Criticism and questions are swirling around Stanford following another anemic offensive performance in Saturday's 26-10 loss to Arizona State, and coach David Shaw is taking full responsibility for the team's struggles on that side of the ball.
“I’ve done a poor job of structuring our offense so that our guys can be successful," Shaw said Tuesday. "We have to utilize our personnel better."
Stanford has dropped to the Pac-12 cellar in terms of scoring offense. The Cardinal are averaging only 17.6 points per game against Power 5 competition, roughly two touchdowns below the Pac-12 average (30.2 per game). In Tempe, Stanford managed only 10 points, 288 yards of total offense, and 4.7 yards per play, all figures that paled in comparison to what Weber State, New Mexico and Colorado accomplished offensively against Arizona State. The Sun Devils had surrendered more than 200 rushing yards in four straight games, but Stanford -- once feared for its powerful rushing attack -- managed only 76 yards on the ground.
Shaw said quarterback Kevin Hogan, who finished 19-for-39 against a steady diet of Arizona State pressure, is receiving a lot of unwarranted blame for Stanford's struggles. He instead suggested that the Cardinal coaching staff has not successfully tailored its offensive approach to put Hogan and a bevy of playmakers in position to succeed.
"I’ve got to help our guys so they can just be the great athletes they are," Shaw said. "We’ve sputtered too many times. I need to adjust accordingly... We've got too good of personnel in our offense to score [so few points]."
Shaw would not elaborate on intricate details of Stanford's potential offensive adjustments, but the attack has come under fire for relying heavily on its traditional power rushing, play-action oriented approach even though it has become increasingly apparent that the team's decrease in size at the running back position has made that strategy less effective. In the past, Stanford has enjoyed the services of bruisers such as Toby Gerhart, Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney. Now, the Cardinal seem to enjoy comparative advantages on the outside instead, behind big receiving talents Ty Montgomery, Devon Cajuste and a trio of young tight ends.
Shaw said he wants to capitalize on that without drastically altering Stanford's scheme midseason.
“I’m taking this one personally because I look at our guys, and I’ve got to help them," he said. “I have to find a way to utilize our personnel better. I just have to.”
Stanford has partially reopened a competition at right guard. Although Shaw said Johnny Caspers has played well enough to keep his starting spot there, Brendon Austin is getting an opportunity to earn playing time.
The Cardinal host Oregon State this Saturday in what promises to be a test for the team's staggering offense: The Beavers rank second -- behind only Stanford -- in the Pac-12's total defense category. The Cardinal's heavily anticipated visit to Autzen Stadium looms the week after.