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November 13, 2013

Farm Report: USC Week





Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov received a pair of honors after his dominant performance in the Cardinal's 26-20 upset win over Oregon. In addition to earning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week, Skov was named the Bronco Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week.

Skov was one of several Stanford players that impressed in the win.

"Obviously Shayne Skov was awesome," Shaw said. "I thought Henry Anderson in his first game back was really impressive. It may not have showed up in the stats but Josh Mauro caused a lot of problems inside. Whenever a linebacker plays great it usually means the guys up front are playing well keeping offensive linemen playing off of them. I thought our front played extremely well."

"Guys who nobody really talks about, our corners (also stood out). Our corners played really well. They wanted to take a couple of shots but our guys didn't let that happen, made the quarterback hold the ball and made him scrambled a couple of times because guys weren't open down the field. It got a little crazy late and they made some plays but I thought for most of the game our secondary played extremely well. Offensively, Ryan Hewitt. It doesn't show up in the stats but I thought he played a really good game also. It was going to be a downhill, physical game and he did really well."

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Stanford emerged from the Oregon game mostly healthy. Tyler Gaffney, who carried the ball 45 times, should be ready to go for USC, though Stanford won't push him too hard in practice this week.

"We'll take it easy on him to a certain degree," Shaw said. "We have a good group of backs and we'll rotate guys through. That was something that was completely unintentional when we started the game but it became that way. He's good with it. I think it did take him a good 48 hours to recover but he'll be ready to go."

Meanwhile, the health of wide receiver Devon Cajuste, who saw only a limited number of snaps against Oregon, continues to improve.

"Devon was great today," Shaw said after practice on Wednesday. "Probably about his best day of practice. He had to leave early for a class but running fast, making all the cuts."

Conrad Ukropina will likely handle kickoff duties against USC, but Jordan Williamson will be expected to handle field goals for the second straight game.

"It's nice to know that he made it through the game as a field goal kicker doing well," Shaw said. "That field goal block was not on him. I think that ball was going in. It was a heck of a play by their guy. I think he's going to be fine going forward just probably not ready for kickoffs. Maybe not the rest of the year until we get to the postseason, but we'll see."

Added Shaw on Wednesday: "(Jordan is) still not going to kick off, I don't believe, but he feels really good."

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Anderson's successful return provided a major boost to Stanford's injury-riddled defensive line, which lost Ben Gardner for the season to an injury, and has also been without reserve Ikenna Nwafor since the Washington State game.

Despite Anderson's lengthy absence, Shaw wasn't surprised at how effective the redshirt junior defensive end was in his first game in nearly eight weeks.

"We have a pretty rigorous program to get guys back and we've been pretty consistent to when guys come back to play they're back to play for the most part," Shaw said. "I watched one of his workouts during the bye week that they put him through and it was impressive to see him change direction, to see him still play low, to push a sled and still have that power and explosion. And then to hear from the weight room guys that he was back squatting exactly what he squatted before the injury (was also encouraging). So the power was there. We saw the speed and explosion and athleticism on the grass and then the first couple of days of practice was him feeling it out and then going full speed. We saw that he still had it. Last question was conditioning. How many plays could he play? I don't know the exact number but when he played he played well."

Practicing during the bye week and in the days leading up to Nov. 7 helped Anderson feel comfortable in his return.

"I gained some confidence from the week of practice we had before the game," Anderson said. "The bye week helped out a little bit. We had a couple of practices so I could kind of knock the rust off. And then our usual game week also helped a little bit kind of getting back into it. I was a little nervous going out there full speed having to tackle guys but after the first drive or two it felt pretty normal."

In addition to sidelining him for much of the season, there's a chance Anderson's injury could impact his decision on whether to return to Stanford for a fifth year.

"You look at him and he's a Sunday player," Shaw said. "I think the injury probably stopped any thought of him possibly going pro this year, which he never talked about anyway, but he's a difference maker. When he's healthy, to be 6-foot-6 plus and 295 and that athletic and play low, there are not a lot of guys on the planet built like that."

Anderson downplayed his upcoming draft decision.

"I haven't really thought about it," Anderson said. "I thought about it briefly with my parents a little bit before the season but I really wasn't going to think about it too much until after the season was over. And I'm being honest with it, I really haven't thought about it too much."

"For a while I've been thinking about coming back for a fifth year just because I didn't really think I'd be a real high pick in the NFL, but I know there's been chatter about me possibly leaving. I really haven't thought about it that much."

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Though he only completed 54 percent of his passes and threw for 103 yards, Kevin Hogan ran for a career-high 57 yards and notched his highest QBR of the season in Stanford's win over Oregon.

"He played well," Shaw said. "He played very decisive. I think it's partially him pushing himself. He knows he hasn't played great in the last month or so and he played really, really well. Played really smart. Was very decisive. When he threw it he threw it accurately. When he ran he ran physically. He ran forward and got positive yards. I think it was a really, really good complete game from him."

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Count David Shaw as one impressed by USC's resurgence.

"I'm kind of shocked that they're not ranked in the top-25," Shaw said. "I don't know if anyone has played as well as they have really in the last month of the season."

Though the Trojans' fortunes have taken a turn for the better since the dismissal of Lane Kiffin, USC hasn't made many drastic schematic adjustments since Ed Orgeron took over the program.

"Not a lot of changes," Shaw said. "Some subtle changes defensively, some subtle changes offensively. I think the biggest thing offensively is that they're playing better on the offensive line this year than they were last year. They're healthier. They started off the year running the ball extremely well and now that both receivers are back healthy and they've settled on a quarterback the second half of the year, they've been throwing the ball better. Now you have a team that depending on who's healthy has two or three really good running backs, a steady offensive line, two explosive receivers and a quarterback that's playing well in the scheme. That leads to being more productive on the offensive side. They've gone from being productive to being explosive again."

Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler has been nearly flawless in the month of November. Kessler has completed 31 of 38 passes for 417 yards and three touchdowns (against one interception) in wins over USC and Oregon State.

"It's been good to see him get settled," Shaw said. "We liked him in high school. It's good to see him get back to being comfortable and playing with some confidence and getting those receivers back. He's a good athlete so he can get out of trouble, throws a good deep ball, and those guys are going and getting it. It's been good to see him start to play like the guy that all of us thought he was going to be when we came out of high school."

Running back Javorius Allen's emergence has coincided with Kessler's strong play. Allen has surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark in each of USC's last two games. He scored three touchdowns and averaged 8.3 yards per carry against Oregon State and added two scores on a 22.5 yards per carry average against Cal.

"He's got really good vision and he's very decisive with his cuts," Shaw said. "He doesn't dance around. He's sees it and he goes and he hits. When you tackle him he falls forward for three or four yards. He gets on the sideline and doesn't just step out of bounds, he gets a couple more yards. He's a good, tough runner."

With the now-healthy Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor at receiver complementing Kessler and the Trojans' running game, USC has no shortage of offensive weapons.

"They're solid," Henry Anderson said. "The quarterback is a good game manager. They've got some really talented running backs. They've kind of shuffled around the offensive line a little bit from last year and put guys in good spots to succeed on the offensive line. Their offense is doing well and obviously Marqise Lee is back and playing really well. It's going to be tough to spot them but we have to execute when we get out there."

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First-year Trojan defensive coordinator Clancy Pendegrast has been the architect of one of the country's best statistical defenses. USC is ranked No. 19 in the nation in points allowed per contest. The Trojans are particularly stout against the run; opponents average only 3.6 yards per carry against USC.

"They have a really good defensive scheme and outside of one year at Cal, I think Clancy's defenses have always been in the top couple of the conference, if not No. 1 periodically, against the run and total defense," Shaw said. "It's not surprising but we're going to have to be probably more diverse than we were a week ago and more balanced, I'll say."

Shaw thinks that USC's run defense has some things in common with Stanford's

"I would say they have some similarities to us," Shaw said. "Great scheme and great players. They're very stout up front, very strong up front. I think their front four is playing extremely well. They get in the backfield, which always disrupts the running game. They're good at getting off blocks. I think those are the big things."

  • Stanford's players were given the day off on Friday and Sunday after defeating Oregon. The Cardinal did some light running on Saturday and a light practice on Monday before resuming their regular practice schedule on Tuesday.

    Shaw compared one of Stanford's redshirt freshmen defensive linemen to Henry Anderson.

    "The two big things with Henry because henry is so tall is that he had to get a lot of stronger and he had to play a lot lower," Shaw said. "Jordan Watkins is going through that right now where he's learning to play lower and need to get him a little bit stronger. I think Jordan's going to be a really good football player also."

  • Don't expect Shaw to shed many tears when college football moves from the BCS to a playoff format. If anything, Shaw would like to see to an eight-team playoff. Additionally, Shaw thinks each league should play the same number of conference games. Currently, the Pac-12 and Big-12 play nine conference games while the SEC, ACC and Big-10 play only eight.

    "I say make everybody travel the same road," Shaw said.

  • According to linebacker Shayne Skov, Stanford's players weren't trying to make any sort of profound social statement by wearing nerd glasses in the post-Oregon press conference.

    "We like to have fun," Skov said. "I wouldn't look into too much.

    Skov said that some ex-players were wearing the glasses on the sideline during the game, and that the current players somehow acquired them before the press conference.





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