Q&A: We found a Stanfurd fan to talk to!
And are the fans starting to get impatient with Stanford Football Head Coach David Shaw?
The craziness that is 2020 is about to get a lot crazier—we somehow found a Stanfurd fans in the wild! Thanks to Hank Waddles of Go Mighty Card for his courage to openly identify as a Furd fan and answer some questions about that joke of a junior university.
1. Which player on offense should Cal fans know about?
Go Mighty Card: I’ll go with quarterback Davis Mills. Much was made of K.J. Costello’s graduate transfer to Mississippi State, with some seeing it as an indictment of the program, but the truth is that there was no guarantee he’d have been able to hang on to his starting job this season had he stayed. Mills was one of the top five quarterback prospects in America when he signed with Stanford, but a string of injuries starting with his senior year of high school and extending into college hindered his development and kept him off the field until last season. He showed promise last fall, but after a botched Covid test kept him out of the Cardinal’s first game and quarantined through most of the following week, he remains something of a mystery. He’s incredibly skilled. I’m certain you’ll see him make some throws on Friday that most college quarterbacks can’t imagine, but there will also be times when he’ll throw behind a receiver or make a bad read. Needless to say, Mills’s performance on Friday will go a long way towards determining which team hoists the Axe at the end of the day.
2. Which player on defense should Cal fans know about?
Go Mighty Card: This is a pretty easy one. The Stanford defense has been struggling for a few seasons now, and it was hurt this season by several early departures, most notably cornerback Paulsen Adebo, who opted out. The most impactful player on this year’s unit is Thomas Booker, and his performance will also be key to the Cardinal’s success this week. He’s currently tied for second on the team in tackles, and after gaining a fair amount of weight from last season, the junior defensive end has done a great job shedding blocks and getting into the opposing backfield. If you hear his name often on Friday, it will be a good sign for Stanford.
3. Who's one under-the-radar or X-factor player who could swing this game for you?
Go Mighty Card: I’m not sure the starting tailback can ever be called under the radar, but I’m still going to go with sophomore running back Austin Jones. It’s common knowledge that the Stanford running game as fallen off a cliff over the past season or two, but with the offensive line healthy again, Jones was able to rush for a hundred yards against Oregon in the season opener. Most took that as a sign that the rushing attack was back, but then it disappeared again as Jones tallied just nine yards on nine carries the following week against Colorado. When Jones is given room to run, he’s a special back with the strength to break tackles and the speed to take it the distance. If Jones and the rest of the backs are effective, things will open up for Mills and the passing game, and the Stanford offense will be difficult to stop.
4. What does Stanfurd need to do to win the game?
Go Mighty Card: I suppose I alluded to this a bit in the previous question, but here it is in more direct terms—the offensive line has to play well, both in pass protection and run blocking. The defense is the clear weakness of the team, so the offense will have to produce points—touchdowns, not field goals—and do its best to keep the Cal offense off the field. The fewer snaps for the Stanford defense, the better.
5. What does Cal need to do to win the game?
Go Mighty Card: The Cal offense needs to score touchdowns. That seems obvious, but one of the main problems Stanford had against Colorado was that while the Buffaloes only scored five times, each score was a touchdown. Stanford, meanwhile, scored six times, but only three of those scoring drives ended in the end zone. The Bears will certainly have scoring opportunities, but the game might be decided on how effective they are when they get into the red zone.
6. How do you see the game going?
Go Mighty Card: Obviously, this is the most difficult question of the bunch. Typically we want to look at past performance to gauge future expectations, but none of that really works during this Covid season. Cal’s impromptu game against UCLA can probably be tossed out, and it’s hard to make anything from Stanford’s opening loss against Oregon or even their loss the next week to Colorado. Also, we can usually count on emotions playing a big part in any Big Game, but we’ve never seen a Big Game played in an empty stadium, have we? All reports indicate Stanford has had a good couple weeks of practice, and they should be eager for some game action after last week’s cancellation. With this in mind, plus the motivation to get the Axe back, I think they’ll start out the game quickly and finish strong. Stanford 27, Cal 24.
7. Last season was your first losing season since 2008 and you're currently (also) sitting winless. Is this the beginning of the end for David Shaw or one outlying bad year followed by COVID craziness? Is Shaw's seat warming up?
Go Mighty Card: The honest answer is that Stanford football has been difficult to watch recently. It was disappointing to see the Axe getting carried off our field last year, but believe it or not there are larger concerns. Stanford has now lost six straight games stretching back to last season, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear identity. Last year was marred by a run of injuries, specifically to the offensive line, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Given all that happened, it isn’t surprising that they finished 4–8, and given the Covid craziness of this year, maybe it isn’t surprising that they’ve started 0–2. So you can find the excuses for this current slide if you look for them, but the concerns are beginning to mount. David Shaw, however, has built a considerable amount of equity, taking Stanford to more Rose Bowls than Cal has seen in the past seventy years. It would take multiple seasons of ineptitude like this for Shaw to feel any kind of concern for his job, but concern is growing in the fan base. Fans have tired of Shaw’s offense, and people are beginning to wonder if he will ever make any changes. Another losing season won’t threaten his job security, but perhaps it will lead to other changes.
8. Whom do you most want to punch in the face?
Go Mighty Card: Believe it or not, a few friends and I have regular conversations about this, with the top slots on the list rotating frequently. Right now my answer is simple—Donald J. Trump.
Thanks again to Hank Waddles (@GoMightyCard) for taking the time to answer our questions. It’s always a pleasure to speak with knowledgeable fans—and it’s such a rare treat when that team only has fourteen fans at all.