Defense dominates in Stanford’s spring game
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Stanford coach David Shaw spent the past few months telling anybody who would listen that his defense would be just fine after losing coordinator Derek Mason and several key players this offseason.
If spring showed anything about the two-time defending Pac-12 champions, it’s that Shaw’s hard-hitting defense might be just as stout again this fall.
John Flacco and Chandler Dorrell each intercepted a pass for a score, leading the defense to a dominating 47-23 win over the offense in Stanford’s spring game Saturday.
”It almost seems like they reload,” quarterback Kevin Hogan said.
Shaw stuck to the unconventional scoring format in the spring game for the third straight year: offense (Cardinal) vs. defense (White) to give a truer indication of which side won – as if anybody needed a reminder. The defense received points depending on where it stopped the offense on the field or if it forced a turnover.
And despite losing about half of its key contributors to graduation or the NFL draft, the defense carried the day again.
The White piled up eight sacks, eight pass breakups and 14 tackles for loss. The defense led 30-3 at the half, and the final score would’ve been even more lopsided if not for Shaw pulling most of his defensive starters off the field for the final few possessions.
”It went pretty much like spring had gone,” Shaw said. ”I think we’re pretty close to where we wanted to be. We’d love to be a little bit more, just better on the offensive line as far as assignment and getting things done, but it’s the flip side of having a great defensive line.”
Neither quarterback looked sharp, but Hogan cemented his status as the starter – which Shaw reiterated is not even a question.
Hogan completed 14 of 22 passes for 131 yards, two touchdowns and an interception by Flacco, the brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback and former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. Backup Ryan Burns threw for 131 yards and an interception on 14-for-25 passing.
Burns also fumbled three snaps – two recovered by the defense – and looked anything-but-ready to challenge for Hogan’s job.
Running back Kelsey Young left the game in the second half with a right arm injury after a lineman fell on top of him. His arm was in a sling and scheduled to have an X-ray, Shaw said.
The biggest bright spot for the offensive might have been Barry Sanders, who will be a sophomore in the fall and among the bevy of backs competing to replace Tyler Gaffney. Sanders, the son of the Hall of Fame running back with the same name, ran for 68 yards on 12 carries while bouncing off blows by defenders.
”They definitely put an eye out on me when I’m out there,” Sanders said.
Unlike the past few years at Stanford, most of the departures were on the defensive side. That includes Shaw’s former top assistant and defensive mastermind Mason, who left to become Vanderbilt’s head coach. Lance Anderson, who was promoted from outside linebackers coach, made sure the defense created its usual problems this spring.
Among the other notable losses: linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov, defensive end Ben Gardner, free safety Ed Reynolds, left guard David Yankey, right tackle Cameron Fleming and Gaffney.
Of course, replacing key contributors is nothing new on The Farm.
In the past few seasons, Stanford has seamlessly overcome the losses of Jim Harbaugh, Toby Gerhart, Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz and Stepfan Taylor, to name a few. Several assistant coaches and support staff also have moved elsewhere.
Despite the losses, Stanford believes its defense will be strong again – just maybe not in the way most have become accustomed. Instead of the front seven leading the way, the secondary should be a strength with the return of starting cornerbacks Alex Carter and Wayne Lyons – both already among the Pac-12’s best – and strong safety Jordan Richards.
”We love the challenge,” Richards said. ”It’s almost refreshing. We have a new coach. We have a lot of guys competing for spots. That’s the culture we’re trying to ignite. It’s the same defense.”
NOTES: WR/KR Ty Montgomery (knee and upper body), CB Alex Carter (hip) and backup QB Evan Crower (deviated septum) sat out with injuries. … RB Remound Wright, who’s among those competing for carries, missed the game for an undisclosed disciplinary issue that also kept him out most of spring practices. … Andrew Luck was among several former players in attendance.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP