David Shaw has won a lot of games as Stanford coach, but his squad is one loss away from clinching its third losing campaign in four years.
Shaw will try to rally his team from a demoralizing setback when the Cardinal battle No. 13 Utah (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12) on Saturday night in Salt Lake City.
Stanford (3-6, 1-6) was pummeled 52-14 by visiting Washington State last weekend for the team’s second consecutive blowout loss. The Cardinal lost 38-13 at UCLA the previous week.
Few people will expect the Cardinal to beat the Utes, and Shaw understands that mindset.
“I’ll take anything I can get right now,” Shaw said Tuesday afternoon. “Whether guys are motivated to go win or if guys think, ‘Hey, it is us against the world.’ We’ll take all that.
“We have to go in and not be shy and not tiptoe into the stadium. We have to go in there face first and give it the best effort that we have.”
Shaw is in his 12th season at Stanford and possesses a 96-51 record. The Cardinal have racked up five seasons of 10 or more wins during his tenure but appear en route to missing out on a bowl berth for the fourth consecutive season.
Shaw points to injuries as a major problem and said that four of the team’s top five tacklers are questionable to play against Utah. That group consists of linebackers Levani Damuni (team-high 52 stops) and Ricky Miezan (38) and safeties Kendall Williamson (48) and Patrick Fields (39).
That is problematic as the Cardinal gave up 306 rushing yards against Washington State — which is the same amount Utah’s offense ran for last week in a 45-20 home rout of Arizona.
And last season, the visiting Utes rushed for 441 yards while routing Stanford 52-7.
This season, the Utes are again clicking and have scored more than 40 points in three of their past five games.
Utah is 5-0 at home this season, including a 43-42 win over then-No. 7 Southern California on Oct. 15. The Utes have won 24 of their last 25 home contests.
Utah also needs wins to improve its positioning in the College Football Playoff. The Utes are 13th and trail Pac-12 foes Oregon (No. 6), USC (8) and UCLA (12).
Utes quarterback Cam Rising is playing through a knee injury that caused him to miss a 21-17 road win over Washington State on Oct. 27. He played against Arizona and passed for 151 yards and one touchdown.
“It felt good to be back out there with the guys and just running the offense again,” Rising said.
Rising has passed for 2,006 yards, 16 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham hopes Rising will be closer to top form against the Cardinal.
“He wasn’t as sharp as he usually is, but that’ll come, and it was great to have him back in the lineup,” Whittingham said of Rising’s performance against the Wildcats. “Overall, another step in the right direction for us, as things wind down and we are still in the thick of it.”
The Utes reached the Rose Bowl last season and are hopeful for another trip this season.
–Field Level Media