Utah piled up nearly 400 yards of total offense against Stanford's defense in the first three quarters of the Utes' upset victory on Saturday. Utah achieved much of their offensive success by stretching the field and beating the Cardinal on the perimeter.
But the Utes' gameplan wasn't foreign to the Cardinal. UCLA employed a similar strategy when the Bruins and Cardinal met last season.
"Utah didn't present anything that UCLA didn't present to us last year," Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason said. "We just adjusted to it late. And really, I put that on me. At the end of the day we understand how to set edges. We're better at doing some things schematically on the edge than what we showed. Our guys understand it. We've worked hard this week to get back, because UCLA is going to test us too. They're going to test our edges early. And we have to be better inside in terms of stopping the run. We have to be better on the perimeter. If we can do those things it makes what we do so much more effective."
Stanford didn't help itself by missing several open field tackles.
"It was poor," Mason said of the Cardinal's tackling against the Utes. "To have our safeties tackle poor early, it's not what you want. We missed tackles. We didn't play in space well. It wasn't just the safeties. It was safeties, it was linebackers. We took turns. It was just a comedy of errors. That's not who we are. It's like anything else: You have those types of days and what you do is you chalk it up to OK, let's get back in there, let's work and let's understand what happened to us. The best remedy is film. That's not the type of tape we want to put out there. We put it out there and now we have to chase it away."
Stanford's defensive depth will get a boost on Saturday with Luke Kaumatule's switch from tight end to defensive end. Kaumatule made the move after Stanford's loss to Utah, and has practiced on defense since Monday.
Though Kaumatule is still in the early stages of learning the defense, Stanford coach David Shaw said that he's performed well at defensive end, especially compared to some of the Cardinal's younger defensive linemen who have played the position all season.
"Right now Luke's doing just as well as those guys that have been there all year," Shaw said. "So Luke's going to get some playing time."
Derek Mason approached David Shaw about moving Kaumatule to defense after the Utah game. Mason thinks that Kaumatule, who played defensive end in high school, will fill a need.
"Luke came out of high school as probably one of the best defensive players in the country," Mason said. "Obviously he has some offensive prowess but for where we're at and for what he can do for us athletically, it's a need. It's always been a need here at Stanford. You need big, long, tall athletic strong guys that play mean. And that's what he does."
Stanford has not received much from its backup linemen this season. Aziz Shittu has played sparingly, backup nose tackle Ikenna Nwafor received only a handful of snaps before going down with an injury, and the rest of the reserves -- Jordan Watkins and Nate Lohn, among others -- haven't played meaningful snaps.
"Those guys are just in the process of growing up," Mason said of Stanford's quartet of defensive linemen from the 2012 recruiting class. "What happens is this: College football is a junior/senior sport and some guys take to it earlier than others. We've seen it with other guys in our program - Noor Davis has finally caught fire a little bit in terms of where he's at. I think with the linemen, if they can play early it's great, but each guy is different. So you don't look at him say OK, it's boom or bust. What you try to do is keep getting them to understand and buy into the process. Those guys are still working to buy into the process. Do they understand the defense? Yes. Are they ready? Well, ready is about putting it together and then getting on the field and making it happen. So that's what we need from those guys now."
The Parry Plan: Redshirt junior defensive tackle David Parry, who has been plagued by a nagging abdominal injury, return to practice on Wednesday. Stanford has developed a treatment plan to help Parry manage the injury.
"He knows that Wednesday's his day to get a lot of work in," David Shaw said. "We treat him on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, get a lot of work in on Wednesday, minimal reps on Thursday but some good reps on Thursday and get him ready for Saturday. He looked great today."
Williamson questionable: Stanford could be without starting kicker Jordan Williamson, who tweaked a muscle in his leg. Redshirt freshman Conrad Ukropina will replace Williamson if Williamson is unable to play.
"(We) still probably anticipate (Jordan) kicking on Saturday but we'll see," Shaw said. "(He's) working through it, saw the doctors today, not too bad, but he's got to be able to swing through. We'll see in the next couple of days."