STANFORD, Calif. — David Shaw came home late Saturday night and his wife, Kori, already wanted to watch the television replay of his Stanford team’s 21-14 upset over Southern California.
By the time Shaw woke up Sunday morning, more than 200 text messages had piled up on his phone — some from people he didn’t even know had his number. Not to mention the countless calls and emails the second-year head coach has received since.
Indeed, almost everywhere Shaw looks he’s reminded of the victory.
With a bye this week before playing at Washington (2-1) on Sept. 27, staying focused might be the toughest test for the No. 9 Cardinals (3-0, 1-0) after a physical and formidable win against Matt Barkley and the favored Trojans caught everybody’s attention in the Pac-12 this season.
“I don’t want to treat it like a national holiday,” Shaw said Tuesday. “We won a football game. Great. We have another one in about 10 days.”
Suddenly, though, the stakes are even higher.
Stanford’s stampede past a program expected to contend for the national title — outgaining the Trojans 417 to 280 in total yards, holding USC to 26 yards rushing and forcing Barkley into two interceptions — has reshaped expectations in what was supposed to be a transitional year with Andrew Luck and several other key contributors now on NFL sidelines.
New quarterback Josh Nunes was hardly Luck-like, except for a pair of game-changing scrambles for first downs late that even left his coach “shocked.” But Nunes did just enough with a powerful running game led by Maxwell Award Player of the Week Stepfan Taylor, a defense that bullied and bruised Barkley and never allowed All-American receiver Robert Woods and rising star Marqise Lee to break free.
Shaw clicked over his television to another channel later that night and no celebratory toast, for one, because he’s “never had a drink of alcohol in my life.” Also because he knows Washington is the first stop in a difficult road schedule that also includes games at No. 3 Oregon and No. 11 Notre Dame this season.
“I live in a world of anxiety,” he joked.
Stanford has absorbed Luck’s departure better than most imagined, similar to the way it did the loss of 2009 Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart and coach Jim Harbaugh after the 2010 season. The win against USC certainly sent shockwaves across the conference, and Stanford is no longer surprising anybody anymore this year.
“They’ve been able to carry on and they’ve got the combination of really good coaching and very good talent. They can match up with anybody,” said Oregon State coach Mike Riley, whose team visits Stanford Stadium on Nov. 10. “I wasn’t shocked by it. SC has been so hot, though, I was surprised they didn’t get many points.”
Much of the sustained success can be attributed to Stanford’s system.
In preparing for his team’s game next week, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said his staff’s studies showed Stanford has the most 6-foot-4 or taller players in the conference — and perhaps anywhere. The Cardinals have cornered the market on a specific type of athlete who fits that system, Sarkisian said, and that has been evident on the recruiting trail.
“Stanford has a unique style of football in their big personnel groupings with multiple tight ends and extra offensive linemen, and then their ability to play stout up front on the defensive side of the ball to keep the game close,” Sarkisian said. “The moment you break down, they seem to take advantage of it.”
One place Shaw and his staff won’t shy away from the USC win: with recruits.
In a series between California’s two private Pac-12 schools that dates to 1905, Stanford had never won four in a row against USC until now. The timing couldn’t be any better, either.
During the bye, Stanford is hitting the recruiting trail, as most programs always do with the extra time. Three Stanford coaches just so happened to be heading to Southern California this week.