For the first time this season, Stanford head coach David Shaw was called out during a postgame news conference about his play-calling. He didn't seem to mind it the first two times, but the third time he was asked about the same play, it was clear he was starting to get perturbed.
The play in question came with 7:11 remaining in the game and Cardinal trailing USC 27-24 Saturday night. Drew Terrell had just returned a punt 32 yards to the USC 29-yard line.
The sequence that followed:
First-and-10: Quarterback Andrew Luck rushed for 14 yards to the USC 15.
First-and-10: Luck throws incomplete to wide receiver Chris Owusu.
Second-and-10: Stepfan Taylor rushes for 2 yards to the USC 13.
Third-and-8: Tyler Gaffney rushes for 2 yards to the USC 11.
This last play is the one that left some scratching their heads, because Gaffney took the direct snap out of the Wildcat formation. Shaw was questioned about his decision to take the ball out of Luck's hands in the red zone. On fourth down, Eric Whitaker converted the 29-yard field goal to tie the game at 27-27.
First question: What was his thought process?
"I'm thinking it was a good play -- it was a good call," Shaw said. "We wanted to make sure we got the field goal. It was a safe call. But we thought it was a good play."
Second question: We're they playing for the field goal?
"Not necessarily," Shaw said. "If they play with two high, with two safeties, we had a chance to get the first down. If they play with single safety, we gotta make sure there is one guy unblocked and we put it in Gaffney's hands and try to make him miss. Just like he did last week and the week before and the week before. The thing with us, we've got the field goal, let's run a play we know is sound. He still has a chance to get it, but let's just run it."
Third question: Had Stanford lost the game, would he second-guess the call?
"Not at all," Shaw said -- starting to show a little frustration at the line of questioning. "It's the right call. We didn't get the first down, we kicked the field goal and we tied it. What else do you guys want? You guys are picky. Unbelievable."
Shaw is one to keep his emotions in check. And for the most part he did Saturday night. But it was clear that he didn't appreciate being pressed three times on the same play.
He quickly lightened the mood however, with what he didn't say. Shaw was praising the play-calling of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and running game coordinator Mike Bloomgren.
But when asked who called the double-reverse, wide receiver pass (from Luck to Ty Montgomery) out of the Wildcat formation that went for 62 yards, Shaw let a devilish grin escape, and then he raised his eyebrows twice.
Well-played, Mr. Shaw.