away then I get a chance to make plays.''

Arcega-Whiteside was named Pac-12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week.

"It relieves pressure off our running game,'' he said about his team's aerial show versus San Diego State. "The first game of the year having over 300 yards receiving kind of just shows we can beat you with our running game or our passing game. It will be exciting to see what happens going forward.''

USC true freshman quarterback JT Daniels skipped his senior year at Mater Dei to join the Trojans a year early. He completed 22 of 35 passes for 282 yards in USC's 43-21 win over UNLV. But when Stanford defensive lineman Dylan Jackson was asked what his priority will be against the Trojans, he gave an unequivocal answer:

"Stop the run,'' Jackson said. "Everybody has to be in their gaps and do their job.''

Aca'Cedric Ware is this year's primary ball carrier at Tailback U. and rushed for 100 yards on 22 carries against UNLV.

"When teams are evenly matched it's whoever can make big plays,'' Shaw said. "They have big-play ability. Our mission is for our defense to stop big plays and for our offense to make big plays.''

Notes: Fifth-year senior cornerback Alijah Holder has been cleared to play, while the status of junior free safety Malik Antoine will be determined later in the week. Sophomore center Drew Dalman, son of former Stanford great and NFL star Chris Dalman, will draw his second straight start on Saturday. The left guard position will be manned by junior Devery Hamilton and sophomore Foster Sarell . . . Freshmen defensive end Thomas Booker and wide receiver Mike Wilson saw action against San Diego State. Both contributed in the victory and are expected to receive more playing time. .

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