The warmup games are over for No. 5 Stanford.
After beating San Jose State and Army in its first two games, Stanford coach David Shaw said he is happy with where his team is, but that he still sees room for improvement.
“I feel good, not great,” Shaw said. “There’s some gains we’ve made from week one to week two. I don’t know that we’re operating anywhere close to our capabilities.”
The Cardinal (2-0) will get their first big test of those capabilities as they open their Pac-12 schedule against No. 23 ASU (2-0).
The Sun Devils already have one upset to their credit after a controversial win over then-No. 20 Wisconsin on Saturday.
Stanford knows its similarities with the Badgers, especially after having played them in the Rose Bowl last season. Both teams are physical up front and are run-first teams. As such, Stanford junior quarterback Kevin Hogan will be paying close attention to the details of the Badgers vs. Sun Devils game.
“They have a similar offense, similar personnel to us,” Hogan said. “We’ll look at that and see what we can do to use that to our advantage.”
The similarities between the Badgers and Cardinal will carry over to Stanford’s defensive preparation as well.
Redshirt senior outside linebacker Trent Murphy said his team’s similarities to Wisconsin will help it know what to expect from ASU.
“I feel like we just played Wisconsin just the other day,” Murphy said. “We know kind of how physical ASU is, because we know how physical Wisconsin is.”
Shaw said the defensive key for Stanford will be stopping ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly, who is averaging 326 passing yards per game.
“Offensively, the quarterback drives them,” Shaw said. “He can pull it down and run, he can make the big play with his arm, can make the off-schedule play where he gets rushed and can slide out of danger and find a guy down the field. … It’s a tough battle for us.”
The Cardinal were experts at getting to the quarterback in 2012, leading the Pac-12 in sacks with 4.07 per game.
Stanford lost starting senior defensive end Henry Anderson, who was responsible for 5.5 of those 2012 sacks, in the Army game because of a knee injury. Luckily for the Cardinal, redshirt senior Josh Mauro was ready to step in and had a team-high seven tackles against the Black Knights.
“Josh Mauro is a heck of a football player and was our defensive player of the week last week,” Shaw said. “The fact that he, quote-unquote, ‘wasn’t a starter,’ as far as what these pieces of paper say, is crap, because he plays a lot.”
Replacing Anderson, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection last year, won’t be easy, but it provides sophomores like Nate Lohn and Jordan Watson and junior Anthony Hayes with opportunities.
“You feel a little void with Henry not being there,” Mauro said. “But, you know, there’s young guys who are hungry and are ready to step up and take some reps if they need to.”
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