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September 1, 2014
Sunday 5: Reflections on UC Davis
It's hard to make any sweeping conclusions about the 2014 Stanford Cardinal football team following its 45-0 victory over an overmatched UC Davis squad, but several interesting storylines arose during and after the game.
"Anywhere and everywhere"
Ty Montgomery had a monster 2013 season, catching 61 passes for 958 yards and 10 touchdowns. He added a pair of scores on run plays, and two more on special teams, for a total of 14 touchdowns on the year.
Montgomery is clearly the most potent offensive weapon on Stanford's roster, and one of the top playmakers in the nation.
That Montgomery is a dynamic player is news to precisely zero defensive coordinators on the Cardinal's schedule. As a result, Stanford is determined to find new, creative ways to get him touches. On Saturday, that happened in two new ways -as part of the Wildcat package, and in the punt return game.
"This year, we know people are going to key on him," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "We want to have the versatility to put him anywhere and everywhere. Saw him line up in the wildcat, punt return, kickoff return, receiver. We can put him anywhere and everywhere in the slot to the field, outside into the boundary, outside."
"We're going to put him anywhere and everywhere because he's that kind of a player. And what I love about Ty is he's also extremely humble. Wants to help the team wherever the team is, whatever he can do to help the team, because he'll be the first to go in there blow a hellacious block like he did earlier today. He wants to be a complete football player."
Stanford's use of Montgomery caught Davis off guard.
"I personally didn't know he was going to be back there punt returning," UC Davis punter Colby Wadman said
"I didn't know he was going to be doing that. But we've obviously seen, watched a lot of film kick returning, saw how great he was at that. Went from kick return to punt return."
"Stanford of the FCS"
In the day and age of the spread, up-tempo offense, it is relatively uncommon that two teams with huddling, pro-style attacks face one another. But perhaps it is no coincidence that UC Davis, under second-year head coach Ron Gould, runs a pro-style.
"As I told Coach Shaw today, I've got so much respect for him and his program, and we too aspire to be the Stanford of the FCS," Gould said.
That's one reason (visibility and finances come to mind as others) why Gould is eager to play Stanford again in future years.
"I think it sets the tone for where we want to go and where we want to build and how we want to build this thing," Gould said.
"For us to put our players, have an opportunity to see this and compete in this environment, I think it's great for us."
McCaffrey's debut not a surprise to Cardinal
Stanford fans might have been surprised that a true freshman like Christian McCaffrey could make such a significant impact in his first college game, but Cardinal players and coaches were not.
Stanford's veterans knew the Cardinal had something special in McCaffrey even before training camp got underway.
"When we came back from the summer, coaches came back into town, getting ready for training camp... the players, the old guys, fourth and fifth year guys, which you never hear, they came out and said, 'I can't wait to watch Christian McCaffrey play,'" Shaw said. "These are guys, fourth and fifth year seniors, telling me they can't wait to see a true freshman play."
Turns out, the hype was justified. McCaffrey scored a 52-yard touchdown on his first-ever touch in a Cardinal uniform, was a force on special teams coverage units, and nearly took a punt return the distance in the fourth quarter.
After McCaffrey's long touchdown catch and run, Stanford tried to give him a breather on the ensuing kickoff. But the former Rivals 100 recruit was having none of it.
"And for the record, so everybody knows, I tried to pull him out," Shaw said. "I tried to pull him off of kickoff after that long touchdown reception, because he ran a long way, he looked at me and smiled and said, 'I'm not coming off.'
"He goes down on kickoff and makes the next tackle. That's the kind of football player he is. He's dynamic. He's exciting. And he's willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win."
Williams tops in the nation?
It did not take long for Stanford - and the media - to shift its attention away from UC Davis to the Cardinal's upcoming clash with USC. While the storylines surrounding the matchup of top-25 teams and heated rivals are numerous, one of the game's determining factors might be how well the Cardinal is able to contain heralded USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
Slowing Williams will not be easy.
"I'd be surprised if there's a better defensive player in America," Shaw said. "Dynamic, explosive. And it sounds like the head coach at Stanford is trying to lay a trap for USC. It's not at all. That's not at all. You ask any NFL scout, because a lot of those guys have come through, and you ask them the question who is the best offensive player you've seen, who is the best defensive player you've seen. A lot of them, some of them, said Ty on the offense. Some said some other guys, which is great. (On defense), all of them said Leonard Williams at USC. It's not just me, everybody sees it."
Return of the tight end
Stanford's tight ends eclipsed their receiving yardage from the entire 2013 season in just 60 minutes of play on Saturday. The Cardinal tight ends had 10 catches for 69 yards and no touchdowns last year. The group had six catches for 90 yards and a score in the season opener.
Austin Hooper led the tight end unit with four catches for 63 yards, including a leaping, stretching, highlight reel worthy touchdown grab.
"Hooper started last spring (and) was excellent last spring," Shaw said. "(He) didn't get the start tonight for an in house reason. But he's our Y. And he's done a great job. He's a physical blocker. Wasn't perfect today, but he's the kind of dynamic athlete I've set the bar really, really high for him. I don't mind telling you guys: The bar for him is Jimmy Dray, what Jimmy Dray did for us here when we first started, setting the physical tone at the line of scrimmage, tight end, and being a receiving threat. And Austin's taken that to heart, hard worker, physical guy. But you can see what kind of pass receiver he can be."
Eric Cotton and Greg Taboada, Stanford's other touted redshirt freshmen tight ends, caught one ball each for 27 combined yards.
With the win