Q&A with Two Tree Blogs

I have been doing this blog for six seasons and this is the first year we have have been able to find a Stanford Football blog to interact with. What is really interesting is we found two which is a definite sign that Stanford football is finally back on the map.

This first set of questions is being answered by Scott Allen from SBN's new Rule of the Tree blog. The second set of questions is answered by Hank Waddles of the Go Mighty Card blog.

1. The Cardinal defensive secondary seems to be the Achilles heel of this team. If you were Steve Sarkisian how would you attack the Stanford offense?

The Huskies need to find a way to generate some pressure on Andrew Luck to try to force him into some bad decisions. It's easier said than done, as Luck has been sacked four times all season. Washington seems to have had moderate success getting to the quarterback, but if Luck is given time, he'll pick apart the UW defense with the same proficiency as Matt Scott did last week. And yeah, I'm aware that Scott completed 18 of his 22 attempts.

2. What is the status of Chris Owusu this week? Does Stanford have any other injury concerns we should know about?

With Jim Harbaugh running the show, one never knows. After missing last week's game against Washington State with an undisclosed injury, Owusu's status remains in doubt. He was sidelined early in the season with knee injury and was knocked out of the loss to Oregon with a concussion, but seemed close to full strength in the win over USC before the Cardinal's bye week. The status of starting safety Delano Howell, who sat out last week's game with an apaprent wrist injury, is also unknown. If he misses a second straight game, it's only more reason for the Huskies to air it out.

3. Stanford runs a pretty balanced offense. What do they do that makes them stand out from other offenses in the conference?

Stanford boasts one of the most talented and experienced offensive lines in the conference. Harbaugh knows it, he takes pride in it, and he calls plays to take advantage of it. There was some concern that Stanford's power running game would suffer this season with the loss of Toby Gerhart to the NFL, but Stepfan Taylor, who is coming off a career-best outing against the Cougars, has emerged as a weekly threat to crack 100 yards. As you mentioned, Stanford has maintained a balanced attack post-Toby. A great offensive line makes both the running and passing game better, but having Luck under center helps too.

4. I noticed that the stadium was half full last week at the Farm. Why aren't Stanford fans supporting the team and taking advantage of the new stadium?

I was surprised by the turnout at Saturday's Homecoming game. I think there were a lot of fans who were having such a great time catching up with old friends at the pregame tailgate that they never made it into the game. The dreary weather, the cellar-dwelling opponent, and the fact that Game 7 of the NLCS (go Giants!) started immediately after the game probably didn't help matters. Still, the team deserves better.

5. Will Jim Harbaugh stay at Stanford or will he move on the NFL after this season?

Harbaugh will be back at Stanford next season.

Surprisingly enough there is another Stanford Football blog called Go Mighty Card out there too this year and they also asked us do a set of questions. Thanks to Hank Waddles for asking us to participate.

1. How has Stanford made up for the loss of Toby Gerhart?

Make no mistake about it, Toby Gerhart was the best running back in Stanford history and, in my opinion, should've won the Heisman Trophy last year, but he benefitted greatly from an incredible offensive line. The good news for the Cardinal -- and their running backs -- is that most of that offensive line returned this year. As a result, Stanford is averaging 216 yards rushing per game, good for second in the conference. (More evidence of the line's strength: they've only allowed three sacks all year long.) Individually, sophomore Stepfan Taylor has picked up most of the carries, and his recent string of four straight 100-yard games, highlighted by last week's 147 against Washington State, has pushed him to sixth overall on the conference leader board. The offense certainly misses Gerhart around the goal line, but in general the running game is just as powerful as it was last season.

2.  We are hearing your secondary is pretty questionable. If you are Husky coach Steve Sarkisian how would be your offensive game plan against Stanford?

To say that the secondary is "pretty questionable" is kind of like saying UW's Purple Reign defenses of the early 90s were "pretty good." It seems like a long time ago that the defense was shutting out UCLA and holding down Notre Dame. The Oregon and USC games produced a win and a loss, but more importantly for future Stanford opponents, they produced game film provides the key to beating the Cardinal. The Huskies should move Locker around a bit, run some quick developing plays to negate blitzing linebackers, and swing the ball wide to fast receivers in the flat. If they can do that consistently, both teams might score in the forties.

3. What type of strategy will Stanford use to contain Husky QB Jake Locker?

If Jake Locker is healthy, I'm not sure there really is a strategy to slow him down. The 3-4 defense has allowed for more quarterback pressure, but it didn't really work against the last mobile quarterback they came up against, Oregon's Darron Thomas. I really, really wish I had an answer for this one.

4. Who is the one Stanford player we haven't heard about that we should keep an eye on Saturday?

My first reaction is to say sophomore linebacker Shayne Skov, who is probably the most talented player on the defensive side of the ball, but I think my favorite player on this team is senior wide receiver Doug Baldwin. He entered the season as probably the third or fourth receiver on the depth chart, but injuries to Chris Owusu and Ryan Whalen gave him an opportunity for playing time, and he's made the most of it. He's caught 28 balls for 402 yards and six touchdowns this season, numbers that exceed his totals from the last two years combined. He won't scare any defensive backs, he won't be playing on Sundays next year, but he's been a key to the offense.

5. The job that Jim Harbaugh has done at Stanford is pretty special. Why do you think he has been so successful?

First of all, it starts with recruiting. Harbaugh has brought in athletes who are simply on another level as compared to the players who were there under Buddy Teevens and Walt Harris. Along with this
recruiting, Harbaugh has changed the entire culture of the program.

These players believe that they will win each time they take the field, regardless of who's standing on the other sideline. During the press conference when he was hired in the spring of 2007, he talked about wanting to win a national championship, and at the time it sounded utterly ridiculous. Three and a half years later, it actually looks possible.

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