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Notebook: Arizona State

Oct 7, 2021

THE 31-24 OVERTIME victory over No. 3 Oregon on Saturday will remain a memorable one for fans, but Stanford's players must put it aside quickly with No. 22 Arizona State on Friday night.

"The guys were so excited after the game," said David Shaw, Stanford's Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. "But the preparation began in the locker room. I told them, I didn't see anybody bringing a trophy. There's no trophy for beating Oregon. Great effort, big game. Now, get some rest so we can get to work on Arizona State."

Such is life in the Pac-12, probably the most balanced conference in the country. Stanford is playing its fourth consecutive ranked opponent to open conference play.  

"If you win big games, the games get bigger," Shaw said. "You beat Oregon, that's great. Now, the Arizona State game is bigger. 

"We all know, our conference is insane. The idea that we go too far and celebrate one victory, that does us no good. We're focusing on what's in front of us, not behind us. And, right now, Arizona State is right in front of us."

Said John Humphreys, who caught the winning touchdown pass against Oregon, "I think we got enough congratulations. It's time to turn the page quick and move on to the next opponent." 


Thomas Booker and teammates celebrate the victory over Oregon. Photo by Glen Mitchell/

* * * 
THE LEGEND OF quarterback Tanner McKee is growing. That's what leading a two-minute drill to tie the game against a highly-ranked opponent – after briefly leaving the game because of injury – and throwing the winning overtime TD pass will do. 

McKee, a freshman in eligibility, is 3-1 as a starter and has yet to throw an interception. 

"I don't know what the ceiling is," Shaw said. "It's up there, and it's really high.

"There are things he does that surprise us every practice and multiple times every game. He plays above his experience level. Sometimes, he makes a freshman mistake and it's shocking to us, but it shouldn't be because he technically is a freshman. 

"I love his mentality, I love his preparation, I love his positive energy, I love how he is in the huddle. The most exciting thing is, really, he's just scratching the surface. He really is. He's going to be an exciting one to watch for a long time." 
* * * 

THIS WILL BE Stanford's seventh short-week game in the past decade. The Cardinal has fared well on the backend of those, going 4-2 overall and 2-1 on the road since 2012.

This is the first time Stanford has had a home-road sequence on short weeks, though the Cardinal had three demanding road-road sequences and went 2-1, most recently a 44-6 loss at Washington in 2016. 
* * * 

ARIZONA STATE QUARTERBACK Jayden Daniels is the highest graded offensive player overall in the Pac-12 this season (89.1) by Pro Football Focus, and 15th in the nation.

Daniels is "tall, long, strong-armed, accurate, and has a quick release," Shaw said. "He can run as well. He's difficult to get down, difficult to sack. And he's so tall (6-foot-3), he sees over your guys. Big challenge for us."

Daniels also is well protected. He has been knocked down just five times, the third-fewest among FBS QBs.

"He's an explosive guy who can escape the pocket," outside linebacker Jordan Fox said. "It's really important to stay in our rush lane and keep him contained. We've got to make sure our defensive backs are getting him off his first look, just so we can get home and get after him." 
* * * 

Elijah Higgins. Photo by Glen Mitchell/

WITH BRYCEN TREMAYNE likely out for the season, Stanford's receiving depth will be tested. So far, the receivers have responded. 

Elijah Higgins caught the jump ball with no time left to force overtime against Oregon, and sophomore Humphreys made the winning catch in overtime, breaking tackles along the way. 

Michael Wilson, the offensive captain, remains out this week with an injury. But Shaw is hopeful he can return in the near future.

Shaw believes that Stanford could be great at the skill positions in years to come with many returning.   

"We really have a chance to have a special group," Shaw said. "Our skill positions are rivaled by the best in college football. We're just maturing into that, we're not there yet. But I'm really excited about where we are, and that we can improve and must improve for us to be the team we want to be." 
* * * 

SHAW SCOFFED AT the idea that Stanford would consider going for two at the end of regulation against Oregon, rather than play for overtime. 

"I didn't even hesitate," he said. "Are you kidding me? With the runners that we have, our play on the offensive line? With the receivers, tight end, and quarterback we have? We feel great about our people. 

"I always have Jon Gruden's voice in the back of my head, my biggest mentor. He'd always say, 'Don't try to win a game as a playcaller.' That has to do with pride and with the fans. Put the guys in position to win the game. You have to be about the players, not about looking like a guru or following some edict. I love overtime."
* * * 

THE SHORT WEEK has changed the weekly pattern in game preparation. 

"Sunday and Monday were absolute complete fire drills," Shaw said. "It's hard to do two days of work in one day. Between Saturday night and Sunday, we tried to get a gameplan done in all three phases. But it's difficult. 

"Monday is usually a slower-paced deal. We're out on the field, but not very long. But now Monday was a combination of our Monday and our Tuesday. We had to do a little bit more than usual, but at the same time trying to take care of our guys. A lot of them are banged up. That was a physical, physical football game." 
* * * 

SHAW HAS A connection to Arizona State through his father, Willie, who coached defensive backs there from 1980-84. Among players Willie Shaw coached were consensus All-Americans Mike Richardson and David Fulcher. 

David Shaw was 8 during Willie's first season in Tempe and remembers that the team was served postgame McDonald's hamburgers. 

"I'd always try to sneak in the locker room and get a burger or two," he said. 
* * * 

JOSH KARTY, starter on placekicks and kickoffs, is out for Friday's game. The first-year starter has made 4-of-7 field-goal attempts. Shaw is hopeful that Karty will miss only one game.

Freshman Emmet Kenney is expected to handle placekicks while punter Ryan Sanborn will kick off. 
* * * 

John Humphreys spins into the end zone with the winning TD. Photo by Bob Drebin/

BEFORE THE TOUCHDOWN that beat Oregon, John Humphreys was at the receiving end of a big play that ignited the tying drive at the end of regulation. With Stanford facing 2nd and 19 after back-to-back false-start penalties, Humphreys took a pass from McKee and gained 23 yards for a first down. 

"I was actually backside on a concept and Tanner signaled me, single route," Humphreys said. "I had a slant there. They were playing pretty soft so Tanner saw that and took advantage of it. We needed something to get rolling and that got the drive rolling."

Humphreys' touchdown was the first for his family for Stanford. John's father, Brad Humphreys, intercepted 14 passes as a Stanford defensive back from 1985-87, but never scored a touchdown. 
* * * 

THE OREGON GAME could have a longterm benefit for Stanford, Jordan Fox said. 

"It shows the resilience that we have, to keep battling and keep fighting," he said. "It builds some confidence for our team when we do face adversity and get in tight games."