Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Thursday, September 8, 2011
What to watch: Stanford vs. Duke

By Kevin Gemmell

Five things to watch as the Stanford Cardinal take on Duke on Saturday:

1. Running game, running game, running game: Stanford coach David Shaw called the running game the heart and soul of everything his team does -- the foundation of his team's principles and philosophy. They want to be physical and push teams off the ball -- especially in the red zone, where they were hot-and-cold in Week 1. "The couple of runs we scored on, we did it perfectly," Shaw said. "Did it great. You give Stepfan Taylor one guy to beat, we've got a chance to be successful. When he's got two guys bearing down on him, that's not fair. That's going to hopefully be much improved next week."

Stanford's Stepfan Taylor
Stepfan Taylor rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1.
2. Secondary slip-ups: While the run defense was stellar in Week 1, holding San Jose State to minus-2 yards rushing through three quarters, the pass defense was also hit-and-miss -- as in missed tackles. There were pockets in the secondary, and when those pockets were exploited, there were missed tackles that led to some big San Jose State plays. "Missed tackles in the secondary lose games," Shaw said. "You have to get guys on the ground. That's why you're called a safety."

3. Give it a boot: Wouldn't mind seeing a little more length in the kicking game. Both Jordan Williamson and Eric Whitaker got chances to kickoff against San Jose State. Williamson had eight kicks, averaging 64 yards. Whitaker had two for an average of 57.5. Same goes for David Green and the punting. He had four punts for an average of 37.5. Field position wasn't a huge factor last week, but it will be in weeks to come. "The biggest thing (regarding Williamson) was he put the ball between the pipes (2-for-2 field goals, 7-for-7 PAT)," Shaw said. "We'll keep working on the kickoffs and see if we can get a little more distance on those, which he has the ability to do. It's like golf. He has to have a consistent swing and he's dedicated toward making that happen."

4. Forget last week: It's hard to disregard Duke's collapse -- yet again -- to FCS Richmond. But that's what Stanford has to do. And it's what they have been saying all week. Duke is a capable team with some athletic players who are probably still a little salty about what happened on Saturday. But taking care of business, as the players like to say, is priority No. 1. "They really didn't play a bad game," Shaw said, "they had some bad plays ... It doesn't make us look at Duke any differently."

5. Weekly difference: Following Saturday's game, offensive tackle Jonathan Martin said the biggest leap an offensive line makes is between Weeks 1 and 2. We'll see. The pass protection was solid. Quarterback Andrew Luck only took a couple of incidental hits all game and was never sacked. There were some issues on the run blocking -- a couple of missed assignments that led to negative gains in the red zone. That was a point of emphasis in practice this week. "I think it's going to take some time for us to jell," said offensive guard David DeCastro. "We want to get better each day and get used to each other."