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September 6, 2013
Preview: Stanford opens 2013
The Game: San Jose State (1-0) at No. 5 Stanford (0-0). 8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Series History: Stanford leads 51-14-1. The Cardinal has won five straight and nine of the last 10 meetings (with all nine victories coming at Stanford Stadium). San Jose State's last victory in Stanford Stadium was a 40-27 triumph on Sept. 9, 2000.
Gametime Weather: 72 degrees at kickoff. High of around 90 in the mid-afternoon.
Matchup to watch: David Fales, Chandler Jones and Noel Grigsby vs. Stanford's secondary.
Before San Jose State's starting running back, Tyler Ervin, went down with an injury in the Spartans' season opener against Sacramento State, the aerial attack was expected to provide San Jose State its best opportunity to score points against the Cardinal defense. Now that's even moreso the case.
In last season's 20-17 Stanford win, San Jose State gained only 72 yards rushing - an average of 2.7 yards per carry. Barring something unforeseen, the Spartans seem unlikely to have any more success on the ground against Stanford's stout front-seven this year.
Instead, the Cardinal is likely to see a heavy dose of projected first-round NFL draft pick Fales and his talented group of receivers. Fales completed 24 of 35 passes for 216 yards in last year's matchup. If anything, he'll throw more frequently this time around.
"The combination of his accuracy and the fact that he can go through his reads very quickly is very impressive," Stanford coach David Shaw said.
"He can fit tight balls in. He played extremely well (in last year's meeting) and still had a few balls that were dropped on him that were very well placed."
Fales also has the skillset to disrupt Stanford's tenacious pass rush.
"He's hard to get to," Shaw said. "He's hard to sack because he has as such a quick release and he's played so much football. He sees things quickly and gets the ball out of his hands. He's one of the best in the nation."
After Stanford jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, San Jose State and Fales put a major scare in the Cardinal last season.
"They came out fast and punched us a couple of times in the mouth," Cardinal defensive back Usua Amanam said. "It wasn't until the third or fourth quarter that we realized we were in a dogfight.
"Looking back on that game is going to help us prepare for this year's game a little better. We're a little more aware of what they're capable of."
Stanford clinched the victory when Ed Reynolds made his first of six interceptions on the season with a little more than a minute left.
"It was real close," Stepfan Taylor said after the game. "But close will get you beat in a heartbeat."
Stanford Health Report: No injuries reported.
San Jose State Injury Report: OUT - LB Vince Buhagiar; DOUBTFUL: RB Tyler Ervin, PROBABLE: Christian Tago, Damon Ogburn, Jr.
Vegas Line: Stanford by 25/26
Style Update: Stanford is expected to don its home red jerseys, San Jose State its road white Cardinal linebacker Shayne Skov was recently cleared to practice without his knee brace. He's still not sure whether he will wear it in the game, however. "It's kind of a crutch," Skov said. "I've got no problem playing without it, but having gone through injuries, I don't know if I want to take that risk." Skov's trademark Mohawk will make its triumphant return for the season opener . No word on whether Skov's "Party in the Backfield" comrades will sport similar hairstyles.
Cardinal/Spartan Connection: Stanford running back coach Tavita Pritchard's second cousin Christian Tago is expected to start at linebacker for San Jose State Five Bellarmine Prep alums will suit up on Saturday: Kyle Olugbode, Kevin Danser and Usua Amanam for Stanford, Brad Kuh and Tim Crawley for Bellarmine. A sixth Bellarmine alum, Ron Caragher, will be on the sidelines coaching the Spartans... Kevin Danser's older brother, Chris Danser, played two seasons for San Jose State before transferring to the University of San Diego.
Off-field storylines: Cardinal head coach David Shaw was none too pleased by Spartan head coach Ron Caragher's comments that seemed to blame Stanford for the end of the series between the two teams. "I want to make sure everyone knows this is still a mutual thing between Stanford and San Jose State, hopefully we can reach an agreement," David Shaw said. "It was insinuated by Coach Caragher that this was our decision, that we don't want to play a home-and-home, so that's why it's going away. Completely not the case."
"This is something between the two of us. There is still another financial component which is still not for public consumption. But it's between the two universities. I just want that to be known: We're not making this game impossible. It's something we want to continue; we'd love to continue, but it has to make sense for both places. So hopefully that negotiation can stay where it is, where it needs to be, which is between our universities, athletic departments, provosts, and chancellors. There's more to it than just playing home and home."
What's your deal part deux?
Cardinal Question Mark - Pass Game: While much is known about Stanford's defense and run game, the departure of Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo and an unproven group of receivers results in much uncertainty surrounding the passing game.
Here's what we do know.
"I think the communication has been really smooth," Shaw said.
"He's probably made one of the biggest jumps on our team between last year and this year," Shaw said. "He's had a great training camp and we're very comfortable with where he is knowledge-wise. The hardest part for him is he's got to prepare like a starter.
"First of all I wanted to see him healthy again," Shaw said. "He came back and he was 80 percent it seemed like most of the year. I wanted to get his, for lack of a better phrase, his swagger back. (I wanted to see) his confidence back and feel good about what he does well.
"And we need him to be very versatile. He's no longer the young guy anymore, the young guy that you give certain rules. He's the most experienced receiver that we have. He's taken on a bit of a leadership role, but he also knows his most important thing is to make sure he's ready to play.
"And I think our receiving core as a unit is a very tight-knit group. It's fun to see them cheer for each other, push each other, and know there's not just one guy that's going to get all the passes. Much like the running backs, this is going to be a group project. Ty being our most experienced guy, for him to understand that and be great with that and cheer for other guys as they go in the game I think is a huge tone-setter for our team."