STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford players and coaches are adamant that motivation will not be a problem in the Big Game despite playing a Cal team that is 1-10.
“It’s Cal,” Stanford receiver Jeff Trojan said.
“It’s establishing the attitude of the team we want to be,” cornerback Wayne Lyons said. “It’s establishing the attitude this season of saying who we are as Stanford.”
Last week’s 20-17 to USC fueled the fire even more.
“We want to show the entire country how we respond,” Lyons said.
“Particularly, coming off a loss, our guys can’t wait to come back on the field,” said David Shaw, Stanford’s Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. “There’s going to be fire, because it is the Big Game and there’s going to be a Big Game atmosphere.”
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Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan has a lower completion percentage than last year (71.7 in 2012 to 60.0 in 2013), but Shaw says a big part of the reason is the Cardinal’s readiness to throw deep this year, after rarely doing so in 2012.
“When you have more deep shots, you’ll complete a lower percentage of passes,” Shaw said. “But even when it’s not complete, it makes defenses defend it.”
After a long pass to Ty Montgomery fell incomplete in the first quarter against USC, that play “changed how they played on defense for a quarter and a half,” Shaw said. With a safety rolled back, it allowed Stanford to complete short passes underneath, including a third-down completion to Kodi Whitfield.
“Those are potentially game-changing plays,” Shaw said.
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Shaw doesn’t see many similarities between Stanford, after a 1-11 season in 2006, and this year’s Cal team.
“We were in a different mode,” Shaw said. “People were saying, it’s not possible (to compete at the major-college level with high academic standards). Over there, they’re not saying it’s not possible, they’re saying how do you get it done?
“When Jim (Harbaugh) took over here, there was a faction that said let’s get out of Division I, which only strengthened our resolve. The questions are different, but I do understand the struggle.”
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Stanford defensive tackle David Parry described how the Cardinal takes advantage of the extra attention offensive lines give to stopping outside linebacker Trent Murphy, who leads the nation in sacks, with 12.
“It’s a blessing to have that type of force off the edge,” Parry said. “Mainly, they’ll slide protection toward him, but they can’t really do that, because if they double team him, it’ll open it up for someone else. Coaches say, ‘We don’t decide who gets the sacks, the offensive line does.’”
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Following the USC loss, Shaw was unable to find Trojans’ coach Ed Orgeron after the game as the fans flooded the Los Angeles Coliseum field.
After his postgame press conference, Shaw met Orgeron outside the USC locker room as they met for the first time ever.
“I believe in the postgame handshake,” Shaw said. “It’s one of the great things about sports and I wanted to make sure I had a chance to shake his hand after the game. He came out and was very gracious.”
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Stanford’s season goals remain intact, players say. A BCS bowl invitation remains a possibility and the players remain focused.
“We’re keeping our hopes up,” Lyons said.