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irish insider

Shaw discusses injuries, importance of balanced offense

| Friday, November 29, 2019

The Stanford Cardinal are preparing to wrap up what has been a difficult season on Saturday playing host to the Irish. The program will go bowl-ineligible for the first time in 11 years and has failed to win eight games for the first time since David Shaw was hired in 2011. He finds himself in an unusual position now partially due to some difficult injuries the team has had to deal with.

Injuries have been harsh to star quarterback K.J. Costello. He suffered a concussion in the team’s opening game that sidelined him for a week, then a hand injury in week four that held him out for over a month, and then has been out since the Colorado game on Nov. 9th with a thumb injury.

The team also has major injuries in other areas. Cornerback Paulson Adebo and safety Malik Antoine are key to the Cardinal defense, but they are unlikely to suit up. Wide receiver Connor Wedington has a team-best 51 receptions this season, but was carted off the field last weekend. At his weekly press conference, Shaw discussed his team’s health and a variety of topics in advance of the matchup with Notre Dame.

“Costello will be out this week,” Shaw said. “K.J. thought maybe he had a chance, it’s just not back. Pretty sure Paulson and Malik weren’t going to make it back this week, and Connor was injured during the game. It’ll take a serious turn of events for him to have a chance to play this week. So he’s very, very doubtful, most likely out.”

With Costello out, the Cardinal have relied on junior Davis Mills as their quarterback. Mills is 2-3 as a starter this season with five interceptions. He also broke the school record for passing yards in a game against Washington State, but his team was downed 49-22 in that contest. Shaw spoke about Mills’ performance last week against Cal and how he has a lot to learn as he keeps getting playing time.

“I thought Davis, at times during the game, was outstanding,” Shaw said. “A couple times we took too long at the line of scrimmage. We’ve got to keep an eye on the clock to keep us from getting a delay of game. I could take those timeouts, but I also want put some faith in the quarterback that he is going to see it, get the ball snapped.

“Especially when we don’t have a change of play or we’re not changing the formation, we’re not motioning, we should be able to get those plays off. So, between false starts and delay of games, getting back behind the chains, and then we have two efficient plays, but then we still end up in a third and longer than five because we set ourselves back. Many of you heard me say this before: technically in my book, you’re still a freshman until you play 12 games. So, we’re still technically, in my opinion, in Davis’ freshman year.”

A commitment to a strong run game would help Mills greatly, but the Cardinal ran for just 61 yards last week against California. Shaw said the team will run the football early and often to establish a balanced attack against the Irish.

“My goal is always to be as balanced as possible, and that balance sometimes looks imbalanced to others, but when I talk about balance, I mainly talk about first and second down through three quarters,” he said. “If we’re able to play the way we want in all three phases, first and second, we should be pretty balanced, run and pass.

”We get to the fourth quarter, as we’ve had many times over the last decade … with a two-score lead, we will not be balanced. We’re going to run the ball. We’re going to be physical, which is what we’ve done a couple of times early in the year. We did it a lot over the last decade or so, which is why so often that gets skewed towards the run.”

Running the ball will be difficult against the Irish front seven. The Irish held a Boston College team that averages 260 rushing yards per game to just 128 yards last weekend, and blew out a triple-option Navy squad the week prior. Shaw believes that the Irish defense presents a unique challenge.

“This will be a big, big challenge for us,” Shaw said. “Defensively, they don’t have the massive human beings they’ve had on the defensive line the last couple years, but they’re extremely active. Their scheme fits their personnel extremely well.

“Quick, explosive and physical up front. Linebackers that scrape and fill and cover. Once again, another challenge to try and establish the run. Don’t want to drop back and just be a drop-back passing team against these guys. They can get after you up front, so we have to be balanced.”

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