Chess match setting up nicely

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Stanford head coach David Shaw hit on a few strategic points looking ahead to tomorrow’s Fiesta Bowl following yesterday’s practice.

No doubt, this will be a chess match between two very different philosophies and styles of play.

Chief among Shaw’s concerns is striking a defensive balance between Oklahoma State’s short- and long-range passing games.

Consider the fact that OSU running back Joseph Randle has 38 catches for 238 yards this season -- that would rank him second on Stanford in total receptions, behind Griff Whalen (49) and ahead of Chris Owusu (35), who didn’t play the final three and a half games and won’t be available tomorrow.

OSU likes to use a lot of short swing passes to the backs to eventually set up bigger plays down the field. Some coaches call them “long handoffs,” and it’s something the Cardinal have to be wary of.

“We still treat them as passes because they start off as passes,” Shaw said. “When that ball is thrown in front of us we want to rally and gang tackle. But we don’t want to worry about it so much that that the ball goes over our heads. Coach [Derek] Mason calls it top-down. We want to be a top-down defense, protect deep to short.

“Then again, those guys they throw those short passes to have the ability to take them a long way, so we’ve got to have some integrity as far as how we attack those guys and make sure we have a noose around them and get a lot of hats to the ball carrier.”

On the other side of the ball, Shaw said the Cowboys will have a slight advantage when the Cardinal go into their “jumbo” package of seven offensive linemen. OSU has game film of how other teams have defended it.

“They’ve seen all of our games and they can see how other people have lined up to it and who had success and who didn’t,” Shaw said. “We won’t know what they are working on. We won’t know till game day. We’re a gap-scheme team and I’m sure they’ll try to line up different ways, and that’s fine. But we’ll also have some variance in how we line up and what plays we run.”

With such a long delay between Stanford’s regular-season finale and the bowl game, it’s easy for some teams to fall into the trap of over-tweaking their schemes and trying to do too much.

Not a problem with Stanford, Shaw said.

“We have a very narrowed scope as to what we like and what we feel good about,” he said. “We’ve got some variance off it, but for the most part we’re going to be who we are.”