Stanford coach David Shaw did not need to be reminded that his redshirt freshman running back Barry Sanders garnered his fair share of headlines following the Cardinal's 55-17 win over Washington State on Saturday.
Sanders' two touches - which went for a 22-yard touchdown run and a dynamic 16-yard screen pass - were the only highlights of Stanford's victory shown on ESPN's SportsCenter.
"Did he (have a strong performance)? Stanford coach David Shaw joked. "I didn't notice."
Media hype aside, Shaw was pleased with Sanders' showing. Specifically, the Cardinal head coach liked one of Sanders' plays that wasn't widely broadcast: a blitz pickup.
"That was the most impressive part to me," Shaw said. "Of everything that he did, for him to read the safety blitz and get back over there and block him with proper technique inside out, and push him by the quarterback, was the biggest sign of maturity that you see in a running back. Running backs have natural abilities but when they can recognize pass (protecion) as a young back and pick it up, that's big."
Stanford plans to continue to involve Sanders in its weekly game plan, but the Cardinal doesn't have any plans for Sanders to assume a drastically larger role in the offense this season.
"I was waiting for this question from actually week one," Shaw said in response to a question about when the Cardinal would unleash the Oklahoma native. "I knew it was going to happen regardless of how well anybody else does. Forget about Tyler Gaffney who's playing great, forget about the fact that Anthony Wilkerson is playing great, forget about the fact that Remound Wright comes in and plays great. It's just because of Barry Sanders' name, which is completely unfair to Barry, but it's also a fact of his life. It's what he's dealt with and what he handles better than any of us, which is he's gotten this notoriety and all these things his entire life but he stays humble, he does his job. He knows that he's not ready to take over the offense."
"Is he going to be special? Absolutely. Is he ready yet? He's not ready yet. He's ready to do the role that we have for him, which is going to be a little bit more each week."
Husky showdown:Though Stanford's coaches and players downplay the revenge angle to Saturday's clash with the University of Washington, the Huskies are the only Pac-12 conference team to have defeated the Cardinal in its most recent contest.
Washington upset then-No. 8 Stanford 17-13 at Century Link Field last season, and Stanford's players still remember the sting of the loss.
"(The mood after the game was) disappointment," sophomore cornerback Alex Carter said. "We felt that we had really given up an opportunity for our team to make a statement last year so the entire team was kind of upset."
Much has changed in the year since the upset loss. Stanford's offense has a new quarterback and is operating at a higher level of efficiency.
"The mobility of Kevin Hogan, as I've been saying for a year plus now, it's different," Shaw said. "He scrambled for a couple first downs last week and it's tough when you don't have that because everyone has to get open and get open on time. But now to have a quarterback that can get out of trouble and be able to use our gun run game, mix it in periodically with him and with Dallas Lloyd as we've done a couple of times. To have that mobile quarterback is big.
"(Additionally), to have receivers that can threaten down the field (is a positive change). Ty's gotten off to a great start this year. What Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector have done the last couple of weeks has helped us a ton. Kelsey Young was just one step away from scoring a touchdown as well, but Tavita Pritchard's brother (Washington State player Tana Pritchard) got him.
"Those two things on the offensive side are big for us."
But Stanford didn't just struggle in the passing game against Washington last year. The Huskies sold out to stop the run, and the Cardinal was limited to 68 yards on the ground, an average of 2.4 per carry.
"They did a great job against the run and we didn't make them pay for it with the pass," Shaw said.
Stanford did make Washington State pay for implementing that strategy last week. Kevin Hogan amassed a career high in passing yards as the Cougars stacked the box to stop Stanford's power run game.
"Forget about the score, Washington State is a better defense than they were a year ago," Shaw said. "They just are, in my opinion. We were able to take advantage of what they were doing to stop the run.
"To be able to put those together, which is a great powerful physical running team with deep threats on the outside and receivers that can make big plays, that's the combination that we want so that we can go into a game and not care. We're just going to play our style of football and react to what the defense does to us. If they're going to back up and play softer coverage because of our receivers that's great, we'll run the ball. If they want to mix it up we'll mix it up run and pass."
And while Hogan's presence has helped improve Stanford's offense, a healthy Price has done the same for Washington.
"He's playing with a lot of confidence and he's playing like that guy that burst on the scene two years ago that everybody in the conference took notice and said, 'Wow, this kid's special,'" Shaw said.
In Hogan and Price, Saturday's contest will feature the top two rated passers in the Pac-12. Shaw seems some parallels between the two signal callers.
"I think there's some (similarities), Shaw said. "Just the fact they're both athletic. They can both hurt you with their legs. They can both escape and keep their eyes down field and make throws down the field."
Murphy more than a decoy: Though he plays tight end in certain packages, 6-foot-7, 295-pound Kyle Murphy's future in football will consist primarily of blocking defensive linemen, not catching passes. But Stanford targeted Murphy on a pass play in the second half of their win over Washington State, and that may not be the last time the Southern California native is similarly involved in the passing game.
"We have to be able to show that we'll throw him the ball," Shaw said. "That's one of those things that even if you don't hit it, you have to show the defense that they have to cover him. You have to show them that we will throw him and the ball and you have to account for him.
"The guy's got really good hands. He really does. He's caught every ball we've thrown him in practice over two years. So we have confidence in him being able to go out there and catch the ball."
One of Murphy's fellow former five-star offensive line recruits, sophomore Andrus Peat, was excited to see Murphy get the opportunity to make a catch.
"It was real cool," Peat said. "I wish he would have caught it though. It was close. Hopefully he can get some more opportunities in the future to get some passes as well just to show that he's not only a blocker, he can catch as well."
Olson's moment: Redshirt junior quarterback David Olson made his way onto the participation report for the first time in his college career on Saturday when he took the final snap of the game for the Cardinal. The snap served as recognition for Olson's efforts in the Stanford program.
"He's grown and matured so much," Shaw said. "He's been a great practice player but on top of that he knows the game plan inside and out. He asks great questions. He answers questions sometimes before the other guys. To have a guy in the room who is like that, to give him an opportunity just to get a snap on game day I think is what we as college coaches need to always recognize. We have guys on our team that work so hard that don't get the notoriety and don't get to play on a game day, typically. When there's an opportunity to get on the field, he earned that right to get on the field."
Shaw on USC: Shaw said that he was "sad" to learn of Lane Kiffin's dismissal as the head coach at USC.
"It's part of the business," Shaw said. "It's the worst part of the business. I said it on the radio the other night - I never root against any of our conference teams until they play us. I want them all to do well. I get to know all the guys very well. Lane's dad and my dad go back to the 80's I believe, early-to-mid 80's when they first met each other and his dad was at Nebraska. I've known of him and his family for a long time. I never wish any ill on anybody.
"I'll just say that it's a crazy business, but he'll land on his feet."
When jokingly told he was on USC's "short list" to replace Kiffin, Shaw quickly shot down the notion of considering the Trojan vacancy.
"(USC's list) might be short but it's one person too long," Shaw quipped.
Sophomore linebacker Blake Martinez continues to progress in his recovery from a knee injury.
"He was on the field running last week," Shaw said. "I believe he starts cutting sometime next week and then hopefully if not next week the week after we'll get him in some individual drills just to start getting him through the movements again of playing linebacker and doing special teams. After that, if he passes all the tests, then it goes back to him being able to go through practice."
Redshirt junior defensive lineman Henry Anderson will "hopefully" be off crutches this week and could return in 3-4 weeks, Shaw said.
Quarterback Kevin Hogan made his collegiate debut when Stanford visited Washington last season. He played one snap and gained five yards on a run.
Though he didn't play, senior cornerback Barry Browning traveled to Seattle last week and was on the sidelines. His knowledge and savvy were an asset to the Cardinal's defensive backs who were able to play.
"We call Barry 'Coach Barry' because he knows more about offenses than all of us do," Alex Carter said. "Him being there as a presence and his eyes and what he can see on the field helps. If we miss something on the field and we don't see what's happening to us as we play we can come to the sideline and Barry's like another coach who's there and he can tell us and explain to us what's going on and how to stop it."
Stanford defensive line coach Randy Hart was an assistant coach at Washington for 21 years. After leaving the Huskies, Hart spent one season at Notre Dame under Charlie Weis before coming to The Farm.