STANFORD — Was the 62-7 rout of Rice in Sydney, Australia a mirage? Is the 42-24 loss at USC after a bye week more of a reflection of what’s to come for No. 19 Stanford?
David Shaw prefers to hold off judgement until at least three or four games into the season.
“I’m still getting there,” Shaw said this week. “Part of my reason for always saying that is you kind of got to get punched in the gut sometimes before you really know what you have, because you see how the whole team responds. You see how individuals respond, you see how groups respond — groups of linebackers, defensive linemen, offensive linemen, tight ends, etcetera — and you see how we respond as a team.”
The Trojans amassed 623 totals yards — 307 rushing, 316 passing — which is the most the defense has allowed during Shaw’s tenure as head coach.
The Cardinal (1-1, 0-1 Pac-12) couldn’t keep pace after trading blows for most of the first half.
“I think we started out fairly strong and as the game went on we couldn’t sustain,” left tackle David Bright said. “So up-front it wasn’t a great performance for us, if we’re being honest with ourselves. And we need to just improve as we’re go into this next week.”
That’s the focus this week in practice, with improvement needed across the board before Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff at San Diego State.
“Guys are competing for starting jobs, guys are competing for playing time, and that’s what practice is, that’s what practice should be,” Shaw said. “It was a rough game last week. The team that won the game deserved to win the game. And now we gotta bounce back.”
Right tackle A.T. Hall, wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside and outside linebacker Mike Tyler made their debut over the weekend after sitting out the season opener for precautionary reasons with injuries.
“I think we’re pretty healthy,” Shaw said.
With one exception at cornerback.
“Terrence Alexander is still the one that is probably still down for this game,” Shaw said. “Although I believe he may be ready to start working out again, so his availability in the next few weeks may change.”
On Sunday, Shaw made a rare appearance at Levi’s Stadium to watch in person the NFL’s coming-out party for Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey and San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.
“Before the game, I probably saw Solomon for about 3 or 4 minutes,” Shaw said. “I saw Christian for probably about the same. I didn’t want to disrupt their pregame routine. These are two very intense competitors, but it was really good to see them and give them hugs and wish them well. And then I watched the beginning of the game and then came back to work.”
Thomas, who wasn’t allowed to tackle McCaffrey during their three years on The Farm, had a shot at taking him down during the game.
“There was one opportunity and it wasn’t square, it wasn’t right on,” Shaw said. “He took a swipe at Christian’s legs and couldn’t quite get him. I don’t think Solomon would count that as a broken tackle. Christian may count that as a broke tackles. Because make not mistake, they’re keeping score.”