When it comes to his first game of the New Year, David Shaw doesn’t have to think too hard about what to worry about.
“The thing is, they can catch you sleeping,” Shaw said of Big-12 Conference champion Oklahoma State, who he’ll he encounter in Monday’s Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. “One guy’s out of place, and they get a 60-yard touchdown.”
Fortunately for Shaw, his guys haven’t been caught napping much this season. Under the first-year coach, the Cardinal have finessed and rushed their way to a second consecutive BCS bowl game appearance and an 11-1 season.
But in the fellow 11-1 Cowboys, Stanford doesn’t only have a vaunted offense — which is led by quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon — to worry about.
“Their defense has given up some yards, but has taken the ball away a lot,” Shaw said. “So for us, ball security is paramount. And you gotta score touchdowns against these guys, because you can move the ball and kick field goals and still lose by a bunch.”
Scoring touchdowns is something that Stanford’s star quarterback, Andrew Luck, has had a knack for this season, passing for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns, while only tossing nine interceptions.
“I hope it will resonate in the history of Stanford football. I think we’ve done some pretty remarkable stuff so far,” said Luck, who beat Virginia Tech in last year’s Orange Bowl. “We obviously want to finish it out on a high note against a good Oklahoma State team.”
And besides being led by one of the best quarterbacks — and players — in college football today, Stanford can run the ball, too.
“I think in this game, on both sides, you have probably two of the more underrated running backs in the nation,” Shaw said, speaking of the Cardinal’s Stepfan Taylor and Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle, who both recorded more than 1,000 yards in 2011.
And while Stanford — and Luck — enter Monday’s matchup with plenty with of questions as to what will happen next year, one thing remains clear as the date with Oklahoma State looms.
“I realize the time is limited with all your buddies,” Luck said, who should be in the NFL by this time next year. “But more importantly, just focusing on trying to win and enjoying those moments. If we lose, it won’t be as fun as winning ... again.”
Stanford (11-1) vs. Oklahoma St. (11-1)
WHEN: Monday, 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
RADIO: KTCT (1050 AM)