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Notebook: Oregon

Nov 6, 2013

STANFORD, Calif. – Many around the country point to Stanford’s 17-14 overtime victory over Oregon last year as the blueprint for stopping a high-octane spread attack. But David Shaw won’t go that far.

The reasons for Stanford’s success last year: “It’s so blatantly obvious,” said Shaw, Stanford’s Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. “Open-field tackles. You’ve got to play great team defense and have some standout performances.”

Some plays stood out in Shaw’s mind. There was a shoestring tackle by A.J. Tarpley on Ducks’ speedster D’Anthony Thomas, and Devon Carrington’s tackle on a 77-yard run by quarterback Marcus Mariota. Both prevented touchdowns and may have been the difference.

“I wouldn’t say that we found the key to unlock the offense,” Shaw said. “We played really well. “It’s not just scheme.  You got tremendous effort from really good players, guys who played hard and well together. That’s what it takes.”

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No. 3 Oregon was a 10-point favorite against No. 6 Stanford despite the game being played at Stanford Stadium at 6 p.m. (PT) Thursday.

Shaw sounded surprised.

“It’s only 10?” Shaw said. “I thought it was going to be higher. They’ve played as well as anybody in the nation. And we haven’t. So, the fact that it’s only 10 is a huge credit to our kids.”

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“The campus is excited,” safety Ed Reynolds said about the buzz on campus about the game. “They realize what this game means to the program and the school.”

Said David Yankey, “There’s always a lot at stake in this game. We’re excited to have a chance at Oregon and to try to win a Pac-12 title.”

* * *

Stanford is expected to welcome defensive end Henry Anderson back to the field, in his first action since suffering a leg injury in a Week 2 victory over Army.

“He’s looked like Henry in practice,” Shaw said. “I don’t know how many plays, and I’m not sure about the conditioning, but the leg is structurally strong and he’s able to push off it and get power.”

Kicker Jordan Williamson, out for two games with an injury, is expected to play, but it depends on how he looked in practice this week.

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The loss of defensive end Ben Gardner, a fifth-year team captain, for the season because of an arm injury, will be felt, Reynolds said.

“Not having Ben is a big hit, because he’s such a great leader,” Reynolds said. “His effort, his knowledge, his football IQ is amazing. But our defense prides ourselves on ‘Next man up.’ We have supreme confidence in the next man at that position.

“Guys in that front are definitely playing for him for the rest of the year.”

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The unhealthy lifestyles of football coaches have been brought into the forefront with the collapse of Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak, the heart ailment of Denver Broncos coach John Fox, and the seizures suffered by University of Minnesota coach Jerry Kill.

Stanford experienced some of that when defensive assistant Chester McGlockton died three years ago.

“I don’t sleep well, I don’t often eat enough, I don’t get enough exercise, and my job is moderately stressful,” Shaw said. “None of us in the profession take care of our health the way we should.”

There are ways to try to minimize the health issues. Since McGlockton’s death, Shaw has instructed his staff to get a physical at least once a year. Also, the team does not schedule early-morning meetings during the week or on Sundays so that coaches will spend more time at home. They also hold a family night once a week and leave home early on Thursday evenings to be home for dinner.

“That’s not just coming from me, it’s coming from Bill Walsh, Denny Green, Tony Dungy, all those guys,” Shaw said. “Those things help us be as normal as we can be.”

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In light of the bullying allegations that caused former Stanford offensive lineman Jonathan Martin to leave the Miami Dolphins, Shaw described why those tactics, from a team standpoint, are detrimental.

“One of the things we say over and over again, ‘We win games because of our locker room, we win games because we trust each other,’” Shaw said. “If you’re out to win for yourself, you can’t win a team sport. If someone has a problem, we all have a problem. That’s how team sports are. That’s how you become a good team.”

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Former Stanford receiver Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), the former mayor of Newark, N.J., was elected to the U.S. Senate and was sworn in at a ceremony at the Senate chambers at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Shaw, a close friend, was in attendance on Halloween.

“I think we should all feel pretty good about Cory Booker being in that room,” Shaw said.

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We all know Chip Kelly, the former Oregon coach now in his first season as head man of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. But what about his replacement, first-year Ducks’ coach Mark Helfrich?

“Mark is really smart,” said Shaw, who got to know him during Pac-12 media days and a conference coaches meeting. “He plays to guys’ strengths, he’s helped the quarterback (Heisman frontrunner Marcus Mariota) take the next step, and their pass protection is better than it’s been in years. It’s hard not to give Mark a lot of credit.”

Shaw said the coaches hit it off because they are so similar in personality and approach.

“We’re both quietly competitive,” Shaw said. “We both lean toward the cerebral approach as opposed to the emotional.”

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Oregon’s Mariota has thrown 20 touchdown passes and no interceptions. However, Stanford has a takeaway streak of 32 consecutive games.

Asked for his reaction to playing against a quarterback who hasn’t thrown an interception, cornerback Alex Carter said, “It’s time for him to throw one.”