Remember back in Week 1 when Stanford lost its season-opener to Northwestern? Stanford didn’t score a single touchdown that day and mustered just three points in the final 50+ minutes of action in a 16-6 stunner.
Since then? Stanford has won five straight games – all by double digits – and is now ranked No. 10 in the AP Poll.
“Thats the thing: It was actually a positive that came out of (that loss),” Shaw said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “After watching the film multiple, multiple times, we just didn’t play well. It wasn’t one player, it wasn’t scheme, it wasn’t anything other than the fact that all that we had done in training camp that was so positive didn’t show up in the game. I think there was some comfort in the coaching staff and even as we communicated with the players which was, we don’t need to change anything. We just need you guys to play the way you did in training camp, have the confidence in ourselves and believe in what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with and go back out there and execute and make plays. It was across the board. We didn’t have to tweak a lot. We moved some guys around a little bit, but then the next week we started playing well and our guys gained some confidence and we’ve been doing well ever since.”
Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan has been unflappable for the Cardinal, throwing for 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his last five games.
“He’s grown a lot, he’s matured a lot, he’s been through a lot – so I think he’s got great perspective on football and on life,” Shaw said. “Really since the last four games of the year last year, through now – outside of the Northwestern game – he’s been so good, he’s been so confident. He’s got a really high completion percentage, he’s making great decisions, he’s still mobile in and out of the pocket, he’s still a run threat. But I think the biggest thing you see with him is ‘Hey, I’ve been here before. I’ve seen this before.’ He has a calming effect on the other guys in our offense to where we always talk about it when the quarterback is calm and comfortable and confident, that bleeds out to the offense.”
Including sophomore tailback Christian McCaffrey, who has 130 carries for 844 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and five touchdowns in a no-nonsense, non-spread, we’re-coming-right-at-you offense straight out of the 1960s.
“We’re playing a 9-on-7 drill. It’s an inside run drill,” Shaw said. “If you don’t get used to that a lot and somebody shows up on gameday and does that, this may be the one game out of your 12 that is like this. You have two real days of practice to get ready for it. There’s something to be said about that.”
There’s also something to be said about the Cardinal defense, which is second in the Pac-12 in yards allowed.
“Our defense caters to our offense, and our offense caters to our defense,” Shaw said. “Our style of play and keeping the ball away from the other team – those other teams don’t have throwaway possessions. When you’re playing two spread teams, everybody gets a whole bunch of possessions. When you screw up a couple possessions, it doesn’t matter. So I think we play a game to where every possession we have matters and every possession the other team has matters also.”
Stanford, which hosts No. 20 Cal and No. 11 Notre Dame in the final two weeks of the season, has a legitimate shot of winning out. At that point, Shaw believes Stanford’s resume will speak for itself – even if Northwestern, which has lost two straight, tanks.
“I’m not in the convincing business, I’m not in the media business, I’m not on the committee, I have no ins to the committee,” Shaw said. “I’m a football coach. So for me, al that stuff gets handled in other people’s rooms and on TV. For us, we got to play each game. We’ll earn whatever we get at the end of the season and we’ll take it and do the best job we can with whatever we get. What could happen is not as important as what we make happen in the immediate future, so for us, we got to play our next game and deal with whatever comes down the road.”