STANFORD (CBS / AP) — Stanford coach David Shaw spent the first weekend of the college football season finishing training camp and glancing at games while spending time with his children. Most of his players huddled around televisions in dining halls and dorm rooms. Others had been so focused on practice they forgot the kickoff date.
“I didn’t even realize the season started Saturday until I turned on the TV and saw college football live,” Stanford nickel cornerback Usua Amanam said.
Everything is back to normal now.
It’s finally game week on The Farm again.
After spending the first week of the season on the sidelines, the fifth-ranked Cardinal are set to start at home against San Jose State (1-0) on Saturday night. The defending Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champions believe watching other teams play could be as much of a benefit as a burden when the horn sounds and they run out of the tunnel to an expected sellout crowd at Stanford Stadium.
Coaches and players had a little extra time to study quarterback David Fales and the Spartans as they blew past Sacramento State 24-0 on Thursday night. They also got a chance to watch teams struggle, including Oregon State losing 49-46 to Eastern Washington and Kansas State falling 24-21 to North Dakota State.
Even still, nobody really enjoyed being a spectator.
“It was harder than I thought it was going to be,” Shaw said. “But we talked about it with the staff, talked about it with the players who wanted to watch with a critical eye and see teams that maybe came out flat or maybe took timeouts because this guy lined up wrong or got motion penalties, etc. We want to make sure we don’t start that way. So hopefully we can learn lessons from what others teams did their first game.”
The biggest lesson learned might be from the Cardinal’s last season opener.
In the first game in three years without Andrew Luck, Stanford squeaked out a 20-17 victory over San Jose State in a game it easily could’ve—and perhaps should’ve—lost at home. Fales threw for 217 yards and a touchdown and had the Spartans in position for an upset before Ed Reynolds intercepted his final pass at Stanford’s 45-yard line with a little more than a minute remaining.
That was Fales’ first game with the Spartans, and the first start for so many others on each team.
“I think this year we’re a little more aware of what they’re capable of,” Amanam said. “We had a chance to watch them against Sacramento State last week. So having a week to prepare for them, in that sense, is going to help us.”
About the only tangible evidence of the opening week off—at least for now—is that Stanford slipped from fourth to fifth in the new Associated Press poll released Tuesday. That had more to do with Clemson beating Georgia 38-35 to leapfrog the Cardinal than anything the Cardinal could control.
Shaw has tried his best to prepare players in practice for the first game they’ll face since the Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin on Jan. 1. But he’s the first to admit he’ll always have some questions and curiosities about his team until the first game has been played, which is something he’d rather not wait so long for in the future.
“I was 50-50 before, but now I’m in favor of playing,” Shaw said. “It’s hard not to play when other people are playing, especially the start of the season, because the start of the season has such a buildup. And now, not that it’s changed anything for us, but we’re antsy.”
NOTES: Shaw said Kodi Whitfield will open as Stanford’s primary punt returner. Ty Montgomery, Barry Sanders and Keanu Nelson also are in the mix. … Stanford LB Shayne Skov said doctors cleared him to play without a brace around his surgically repaired left knee, which he wore all of last season after a devastating blow in the third game of the 2011 season knocked him for the year. He said it’s less restricting without a brace but he’s gotten so used to it he hasn’t decided if he’ll wear it Saturday night. “It’s kind of like a crutch. But just to kind of be liberated in that sense is incredible,” Skov said. … New Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren will be on the sideline during games, just as he has been the past two years as the offensive line coach. Instead, quarterbacks and wide receivers coach Mike Sanford will be in a booth upstairs. Shaw said the staff had no problems when it simulated the new alignment on headsets at the stadium Saturday.
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