Sports

Stanford football: fans, Love and the quarterback situation

 
JJ Arcega-Whiteside (19) credited the student body for their energy. Photo by John Todd/isiphotos.com.

The Stanford football team received enthusiastic support from its student section last Saturday night in its 58-34 home-opening win against UCLA. And it didn't go unnoticed.

"It was great to see," said junior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside. "They made an impact on the game. We were all feeding on each other's energy. If we have fewer students at the game, we might not play as well, just because we don't feel that support."


Sean Barton
The student turnout was 6,487, second-most since Stanford started keeping track in 2008. The school's undergraduate enrollment is just over 7,000.

"We looked up at the student section and were all talking about how it was of the largest crowds we had ever seen in the stadium," Whiteside said. "It was exciting to be able to play in front of the same people we're going to class with and encountering every day. And they're cheering for us. We want to thank them, and hopefully, there will be even more on Saturday."

The Cardinal (2-2 overall, 1-1 Pac-12) plays host to Arizona State (2-1, 1-0) on Saturday at 1 p.m.

David Shaw, Stanford's Director of Football, has not named a starting quarterback for the Arizona State game. Senior Keller Chryst started the first three games but was injured in the first quarter against UCLA and did not return. Fifth-year senior Ryan Burns and sophomore K.J. Costello replaced him, with the latter taking the majority of the snaps.

"Keller was feeling much better yesterday (Monday), but has a few steps before he is completely back into practice," Shaw said Tuesday.

Shaw has avoided listing a No. 2 or No. 3 signal caller this season on the depth chart.

"We left that vague for a reason," said Shaw. "Ryan Burns has played a role, so if Keller doesn't play, it's some kind of combination between those two guys. If Keller does play, there may be some combination of those three guys. We'll see how it goes."

Shaw noted that Costello gave the team a nice lift.

"It was impressive," said Shaw. "He'll be the first to tell you it wasn't perfect. In our first three drives, he wasn't completely on. But the bottom line is, the kid has moxie, he's got a little fire to him, and he can throw the football extremely well."

Asked what the biggest takeaway on offense was against the Bruins, Shaw said, "Bryce Love."

And why?

"He's a phenom," Shaw continued "There's a lack of surprise on our football team, because we've been watching it. This is the same guy that was the player of the game his first game as a freshman against Central Florida. He took a screen pass 93 yards and was accelerating at about 80 yards. We've seen it over and over again. He's got so much speed and so much explosion. We all knew this was going to happen."

Love has surpassed 100 yards rushing and scored at least one touchdown in six consecutive contests. Shaw thinks he might be faster than he was two years ago and is stronger than people think.

"Not all of his big plays happen on the edge," said Shaw. "In the Notre Dame game (last year), his two biggest runs were between the tackles."

Love leads the country in rushing yards (787) and yards per game (196.75), ranks second in yards per carry (8.43), and ranks second in the Pac-12 in all-purpose yards per game (198.0). He ran for 263 against UCLA, the second-most in program history behind Christian McCaffrey, who rushed for 284 against Cal in 2016.

In the past 20 years, only Leonard Fournette (864) of LSU and Garrett Wolfe (828) of Northern Illinois had more rushing yards after four games.

More numbers: In the past six games, Love has run for 1,016 yards on 101 carries, an average of 10.1 per rush. Glenn Davis of Army (1943-46) holds the NCAA career mark for yards per carry average at 8.26 (with a minimum of 300 attempts).

Asked to name similarities between Love and McCaffrey, Shaw cited work ethic, unselfishness and the ability to push others.

"He comes to work, give him the accolades and pat him on the back and talk about the records and he says, 'Okay, thank you very much,' because he's a very nice young man and conscientious kid," said Shaw. "And he goes back to work.

"That was exemplified unbelievably by Christian. Everyone in the world telling him how great he is, and he walked back across the field and he's still finishing every run 20 yards."

Targeting calls

After watching film, Shaw had no objections to the targeting penalties called in the UCLA game. One came against cornerback Alijah Holder, who was disqualified and must sit out the first half against Arizona State.

"We have to draw a line between what is ejectable, and be more specific," he said. "That's my hope, because you can never judge intent. I think the rules will be continually upgraded."

Added Cardinal senior free safety Brandon Simmons, "It's tough for the players and the officials. I think you can kind of tell when something is a little more malicious and something is not intentional.

"Everything happens so fast in the game. Your head is so close to your shoulders that sometimes you're just going to get some head-to-head contact."

Injury update

Shaw confirmed that junior inside linebacker Sean Barton, who was injured against San Diego State, will not play again this season. He started the first three games and also shined on special teams, finishing with 14 tackles -- eight solo -- and one forced fumble.

Shaw said senior cornerback Terrence Alexander is "getting close to where we can work him back into practice."

Social discourse

Asked about the discord between President Trump and the NFL, Shaw said he is a football coach by profession but a social psychologist at heart.

"First and foremost, I'm an American that loves this country," he said. "There's an unhealthy discourse right now. To me, what's fundamental is President Trump, not just as President Trump but as citizen Trump, he is entitled to his opinion. But his opinion is very influential, of course. At the same time, athletes, because they're athletes, doesn't mean they don't get to have an opinion or outlook as well.

"I think opinions are valid. For some reason nowadays, we just want to yell at each other as opposed to saying, 'Here's what I believe, and you believe something different. Let's find our commonalities and our differences and respect each other.'

"Some of those guys that knelt, some of those guys that locked arms were not even locking arms about social injustice. They're saying, I'm playing with this guy, he's on my team, and I respect his right to protest or not protest. But in five minutes, I also trust that he's going to go pick up that blitz or go block somebody. This protest is not infringing on their ability to do their job."

Shaw said he would not kneel during the national anthem, but "I love some of those guys who are. They're like family to me. And their points are very, very valid. What they're trying to accomplish is noble."

Shaw continues to discuss social issues with his players and has always encouraged dialogue and opinion.

"Be intelligent about it," he said. "If you have a question, research it and find answers. If you want to say something, say something, but speak from a point of intelligence and knowledge and say something that you can defend with reason and as much factual evidence as you have. And then continue on with life."

Special day

Saturday is Cardinal Kids Day, Educator Day, and Sexual and Relation Violence Awareness Day. Brenda Tracy, who spoke to the Stanford team last spring and has spearheaded a national campaign tabbed "Set The Expectation" will be recognized. Cardinal players will wear a teal and purple ribbon decal on their helmets, as will Arizona State.

"I think it's a great opportunity and I'm very grateful to Todd Graham and Arizona State for being willing participants," said Shaw. "It's okay to be more than football players, it's okay to be more than a football coach. It doesn't mean we will take anything lightly on the football field. At the same time, if we can continue to raise awareness, and particularly in this age of people, not just the players on the field but the people that are coming into the stadium, and talk about setting the expectation for your relationship and expectation about how you are going to interact with other human beings, gosh, why wouldn't we take advantage of that?

"I'm very grateful to Brenda Tracy and all the work that she's done and this momentum she has created. Brenda said something a while ago that continues to bounce around in my head. In all the work that she does, if every year she saves two or three people from becoming victims ... after five or six years, how many people is that? It's changing our country a couple people at a time and keeping something horrific from happening to them. That's the least we can do is educate people and it's part of our responsibility."

Extra Points ... Four true freshmen have played for the Cardinal this season: offensive tackle Walker Little, tight end Colby Parkinson, offensive tackle Foster Sarell and wide receiver Connor Wedington. Shaw said it was likely no others would see action ... Stanford leads the nation with seven plays from scrimmage of 50 or more yards ... In this decade, the Cardinal has produced 661 tackles for loss, ranking sixth nationally ... Since 2011, Stanford has registered 267 sacks, tops in the FBS ... Sophomore kicker Jet Toner has converted seven consecutive field goals and is one of six players nationally without a miss.

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