Stanford: “We Played One of the Best Teams in the Nation Tonight.”

From the Visitors’ Locker Room

Coach David Shaw had a simple explanation for Stanford’s 45-16 loss to Oregon Saturday night. “We played one of the best teams in the nation tonight,” Coach Shaw admitted. “We had to play a near perfect second half and we didn’t do that. Over the past few years, we’ve been evenly matched, but this game they were the better team. There aren’t a lot of weaknesses on this team: offense, defense or special teams.”

Coach Shaw watches the destruction  from the sidelines.

Kevin Cline

Coach Shaw watches the destruction from the sidelines.

Going into the game, Stanford had not allowed an opponent to score 30 points in its last 31 games, and had held opponents to less than 400 yards of total offense for 16 straight games, both streaks being the longest and stingiest in the nation. The Ducks decimated both streaks, scoring 45 points on 525 yards of total offense. Stanford’s starting defensive tackle, David Parry, despite being listed as questionable for this game, played, but when asked about the impact that Parry’s health might have had on the outcome, Coach Shaw dismissed it as a factor. “We looked at him in pregame warmup and he felt great. He wasn’t limited at all. We kept rotating him, so didn’t get too many snaps. We kept checking with him and he felt great for the entire game.”

Shaw did point out that turnovers and failures to end drives with touchdowns were a factor. “The turnovers hurt you against a team like this,” Shaw lamented. “They go down and score and put it almost out of reach … You can’t just come up with a lot of field goals against this team. You have to score touchdowns. If you get field goals and they get touchdowns, it becomes just a simple game. It’s just a game of math.” He added, “Coach [Scott] Frost did a phenomenal job in play calling. We slowed them down in the middle of the game, but when we slowed them down we didn’t score touchdowns.”

Shaw had high praise for Marcus Mariota, saying, “I told him after the game he’s just phenomenal. You put pressure on him, he doesn’t feel it. He escapes the pocket, throws the ball down the field. We just couldn’t contain him.” Asked about Mariota’s worthiness for the Heisman, Shaw said, “If I had a vote … absolutely. I thought he was the best player in the nation the last two years. If you watch him play, there’s nothing that he can’t do.”

Mariota escapes a Stanford tackler.

Kevin Cline

Mariota escapes a Stanford tackler.

Stanford linebacker A.J. Tarpley echoed Shaw’s praise. “He’s an elite player. He’s one of the best players in the nation. We knew that coming in. We had our hands on him multiple times. We just couldn’t bring him down. We missed way too many tackles.”

And Shaw is obviously not looking forward to two or three more years of Royce Freeman, either. “Because he’s so big and so physical you saw him run through tackles,” Shaw said. “We’re a good tackling team and he made us earn every tackle. We’re not used to seeing tackles broken on us. The sad part for us is that he’s only a freshman.”

Shaw also spoke highly of Oregon’s defense. When asked how they compared to what he’d seen of them on tape, he said, “As advertised. They’re long, and as I said to our media during the course of the week, you hand the ball off and it looks like there’s going to be a  hole and they close it up. They get off blocks, they’re quick inside. Not just big and physical. They’re quick inside. They slant and they pinch. They make it tough on you.”

Indeed, one of the keys to the game was that Stanford consistently moved the ball well down to about Oregon’s 30 yard line, only to see drive after drive stall out. Wide receiver Devon Cajuste, who caught five passes for 116 yards, couldn’t explain the fizzles. “I don’t know. It might have been just mistakes on our part. We have to learn to execute, not just the first half of each drive.” Certainly, though, a major factor was that Oregon effectively shut down Stanford’s running game, which has caused the Ducks so much grief over the past two years. Stanford finished with only 132 yards rushing on 39 attempts, for an average of only 3.4 yards per carry.

Stanford officially has a "Freeman" issue.

Kevin Cline

Stanford officially has a “Freeman” issue.

Faced with a disappointing season, Shaw remains upbeat. “Our locker room is the same place it’s been,” he said. “We have great human beings in there.” He did admit that the team’s bye next weekend was coming at a good time. “We need the bye. As beat up as we are physically right now we need this bye. We need our guys back fresh ready for a late season push. We’ve played a lot of football. We’ve played extremely hard. We’ve played a lot of physical football.”

He continued, “Our goal is to finish well and see where that puts us. We dug ourselves in a hole early in the season, but lately we’ve been playing better. We feel really good about where we are defensively. We gotta try and win out and see where that puts us.

“Against a lesser team our execution might have been good enough to keep us in the game. Against Oregon we needed to play a perfect game and we didn’t do that.”

Are the Ducks worthy of a final four spot? Shaw concluded, “I haven’t seen everybody but they’re really, really good.”

Top Photo by Kevin Cline

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