One stat from the Stanford football team’s 20-17 win over San Jose State on Friday really jumps off of the page: the Cardinal were 2-of-13 on third-down conversions.
Last season, Stanford’s conversion rate (53 percent) was third-best in the nation with Andrew Luck under center, so coach David Shaw expects the blame to fall on quarterback Josh Nunes’ shoulders.
But Shaw said the team’s third-down woes had more to do with poor blocking execution than quarterback play.
“It’s not like [the line] played terribly, but they didn’t play up to our standards,” Shaw said.
Despite losing last season’s starting right guard David DeCastro and left tackle Jonathan Martin to the NFL, Stanford is loaded with talent up front. The new unit, which featured seniors Kevin Danser and Khalil Wilkes as starters, just needs to iron out the wrinkles.
Stanford’s front seven is supposed to be one of the best in the country, but they only recorded one sack against San Jose State. With inside linebacker Shayne Skov returning from a 2011 season-ending knee injury (and a one-game suspension for a DUI arrest) this week, the defensive intensity should blow through the roof against Duke on Saturday.
As a sophomore in 2010, Skov was all over the field, leading the team with 84 tackles, including 12 against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Shaw said Skov is close to being as explosive as he was prior to his injury, but he doesn’t expect him to be 100 percent until midseason.
“The bottom line, though, he’s still fast enough, he’s still physical,” Shaw said. “We’ve been having a tough time blocking him all training camp.”
Cal coach Jeff Tedford talked up Zach Maynard’s offseason progression at quarterback all summer, but then he benched the senior in the first quarter of Cal’s season opener against Nevada on Saturday for missing a tutoring appointment in June.
When Maynard finally did get under center, he missed some reads and throws and his fourth-quarter fumble in the red zone hurt the Bears’ comeback chances.
“[He] just needs to be more consistent,” Tedford said. “[He] made some great throws and then missed some other ones with open guys. Hopefully the first-game jitters — or whatever it may be — are gone.”
Maynard will get a chance to work out the kinks when Cal takes on Southern Utah at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Cal’s freshman receivers provided a pinch of optimism to an otherwise bleak afternoon Saturday. Bryce Treggs’ first college reception was a 37-yard touchdown and Chris Harper provided a glimpse of the future with a 13-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.
Together, the true freshmen nabbed eight balls for 119 yards.
But Tedford said the receivers missed some key blocking assignments when the Nevada defense changed formations.
“If the picture changes, they have to be able to adjust and they have to adjust full speed,” he said. “But there’s going to be a learning curve.”