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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Opponent Analysis: Gerhart powers Stanford

    Old-fashioned smash-mouth football.

    That’s the way the Stanford Cardinal likes to play football, and that’s exactly the kind of approach it will bring into Saturday’s contest against a surging Arizona team.

    After last year’s unexpected success under head coach Jim Harbaugh, this year’s team has taken to his hard-nosed approach with the evidence apparent on the field.

    Stanford had a workman-like 36-28 win over Oregon State to open the season and it was the ground game that made the difference. Junior Toby Gerhart gained 147 yards and scored twice on 19 carries, unexpected numbers from a team that was 103rd out of 120 teams with 111.2 rushing yards per game last season.

    “”I think we have to recognize what kind of talent we have back there carrying the ball,”” Stanford offensive coordinator David Shaw said in a Tuesday news conference.

    “”We made a conscious decision as a staff to put the ball into the hands of the players who can make a difference for us and get positive yards.””

    Led by the bruising 6-foot-1, 235-pound Gerhart, the Cardinal’s desired game plan on offense against the Wildcats would involve Gerhart putting up numbers similar to his stats for the win over the Beavers. The Arizona coaching staff knows it must stop Gerhart and force Stanford to become one-dimensional through the air.

    “”Stanford is very committed to running the football and being physical,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”They’re smart in what they do, certainly. . . . Hopefully we can get the right fit and be in the right spots this week.””

    If Stanford does throw the ball, it could mean trouble for the Cardinal as the Wildcats are ranked No. 2 in total defense with 226.2 yards allowed per game and are the toughest team to throw against, allowing only 118.8 yards per game.

    “”They are very active and very athletic. They rally to the ball very well and it’s not just one player,”” Shaw said. “”The entire team has great speed and they play well together. They are rarely out of position. They are a very well-coached, athletic team.””

    But Stanford won’t be close to intimidated. Senior Tavita Pritchard beat USC last year in his first career start and disposed of Arizona in both road games.

    “”He’s a good quarterback that manages their offense very, very well and keeps the chains moving,”” Stoops said. “”They won’t get in a lot of long-yardage situations.

    “”He’s a good scrambler. He has good athleticism,”” Stoops added. “”You have to make sure you can defend him.””

    Pritchard’s experience and composure could come into play if he can get over his poor performance last week in South Bend, Ind. Pritchard tossed three picks in a 28-21 loss to Notre Dame, but his coaches expect to see a better game out of the Stanford signal caller.

    “”The fact that Tavita in the fourth quarter (against Notre Dame), went 10-for-11 with two touchdown passes was outstanding,”” Shaw said. “”He knows that’s our standard for him and that’s his standard for himself. We need him to play like that for 60 minutes.””

    The Stanford defense also has daunting task ahead of it. Arizona is ranked 26th in total offense (428.6 yards per game) and is No. 8 in scoring offense as they post close to 44 points per contest.

    Stanford is 91st in total defense (394.33 yards allowed per game) and the Cardinal’s 27.7 points allowed per game ranks 81st in the nation. Those numbers are a good indicator that the Wildcats will light up the scoreboard in Palo Alto, Calif., and the Stanford coaches realize the task ahead.

    “”We have that ability (to match up with Arizona). The key for us is consistency,”” Shaw said. “”It’s the confidence knowing we can do it and the stick-to-itiveness to do it on every play.””

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