Henry Anderson versus Oregon last year
Stanford has several issues to address with Oregon looming. While the defensive scheme is being tailored to take pressure off the defensive line following Ben Gardner's season-ending injury, the Cardinal are recuperating at other critical positions. Here's the full report.
An Elite Rivalry
With its gritty win at Oregon State, Stanford has earned positioning
on the inside track to at least the January 1 Rose Bowl. Now, as the
Cardinal lick their wounds during a mini-bye week, they're turning
their attention to a pursuit of greater glory: Oregon is coming to
town. The prize fight is here, and a win on November 7 can keep the
Farm Boys alive in their quest for a national championship. They can
also retain bragging rights in the Pac-12's fiercest on-field feud.
Stanford put on one of the most dazzling defensive displays in
college football history while silencing the Ducks 17-14 at Autzen
Stadium last year. The Cardinal held Oregon over 40 points under
their regular season scoring average in that game and continued the
rivalry's unforgiving trend: This game has cost the loser a shot at
the national championship in three consecutive seasons. There's a
chance that the 2013 edition will be no different.
Ben Gardner: A Diamond in The Rough
Stanford will confront the looming pressure cooker without defensive
end Ben Gardner, whose college career ended Saturday when he tore
his pectoral muscle while trying to corral Oregon State quarterback
Sean Mannion. Though David Shaw said Gardner's injury was unrelated
to the recurring arm ailment he had battled throughout October, it
came in a nearby location on the left side of his chest. No. 49 will
undergo surgery on Thursday. He faces a daunting recovery that will
require at least several months, though the NFL is still a
"From two stars to a guy that NFL teams are talking about," Shaw
said. "He'll have a chance at the next level to get into camp and
try to make a team."
Gardner's only scholarship offer from a BCS school came after
in-state power Wisconsin passed on him for a player who soon
transferred out of the Badgers' program. It was from Stanford coach
Jim Harbaugh, whose father Jack -- a Wisconsin resident -- had
noticed Gardner in high school and recommended that his son offer
the Mequon native a scholarship. The younger Harbaugh followed
through on his dad's advice, and that move ended up netting an
integral piece of the Cardinal's resurgence: Gardner finished his
career with 34 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks, and a Rose Bowl victory
over Wisconsin, the program that snubbed him. His fourth down goal
line stop against the Badgers ended up being Stanford's winning
difference in Pasadena.
"People have doubted me for my entire career and they will continue
to do so," Gardner said. "But I trust that my experiences at
Stanford have put me in a position where I cannot fail."
Gardner was regarded as one of the smartest defensive players in the
Pac-12, and that intelligence was instrumental to his effectiveness
in blocking quick kicks (he knocked down three of those
during his career) and in helping derail Oregon's vaunted
read-option attack. Gardner has already joked with Shaw about
deserving a coaching stipend because of the post-injury leadership
role that he has taken on in practice.
Relief Via Good Injury News
The loss has certainly been difficult for Gardner's
teammates to swallow.
"Ben's one of my best friends on the team and in the
world," fellow defensive end Josh Mauro said. "It still hasn't set
in that I'm not going to play with him again at Stanford."
There is some good news: Stanford is simultaneously healing up on
the defensive line. Defensive end Henry Anderson, who was also
instrumental to victory in Eugene last season, looks to make his
return from a game two knee injury next Thursday. Shaw would not
confirm his availability, but a number of Stanford players have
indicated that Anderson likely will play. He's participated,
fully-padded, in drills this week and is scheduled for a light
practice on Saturday before fully diving into the mix on Monday.
"I think thankfully, Henry Anderson will be back," Blake Lueders
Lueders also added that defensive tackle David Parry, who has been
dealing with a painful lower abdominal issue, is feeling much better
Meanwhile, Jordan Williamson (leg muscle strain) has resumed light
kicking during practice and is on pace for a November 7 return to
game action. Receiver Devon Cajuste (bone bruise) is hoping to
return to practice by this weekend.
"He feels good about where he is and the trainers feel good about
where he is," Shaw said. "I think just a couple more days of rest
and we'll see if he's where we hope he is."
Much hinges on No. 89's availability versus Oregon: The Ducks
feature the Pac-12's leading defense, and Cajuste has possibly been
the Cardinal's best perimeter run blocker when not hauling in passes
to take pressure off Ty Montgomery downfield.
"Hit Them in The Mouth"
The Bootleg has
written extensively about Stanford's recent offensive struggles,
and fullback Ryan Hewitt agrees that the team suffered from a
departure of sorts from the power running game at Reser Stadium.
"Personally, I think we should just line up and do what we do, do
what we excel at, and not try to out-fancy teams or confuse them,"
Hewitt said. "We should just line up and hit them in the mouth and
do what we hang our hat on. In my opinion, obviously I'm biased
because I like it when I'm on the field most, I feel like we have
good success doing that. So I hope we do that and I think coach Shaw
agrees and I think that's kind of the direction we'll go."
Hewitt is correct about the success Stanford has had running the
football: Tyler Gaffney has racked up over 100 yards in each of his
last three outings. Compared to his 36-carry performance against
UCLA, though, he saw a significant reduction in opportunities (down
to 22) during the Cardinal's game at Oregon State while quarterback
Kevin Hogan (8-for-18, 88 yards) struggled for much of the evening.
"Kevin missed a couple throws, I called a couple bad plays, and we
had a couple guys open and we didn't have time to throw it," Shaw
explained. "That will kill you, absolutely kill you... So we've got
to make sure that none of those three things happen again."
- The Butkus Award is given to the nation's most outstanding
linebacker, and Shayne Skov made the 16-player semifinalist
list. Trent Murphy, who's in the top 10 nationally in both sacks
and tackles for loss, did not. "I would hope that it's temporary
and an oversight," Shaw said. "So hopefully there will be some
communication between us and them because that doesn't make any
sense." Murphy did make the 16-player semifinalist list for the
Bednarik Award, given to the most outstanding defensive player
in the nation.
- Over thirty years after the end of his Stanford career, John
Elway will finally see his collegiate No. 7 jersey retired at
the Stanford-Oregon showdown. "It's unbelievably long overdue,"
Shaw said. The No. 7 jersey will no longer be worn by a Cardinal
player after Ty Montgomery and Aziz Shittu finish their careers
on The Farm. Shaw indicated that there's a possibility that Toby
Gerhart, who wore the same number, will be honored like Elway in
the future. Meanwhile, it's also possible that no one will wear
Andrew Luck's No. 12 jersey again. "It was on fire for about
three years and it's still warm," Shaw said. "I think it would
burn somebody's skin if they put it on."
- Shaw is flying to Washington, D.C. on Thursday to see his
former Stanford teammate Cory Booker sworn into office as a
United States Senator.
David Lombardi is the Stanford
Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com
and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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