In the aftermath of Saturday night's 42-24 loss to sixth-ranked USC in the Coliseum, there was no finger pointing, pouting or head hanging. It was a sound beating by a talented team and showed that No. 14 Stanford has work to do to accomplish its goals this season.
"This could be the best thing to happen to our team," said safety Justin Reid. "It gives us a chance to lock in. It gives us an opportunity to be critical of ourselves, and get better, and come together as a team. This will be motivation for the rest of the year."
The Cardinal defense had no answer for running backs Stephen Carr and Ronald Jones, who rushed for 119 and 116 yards, respectively. Highly-touted quarterback Sam Darnold completed 21 of 26 throws for 316 yards and four touchdowns, but was seldom touched. The few times Stanford pressured him, he escaped the pocket and hurt them with mid-range and deep passes.
"I thought he controlled the pace very well and stayed composed," said defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, who registered a game-high 11 tackles. "They have a bunch of good athletes and platoon pretty well."
The Cardinal (1-1, 0-1) had defeated USC three straight times coming into the game, mostly on the strength of a power running game and stingy defense. But the Trojans flipped the script, outrushing Stanford, 307-170.
"They ran it better than we did tonight, and I'm not used to saying things like that," said Shaw.
Using a no-huddle offense, the Trojans ran 20 more plays and finished with a nine-minute time of possession advantage. Of more concern, USC converted 10 of 12 times on third down and produced six down touchdown drives of 75 yards or longer.
"Our guys fought like they always do," Shaw said. "They played extremely hard and well at times. But we didn't have enough.
"The biggest thing was the way they played up front. We knew the quarterback was great. But could they also stay with the run or could we stop it. We didn't do enough to stop it."
Offensively, Bryce Love eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the fourth consecutive game dating to last season. He collected 160 yards on 17 carries, including a dazzling 75-yard scoring run in the first quarter.
Wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside returned to the starting lineup and caught a team-high four passes for 67 yards. He made two acrobatic catches, capped by a late 3-yard touchdown pass from Keller Chryst.
Freshman wide receiver Connor Wedington had another strong game with three receptions for 29 yards and had another nullified by a penalty.
After combining for 10 catches in the season-opener against Rice, the Cardinal tight ends had five grabs led by Dalton Schultz and Kaden Smith with two each.
Chryst sustained his first loss as a starter is now 7-1. He connected on 15 of 28 attempts for 172 yards and two scores, but was under duress most of the game. Three of his passes were batted down at the line of scrimmage and the unit struggled to find its rhythm.
"I made some plays, but at the same time I could have played better, and made sure guys were on the same page better," he said. "I had a delay (of game) and missed some throws. But you learn from those mistakes."
Stanford will hit the road for the third straight game next Saturday when it plays San Diego State at 7:30 p.m. PT in San Diego Stadium. The Aztecs (2-0) defeated UC Davis, 38-17 in their home opener, then won at Arizona State on Saturday night, 30-20.
The teams have met four times previously, with the Cardinal holding a 3-1 advantage in a series that began in 1985. Stanford has won three in a row, the most recent a 31-10 home triumph in 1988.
Stanford players will recognize longtime radio announcer Bob Murphy by wearing a decal on the back of their helmets that says "Murph" with a small red microphone. He recently passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer's.