The Stanford Cardinal wasn’t given much of a chance to be a force in the newly realigned Pac-12. The general media line was that the 2012 Cardinal would not be as effective as the 2011 version or the 2010 squad because there was no Andrew Luck at quarterback. What those same people forgot was that while there was no Andrew Luck, there was Stanford Head Coach David Shaw.
For whatever reason, perhaps skin color, Coach Shaw has not been given full credit for keeping Stanford on the winning track, let alone developing Luck. Yet Stanford and Coach Shaw, who I interviewed at the 2012 NFL Draft here…
…also lost a number of key seniors to graduation beyond Luck. But Shaw remained, and managed to not just steer Stanford to its current undefeated record, he was also the architect of Stanford’s clobbering of USC on Saturday. Stanford has beaten USC each of the last four years. “We didn’t go into this game thinking we had something to prove,” said David Shaw, Stanford’s Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. “That would be a distraction. We just played our game.”
That’s right. Shaw’s game’s a mix of low-leverage run blocking, unbalanced lines, smart use of line splits, option pass routes, and “psycho” defensive schemes. His approach, especially this year, is a feast for any student of football strategy.
Stanford upset the second ranked Cardinal 21 to 14, and had ESPN’s Lou Holtz so upset he said that USC didn’t ask to be ranked number two. Well, here’s news: USC not only didn’t cry about the ranking, they acted like they should have been placed there. Quarterback Matt Barkley even took shots at Cam Newton, saying he would have been drafted ahead of him had he came out for the NFL in 2011. Hubris.
Against Stanford, Barkley was 20 of 41 for 254 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. The loss also means Barkley will graduate having never beaten Stanford.
Stanford’s defeat wasn’t Luck; the Cardinal rolled up 417 yards of total offense versus 280 for the Trojans. And that points to defense: if Stanford keeps playing at that high level, it could see itself playing for BCS contention yet again. It’s already 1-0 in the Pac-12, knocked off the 2nd ranked team in America, and didn’t need Luck to do it.
It just had David Shaw.