STANFORD, Calif. – Holding its only open practice of the fall season, Stanford’s defense entertained a capacity crowd during live scrimmage situations Saturday morning at the Elliott Football Practice Fields.
On a morning when ESPN College Gameday analysts Lee Corso and Desmond Howard picked Stanford to play in the national championship game, fans were buzzing about the Cardinal defense, and it lived up to the discussion.
The defense held the Cardinal offensive units scoreless until the final play of the day, when fifth-string freshman QB Ryan Burns scooped a bad snap and scrambled before finding classmate Eric Cotton in the end zone for a 12-yard score on the broken play.
Stanford’s first offensive unit found its way into the red zone on two occasions but came away empty against the second defense.
The first-team defense, led by a host of All-America candidates, limited the second-team offense to 63 yards on 17 plays with Ben Gardner (three tackles, one for a loss) and A.J. Tarpley (two tackles, two pass breakups) leading the way. Barry Browning also intercepted a deflected pass and returned it 39 yards to the two-yard line. Forty of the yards came on a single play when Evan Crower found Jordan Pratt on a stop-and-go route down the sideline.
While the first-team defense shut things down, members of the second defensive unit got plenty of snaps as it largely contained the first-team Cardinal offense, never allowing the ball inside the 10. The offense converted just 1-of-8 third-down opportunities but kept drives alive by converting 3-of-4 on fourth down.
Blake Lueders and Zach Hoffpauir had three tackles each with Leuders adding a quarterback hurry and Hoffpauir breaking up a pass. Ikenna Nwafor broke through for a sack of Kevin Hogan, who wound up 10 of 21 passing for 115 yards, but was hurt by several dropped passes. With Anthony Wilkerson not participating in drills, Tyler Gaffney shouldered the first-possession carries with six rushes for 24 yards and two catches for six more.
Hogan’s favorite target on the day was Michael Rector who pulled down two catches, including a highlight-reel 40-yarder off his back shoulder on a 3rd-and-15 play from scrimmage.
Following Gaffney, Remound Wright (3-20), Barry Sanders (9-28) and Jackson Cummings (8-35) all saw balanced snaps.
Quarterbacks Dallas Lloyd and David Olson shared snaps for the third-team offense.
Stanford’s season opens Sept. 7 with an 8 p.m. (PT) home game against a San Jose State team that won 11 games a year ago. The game will be televised nationally on Pac-12 Networks.
Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football David Shaw on the team’s first scrimmage …
“I thought it was solid. Our red zone defense looked great. Our offense moved the ball a little bit down there. The defense kept them out of the end zone, which was great, except for that one drive at the end. We saw some big passes which was great for the passing game, some good runs, and our defense was solid with some sacks.
“As a head coach, you straddle the line going back and forth that as long as it’s good and bad on both sides, we’re going in the right direction.”
Shaw on the state of the team’s health …
“We don’t have any pulled muscles at all right now which is phenomenal for this time. But I think the greatest thing is that our training staff and weight staff are all on the same page. If a guy starts to feel something, we get them out and get them taken care of. We don’t have any major injuries right now.”
Shaw on the backup offense facing the first-team defense …
“It’s a little intimating, but they appreciate it. It’s hard, and it should be hard -- trying to block Henry Anderson and Ben Gardner and all of those guys. We do a lot of 2’s against 2’s and 1’s against 1’s. It’s a great opportunity for those guys, especially the quarterbacks -- going through reads and progressions and pocket movement. Because you’re going to get pressure, even if we’re not blitzing, you’re going to get pressure. I thought Evan (Crower) was great sliding around and being able to find that sweet spot in the pocket and throwing the ball downfield.”
Shaw on the competition at the center position …
“It was the day of the rotation. We’re getting to the point where Kevin Danser is a good center and can play center, but he’s so good at guard. It’s getting harder for us to justify taking him out of that spot. He still has a foot in and a foot out, but it will be hard for us to move him.”
Shaw on the relationship between QB Kevin Hogan and the young receivers and tight ends …
“He has always had a feel for the younger receivers. He was a scout team guy at the beginning of last year and he was throwing to Devon Cajuste and Kodi Whitfield and Jeff Trojan. He has a great comfort level with those guys.
“We have young tight ends and we’ll see where they are in the next couple of weeks. But at the same time, we have young receivers who are ready to play and we’ll see which young tight ends are ready to play. We’ll try to use all of the personnel units we have. We’ll present a lot of different looks for defenses to see.”
Sophomore RB Barry Sanders on his role with the offense …
“We ran off of a script today and I happened to be in for some of the plays. I’m not sure what Coach Shaw has in store for the offense this season but I’m looking forward to executing whatever it is.”
Sanders on backup QB Evan Crower ...
“Evan has come a long way. He’s a guy getting second-team reps, he’s made vast improvements and he can throw the ball.”
Sanders on the depth at the running back position …
“We feel like we have the best group of guys on the team. We have a lot of fun and we’re always encouraging each other. The older guys have been patience with me after coming in last year and starting from scratch. We’re always talking to each other about what we saw and making the right reads.”
Sophomore CB Alex Carter on the season opener against San Jose State …
“I’m excited for the San Jose State game, especially after last year. It was a close matchup and I’m excited to get back on the field. We have not started the game plan for San Jose State. We’re pretty focused on us. Our defense has even improved since last year and I’m excited to see how much better we’ve gotten and how much better we can play against San Jose State.”