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UCLA Football v. Stanford Coaching Preview: David Shaw Is The Coach to Beat

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Mora is going to have to get the team firing on all cylinders to beat David Shaw tomorrow.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Stanford Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

David Shaw is the thorn in Coach Mora’s career at UCLA. For a multitude of reasons, UCLA has not beaten Stanford since the CRN days, and this is something that Bruin fans will say needs to change. Yes, Stanford has had amazing recruits on their offensive line, a string of talented quarterbacks, and exceptional athletes like Christian McCaffrey. And through it all, the one constant has been Coach David Shaw. But for some reason I wouldn’t label Coach David Shaw as one of the greatest coaches in college football history. I can’t put my finger on it, but he doesn’t strike me as a Nick Saban or Urban Meyer caliber coach. Yet, when looking at his bio, it says,

Through five seasons as the Cardinal head coach, Shaw holds a remarkable 54-14 (.794) career record and is 36-9 (.800) in Pac-12 play. He has led the Cardinal to three Pac-12 titles in the past four seasons and a pair of Rose Bowl Game wins in three trips to The Granddaddy of Them All. Stanford is one of three Power 5 schools to win multiple conference championship games since 2011, and its 66 wins since 2010 are the most by any private school.

So there you have it. No Natty, but a heck of a career resume for the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. If you don’t believe he is one of Stanford’s greatest coaches, his bio also says this:

Stanford has won at least 11 games four times in five seasons under Shaw. From 1891-2010, the program recorded four 10-win seasons.

Yikes. So, yeah, he is pretty great.

What is it about Shaw that sets him apart from other coaches? He comes across as mild mannered, never gets riled up on the sidelines (well, maybe a little), and seems like a pretty even keel guy. He has even been credited with bringing the fun back to Stanford football. In the beginning, a lot of fans hated on Shaw for being too conservative, or not implementing certain types of offenses. He’s always run a very conservative, pro-style offense with beefy lineman that won games, but it wasn’t very flashy. But now, he has gone from quietly winning and just being content with running the clock, to scoring extra touchdowns even when Stanford has a clear lead. The old Shaw would have moved the ball slowly and settled for a field goal, but now we’re seeing the moving parts of Shaw’s offense coming together and showcasing themselves week after week. For example, in last year’s game against Arizona, Stanford got the ball back with 2:34 left in the first half ,up 20-3. They dialed up four straight pass plays for a touchdown and a 27-3 lead. However, Stanford quarterbacks don’t necessarily rack up huge numbers. Kevin Hogan once said that under Shaw, they have a "ground-and-pound style. That opens up the passing game. The O-line played a great game, opening holes. Once we get into a rhythm on offense, we’re hard to stop.". There is no learning curve at the beginning of the season for Stanford. They start strong and finish strong. Players credit Coach Shaw with being an easy person to talk to and play for. The video below is a clip from The Drive, where players discuss their opinions of their Director of Football.

So maybe that’s what makes him so great. The players absolutely love playing for him, and this has produced incredible results. Now in his fifth year, we’re seeing a playbook that gels together on both sides of the ball. The offense wins battles in the trenches, and opens holes for the run game. Receivers run their routes in perfect time to catch passes from Ryan Burns. As basic as all of this sounds, I truly believe this is why Stanford is so good right now. All aspects of the offense and defense march to the Cadence of David Shaw .

But, of course, he isn’t acting alone. Mike Bloomgren is the Andrew Luck Director of Offense (in layman’s terms, the Offensive Coordinator). Bloomgren serves as the associate head coach, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. This is his sixth season with Stanford and is credited with being instrumental in the success of breakout players like Christian McCaffrey. Under Bloomgren, the Stanford offensive line has accumulated multiple accolades, including being named finalists for the Joe Moore Award, multiple NFL draft picks, and Pac 12 first and second team nominees. Other players like Devon Cajuste, Ty Montgomery, and Tyler Gaffney became household names under Bloomgren. He is a self-admitted technology nerd, and has brought high tech training to Stanford with the use of drones, iPads, and even virtual reality.

Lance Anderson is the Willie Shaw Director of Defense (yes, Willie Shaw is David’s father). He is in his tenth year at Stanford, and has also put up some incredible numbers. Stanford ranked among the Pac-12’s best defensive units in 2015: second in third-down conversion percentage (.363), third in total defense (368.3), third in first-down defense (267), third in scoring defense (22.6) and fourth in rushing defense (139.9). Pretty impressive. There were thoughts that Stanford’s defense would be easily beatable this year and that it wouldn’t be a strong unit, but they have proven otherwise in their first two games. They have already accumulated 14 tackles for loss that resulted in 60 negative yards for their opponents.

I truly believe that one of the greatest things UCLA will have to overcome tomorrow is outcoaching the Cardinal staff. They are an experienced bunch that has been together for quite awhile and they clearly have all aspects of their game moving in the right direction. We will need to find their vulnerabilities and weak spots. Mora was quoted in yesterday’s Spaulding Report as saying that they have tried to the best of their ability to replicate standouts like Christian McCaffrey and Ryan Burns so they can attempt to defend and shut down their offense. It will be a huge task and one that I hope we can handle. I have no doubt that tomorrow’s game will be close. Last I checked, Stanford was only favored by three. So, we’re not huge underdogs. I’d love it if we finally showed Stanford the door and said, "Thanks for playing. It’s been great beating you".

Go Bruins!