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Cal Football

Stanford Preview: Book on the Cardinal is Short

November 25, 2020
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Usually by the time the Big Game rolls around, Cal has a pretty good idea what to expect from Stanford. The Cardinalk would have played ten or so games, and the Bears would have seen virtually everything they had to offer.

This year, obviously, things are different. Both teams have played just two games, and game-planning for Stanford is something of a crapshoot. Not much can be gleaned from studying the films of the two games. Even head coach David Shaw isn’t quite sure what kind of team he has, and he has seen both games in person.

One thing seems clear, as Davis Mills goes, so go the Cardinal. 

The senior quarterback missed the opening game against Oregon because of a coronavirus test -- false positive as it turns out --  and the Cardinal passing attack struggled under backup Jack West. Oregon, runaway choice to win the Pac-12 North, rolled 45-21. 

Mills was back a week later, and when he got warmed up the Cardinal were ferocious. 

Colorado took a 28-9 lead late in the third quarter and held on as Mills carved up the Buffaloes’ secondary and Stanford nearly pulled out the win before falling 35-32. 

The 6-4, 225-pounder had to  wait his turn on the Farm, but on his good days he continues the Stanford quarterback tradition that goes back well into the 20th Century. Against Colorado he threw 56 times, completing 31 for 327 yards. 

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Austin Jones

One of his favorite targets Connor Weddington was also out of the Oregon game because of a pandemic testing mistake. Against Colorado he caught eight passes for 77 yards. He is an excellent possession receiver.

The prime deep threat is Simi Fehoko, who has caught eight passes for 162 yards. His matchup against Cam Bynum should be fun to watch.

The running game was good for almost 200 yards against Oregon was pretty well bottled up by Colorado. Austin Jones is the workhorse back and Cal defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon said Jones is also a threat catching the ball.

“They do a nice job, similar to what they did with Bryce Love and (Christian) McCaffrey in years past,” Sirmon said. “I think where they’re unique is the ability to get him out into the pass game.”

Overall Sirmon is fearful of the design of the Cardinal offense. Stanford keeps players fresh by using a lot of bodies. 

In normald down and distance situations, they are giving six or seven different personnel groupings. I think they can get big and be effective. More than anything they have skill on the outside part of the field. Four (Michael Wilson), 13, (Fehoko). St.Brown might be coming back. Austin Jonrd they can get into ten, 11 personnel and are able to throw that ball around. They have a pretty big menu to choose from for what they want to do on their normal down and distance.

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Head coach David Shaw
 

“In normal down and distance situations, they are giving six or seven different personnel groupings,” SIrmon said. “I think they can get big and be effective. More than anything they have skill on the outside part of the field. Four (Michael Wilson), 13, (Fehoko). (Osiris) St.Brown might be coming back. ...They can get into ten, 11 personnel and are able to throw that ball around. They have a pretty big menu to choose from for what they want to do on their normal down and distance.”

Last year the Stanford offensive line was hit hard by injuries, forcing younger players into primary roles. This year the injuries continued, but with the week off because the WSU game was canceled last Saturday, players are getting healthy.

“Guard Branson Bragg was cleared last week and we were going to sneak him in there a little bit. Now he looks great,” Shaw said. “The other guys who were banged up have a chance. I am feeling pretty good about depth on the offensive line.”

The Cardinal defense has given up 70 points and 978 yards in the two games. 

“We are looking for consistency,” Shaw said. “We have played very well in spurts, not so well in other spurts.We’ve given up too many explosive plays. “One of the plays against Oregon was perfect coverage and a one-handed catch. If they are going to make a great play you pat them on the back and line up again. he second one we blew a coverage, very un-Stanford-like. Those are the things that can’t happen. 

We have to do a better job against the run. The defensive linemen made plays got off blocks, I think we’ve grown there.”

The Cardinal play a base 3-4, and inside linebackers is a key spot and Stanford is a little thin. “We’ve got a little inexperience at the inside linebacker position,” Shaw said, “Curtis Robinson is playing really good football. We have had to kind of grow up a couple of guys. Missing Rickey MIezen has been tough. Gabe Reid has been able to switch positions (from OLB) and go out there and be effective. He is still learning what to do there to a certain degree, but he’s got savvy and good football experience. Levani Daimuni has been a playmaker for us, graded really highly.”

Stanford has a tough defensive line but has not been able to get to opposing quarterbacks very often. The Cardinal has only one sack. 

However, Shaw likes the work of 6-4, 310 defensive end Thomas Booker.

“He is playing at a high level,” Shaw said. “He is only to get better, he’s still young, still improving.”

 Last year Cal broke Stanford’s nine-game winning streak in the rivalry, handing Shaw his first loss in the rivalry. He was asked how it felt to lose the Cal. “i will answer you not in coach speak and answer you honestly,” Shaw said. “Awful, absolutely awful.”

Former Cal coach Jeff Tedford who began with a long Big Game win streak before suffering defeat.

“You never know important it is to win a Big Game,” he said, “until you lose one.”




 

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Stanford Preview: Book on the Cardinal is Short

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