Stanford will be without one of its top receivers and its starting kicker when they face No. 25 Oregon State on Saturday. Cardinal coach David Shaw said after Thursday's practice that Devon Cajuste and Jordan Williamson will be held out.
"Devon Cajuste will not play," Shaw said. "(We) probably could really push it but will not play. Jordan Pratt will start in his place but you'll see Michael Rector and Kodi Whitfield and all those guys will play."
"Jordan Williamson will not play, either. He's closer, but one more week-and-a-half will probably be exactly what he needs."
Meanwhile, defensive end Henry Anderson, who injured his knee in the Army game, and safety Zach Hoffpauir, who's missed the last two games, could return for Oregon.
"He's doing really well," Shaw said of Hoffpauir. "Not ready for this week, but he'll be close for the Oregon game. He and Henry are on a very similar trajectory. Both could play at Oregon, both might need another week after Oregon. We'll see next week during the bye."
There's no change in the health status of reserve defensive lineman Ikenna Nwafor, who's been out since the Washington State game.
The main difference between the Oregon State team that lost to Eastern Washington to open the year and the one that's defeated its last two opponents (Cal and Washington State) by a combined 60 points?
"They're just playing better," Shaw said. "They're playing better."
"Sometimes you lose. Sometimes the other team plays better. We watched the end of that (Eastern Washington) game, that was an unbelievable game. The quarterback at Eastern Washington was on fire. It was special. That whole fourth quarter was unreal. I don't think there's a play he didn't make in the fourth quarter. Sometimes that just happens but since then their quarterback has been on fire, their receiver has been on fire. Defensively they've been opportunistic. They were on the ropes with San Diego State and then boom, make a pick-six, change the game. So defense has been opportunistic, offense has been explosive. That's a deadly combination."
A year removed from playing minor league baseball, Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney carried the ball 36 times in a Stanford victory. That's more carries than Stepfan Taylor ever had in a single game, and the most since Toby Gerhart ran 38 times in 2009.
But Stanford was confident Gaffney would be able to handle the heavy workload.
"He took it on his shoulders behind those guys up front," Stanford running backs coach Tavita Pritchard said. "The guys up front were tremendous all day. They were just phenomenal, giving us creases to stick the ball in. The fullbacks were great. The receivers blocked downfield. They really just blocked their butts off and gave us creases. With Gaff, I don't think it's something you worry about because all of our guys are tough, they're all extremely conditioned and they worked to get to this point to where they can have 36 carries and still feel good in the course of the game."
Though Stanford has gotten only minimal contrutions from its tight ends in the passing game, the Cardinal currently has no plans to move Ryan Hewitt from fullback to tight end. Last week, David Shaw cited Hewitt's "versatility" in explaining why the Cardinal are keeping him at fullback.
According to Hewitt's position coach, the fifth-year senior is also a calming influence on the rest of the offense from the fullback spot.
"He knows our offense so well that he fixes a lot of stuff," Pritchard said. "It feels like he's been at Stanford for a long time, for a guy who's been here a long time myself, he's seen us go through changes in our offense so he understands how plays have evolved over time and so he fixes a lot of stuff. He's kind of a calming presence for our offense. He's a trustworthy guy that we feel good about sticking at different places. To be honest, I think the versatility comes as a fullback because we can move him around in so many different places. With an attached tight end it's harder to find different things for them to do."
Oregon State is ranked No. 29 nationally in rushing defense, allowing an average of 131.7 yards per game.
"(They have a) very, very active front," Pritchard said. "Very physical. They're doing a great job. The thing about them is that they know their scheme so well and they just play it extremely confidently. You can tell that. (Scott Crichton) and Dylan Wynn, all those guys, they run all day and they use their hands and they're relentless. And the backers, they all run and they just do a really good job of I think fitting within their scheme and playing extremely fast and extremely hard."
The Beavers' defensive front is led by the redshirt junior Crichton, who easily leads Oregon State in tackles for loss with 10.
"He's so active," Shaw said. "He get s in on paly s that he shouldn't get in on just because of his effort. He's quick and explosive. He doesn't get talked about a lot as far as national stage or even as far as the conference because there are so many really good defensive players but you always look up in the stats for tackles and tackles for loss and he's always up there and it's just pure effort."
In case you missed it…
Tyler Gaffney on 36 carries, Oregon State
David Parry on his health, pressuring Mannion