As this week began, some Stanford fans seemed to think David Shaw was a bit too nice of a guy. That he didn't have the edge, the killer instinct that his predecessor seemed to have.
Based on Tuesday's headlines, I'd like to ask Steve Sarkisian if he thinks David Shaw has no killer instinct.
In case you missed it, the Washington head coach was not happy about a replay review overturning a fourth-down completion, killing the Huskies' last-gasp drive and preserving Stanford's 31-28 win. Afterwards, Sarkisian fumed, "I wish the game would have got won on the field and not in a booth upstairs with some guy that didn't get to feel the emotion and the hard-fought football game that game was."
I'll admit it: I gave Steve Sarkisian a pass on that comment. Having been in enough of them over the years, locker rooms after a close defeat are generally not good places to find rational thought. The list of coaches and players who have said silly, irrational things immediately after a near-miss with greatness is a long and distinguished one. Ask Jim ("Playoffs?!!?!") Mora for his thoughts on this.
That said, when it comes to officiating a game fairly and correctly, there is zero room for emotion. None. Imagine what would happen if a replay official was caught deliberating, "Well, that player didn't get either foot in bounds, but he tried really hard and his team would be so deflated if they didn't get this call, so I'll rule it a catch."
The day that happens is the day the integrity of the sport is damaged irreparably. Forget boosters run amok and coaches turning a blind eye; shoddy officiating is the surest way to kill the integrity of your sport. And I would imagine that a clear-thinking Sarkisian knows this, too. So I chalked that up to a slip of the tongue and a coach who was still feeling the emotion of a hard-fought football game.
(By the way, I didn't think ESPN's replays were particularly conclusive. But then again, it was 1:40 a.m. Eastern time when all that was happening, and I was trying to watch the game, not the back of my eyelids…)
Then, I heard about Sarkisian accuse the Cardinal of faking Shayne Skov's and Ben Gardner's injuries in order to slow down Washington's offense. Saying that defensive line coach Randy Hart was telling his players to lay down. Harkening back to cal's shameful display when their players faked injuries to slow down Oregon in 2010. Suggesting that's how Stanford plays.
You don't have to be a college football head coach to know that Skov and Gardner are two of Stanford's best defenders. Given that, why the hell would the Card willingly take either of those guys off the field, even for one play?
That's why I didn't waste any mental energy on Sarkisian's accusations. Again, like his thoughts on the replay that went awry, they were just too stupid to warrant any serious thought. Trust me, between my job, these Corners, and my fiancée, I have more important things to think about.
Even though he was clearly going Sark raving mad, I was willing to overlook the coach's puzzling postgame thoughts. I didn't think they were that big of a deal. David Shaw, however, thought otherwise. He decided to clap back during Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches conference call.
Shaw began, "I must say that we don't fake injuries, we don't and we never will…If we didn't do it against Oregon, why would we do it against Washington?"
Translation: Steve, your team is not good enough that we have to stoop so low to think about resorting to unfair measures to make it a fair fight. Oh, and by the way, even though we didn't do it against Oregon, how did that game turn out? Thought so.
Shaw continued, "The only assistant coach I've ever known to order players to fake injuries coaches at Washington, and he's admitted to it."
Back story: that time when cal players lay down and faked injuries against Oregon? Bears assistant coach Tosh Lupoi gave the order, admitted to it, and was suspended for one game by the conference for his role in that sorry story. Lupoi now is an assistant on—wait for it!—Sarkisian's staff at Washington.
Translation: when you point the finger at someone, three more point right back at you.
More Shaw: "How we play has led to three BCS bowls and a 100 percent graduation rate. I'm not going to put that all on the line to beat Washington."
Translation: Actually, that seems pretty self-explanatory to me.
Game, set, match, Shaw.
After Shaw finished serving Sarkisian his verbal beatdown, he was quick to point out that he and Sarkisian get along, and that he wasn't taking any of it personally. Sarkisian may think differently. We'll see what happens when Stanford faces Washington next year. Or U$C next year.
But when it came to answering Sarkisian, David Shaw could have been as predictable as some of the late-game playcalling against the Huskies. (Surely I wasn't the only one who saw Kevin Hogan's naked bootleg coming from a mile away.) He could have merely mumbled something about moving on to this week's game at Utah. And I wouldn't have blamed him one bit.
Instead, Shaw went on the attack. He masterfully defended his coaches, his players, and his program. He subtly reminded Washington of how far they have to go to reach Stanford's level. And he left no doubt that he does indeed possess an edge, a killer instinct that some thought he lacked. All in one fell swoop. Shaw may have finally had his "we bow to no program" moment.
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RANDOM PAC-12 THOUGHTS
My God. Trent Murphy is becoming a bigger beast every week…
One thing Steve Sarkisian did say after the game that made sense: "I thought [Keith Price] was an absolute stud tonight." Spot on there, Steve. Courageous performance by that young man…
If you're making the roadie to Salt Lake City this weekend, enjoy! It's my favorite airport to fly into, with the lake on one side, the Wasatch Mountains on the other, and downtown just five minutes away. Meanwhile, if your last visit to Utah's stadium came when Stanford won there in 1995, you'll be pleasantly surprised by how the place looks now. Great place to watch a game…
Here we go again; some Stanford fans are complaining about the kickoff times. While these 7:00 p.m. Pacific kickoffs aren't exactly good for my health here in the Eastern time zone, I also realize that Stanford is placed in these late time slots because people want to watch them. It's part of the price you pay for being a prime-time college football program. Now, if you want to complain that they don't decide these things until 12 days out, I will lead the charge on that front…
Condoleezza Rice is a coach's daughter and has been around football her entire life. My senior year, when she was Stanford's provost, I actually spent two hours in her office one day talking football with her. True story. Great experience. Some folks may question Rice's ability to serve on the college football playoff committee. I sure as hell won't be one of them. I know better…
Eye-popping numbers between Washington State and cal, but entirely expected. That said, if you were the statistician for that game, you probably went home and drank straight from the bottle…
Has anybody seen Will Sutton? Never mind his huge drop-off in sacks. He just hasn't been the impact player he was last year at all…
Caught a bit of the Pac-12 Network's replay of the 1994 Oregon-Washington game last night. That was the game that put the Ducks on the map, sending them on a course that sadly led to hideous uniforms and embarrassingly decadent facilities. By the way, even now, almost 20 years later, Cristin McLemore still gives me nightmares…
Not a Pac-12 thought, but… has anyone else noticed the complete and utter lack of major upsets in college football so far this year? Usually by this time we've seen a handful of Appalachian State-type shockers. Not this season. Only one member of the AP's preseason top 10 has lost to an unranked team so far this year, and even then, not many were surprised to see Florida lose at Miami. Hopefully this changes once everyone gets deeper into conference play, but so far this season has been defined by too many huge blowouts, too few close calls, and zero major upsets…
Not a Pac-12 thought, but… it pains me to say this, especially as an A's fan who remembers 1988 all too well, but I don't know if anyone is going to beat the Dodgers…
Not a Pac-12 thought, but… I'm becoming a big fan of FOX NFL announcer Kevin Burkhardt. Clear, concise, doesn't get in the way of the action, and doesn't try to become part of the action. Burkhardt called the wild Seattle-Indianapolis game last week. Keep an eye out for him…
Not a Pac-12 thought, but… really? The Oakland Raiders are playing a "home" game in London next year? Are any of those fans going to make it through customs?
Not a Pac-12 thought, but… you want a near-surefire way to get Troy Clardy to see your movie? Cast Charlie Sheen as The President of the United States…
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Arizona @ U$C. (Thursday) The Ed Orgeron Era begins in South Central. While I like Tre Madden, at some point the Trojans are going to need to throw the ball. And that's where things will start to go wrong. I like Arizona by 10.
Oregon @ Washington. As much as I like Washington's defense, I am still not sure that they can do the one thing you absolutely must do to beat Oregon: win the line of scrimmage. This won't be easy for the Ducks, but I like Oregon by 19.
cal @ UCLA. The Bears may well have the worst defense in recent conference history. This will not be the week for improvement. I like UCLA by 23.
Oregon State @ Washington State. Defense will take a holiday in this one, too. But I still have a funny feeling special teams may decide this one. I like Washington State by 6.
Last week: 3-0 (straight-up), 3-0 (ATS).
This year: 7-2 (straight-up), 7-2 (ATS).
Last year: 36-9 (straight-up), 25-20 (ATS).
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Troy Clardy is in his 21st year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 12th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, hear him on Pittsburgh's Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan, or e-mail him at email@example.com.
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