While there’s not the typical talent of a David Shaw defense, this is still a group that can cause team’s fits. Outside of a two-week span, this team hasn’t managed to give up more than 15 points in a game, which came last week against Oregon State. The blip in the schedule came during weeks four and five where the two Washington programs put up a 43-point average. They’re certainly playing better since that point, giving up a combined 45 points in the last four.
First of all, Stanford does things incredibly weird with the titles of the coaching staff. Lance Anderson is in his third season as “Willie Shaw Director of Defense” AKA defensive coordinator. Make no mistake though, David Shaw certainly has his hands on this defense too. Anderson also works as the Stanford outside linebacker’s coach and has seen plenty of success there. Defensive scheme.
As mentioned, with the glaring exceptions of Washington and Washington State, the Cardinal have done a very solid job on defense this year. When comparing similar opponents to Oregon, they also gave up 10 points to USC and 10 points in a loss to Colorado. All things combined, the defense is giving up an average of 18.56 points per game this season. A little surprisingly, the run defense has been subpar to the Stanford standard as they give up 142 yards per game on the ground. They’ve been good through the air, holding teams to 204 passing yards per game.
This is a defense that excels at getting of the field when they need to. So far, team’s are converting just 38% of third down’s against the Cardinal and 44% of fourth down attempts. They do a good job at forcing turnovers too, having ten interceptions and nine forced fumbles for three recoveries. When (if?) the Ducks get in the redzone, they’ll make it tough. On 31 trips, Stanford has allowed their opponents to score a touchdown just 16 of those while eight trips have resulted in made field goals.
Last year the Ducks relied on the running attack to pull the upset. Royce Freeman contributed 105 yards to the pool of 231 team yards on the ground. Vernon Adams Jr. was very efficient in this one. Although he attempted just 12 passes, he connected on ten of those with no turnovers and two touchdowns.
Three players to watch:
Soloman Thomas, #90, junior defensive lineman, 6' 3", 273 lbs.
Thomas is far and away the team leader with his seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss. He also leads the team with his 43 tackles. He’s a guy they’ll line up in a few different spots on the line and make things tough on offensive schemes.
Dallas Lloyd, #29, (RS) senior strong safety, 6' 3", 213 lbs.
The fifth year senior leads the way for the Cardinal defense with his three interceptions. He’s also second on the team with 37 tackles, which does show that teams are at least making the safeties work for it after getting through the first line.
Joey Alfieri #32, junior outside linebacker, 6’ 3”, 240 lbs.
The junior from Jesuit high school is another one that will be after Justin Herbert in the backfield. He’s second on the team with his seven tackles for loss and five quarterback hits. He’s played exceptionally well against spread offenses this year.