Ratto: Just another day for David Shaw

Ratto: Just another day for David Shaw
September 4, 2011, 1:51 am
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Sep. 3, 2011

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On the day that Larry Scott apparently clinched the Heisman Trophy by doing nothing much more involved than watching Oregon-LSU, the news from Stanford was somewhat more mundane.

Unless youre David Shaw.

Oh, most folks were focused on Andrew Luck holding serve in his quest for the trophy that Scott will now win. His numbers were impressive without being gaudy (17 of 26, 171, 2 scores through the air and one via his legs, and he wasnt kept in the game to run up his numbers against a game but mostly overmatched San Jose State team.

The final score of 57-3 was marked neither by ruthlessness or piling on. Nobody was hurt, and seasons were not changed. It was in every sense your run of the mill opener.

RECAP: Stanford overwhelms SJSU in opener 57-3

That is, if youre not Notre Dame, or Oregon State, or TCU.

Scott, for his part, did far more by doing far less, standing faithfully but silently while Oklahoma took the best cuts of the Big XII Conference tri-tip and dragged them westward, which is the conference commissioners equivalent of going 70-for-53 for 1,967 yards and 86 touchdowns.

But thats a tale for later this week, when an announcement is anticipated that Stanford will have four new playmates in a Pac-16 that will be broken up into the Larry Division and the Scott Division.

And so, too, is the Andrew Luck story, because that will be an ongoing grind.

No, its reasonable to let this be David Shaws day. His first game as Stanford coach, his father Willie as an honorary captain, and the knowledge that it will never be quite this clean or easy ever again. Now that deserves commemoration.

That is, if Shaw would let himself relax, and he wont. Hes one of those Type A guys.

We were going along in the third quarter, and we were starting to get a rhythm, he said, calmly but firmly, and the coaches had to come up to me and say, Maybe its time to get some of the starters out. Its good they said that, because I was so focused on the way the game was going and what it was I wanted us to do that I wasnt paying attention to the score.

Wasnt paying attention to the score? Well, it was 43-3 at the time, so it wasnt one of those factors that demanded his full attention.

He also wasnt paying attention to Lucks now quixotic search for the Heisman as we said, Scott seems to have finished that debate by eviscerating the Big XII with just a smile and a charged cellphone.

No, Shaws big day felt to him like all the others that led to it, with one exception.

When Dad went out on the field (as one of the honorary captains, after a long and admirable career as an assistant), that caught me a little bit, Shaw said. I mean, I knew it was happening, but it just hit me more than I thought it would, I guess.

But he let nothing else exceed the ordinary. He did force himself to spend more time paying attention to the defensive and special teams areas, but he did not allow his equilibrium to be otherwise disturbed.

I slept great, he said of his Friday night. I always sleep great the night before a game. Bill (Walsh) always said the week is for the coaching and preparation, but Saturday is for the players. This was their day.

And it was. San Jose States multitude of errors (seven penalties, six fumbles, half of them lost, a missed field goal and a ton of standard blocking and defending mistakes) made this a hard game to evaluate cleanly. Luck himself called his day average, with the emphasis on not up to snuff. Indeed, the game never had the feel of a 54-point win, as Stanford gained only 373 yards and had the ball for a middling 34:30.

But it was David Shaws first, and that would matter. It only gets harder from here, because the first game of a coachs career is the only free one hell ever have. Fans start offering strategies, alums want more time, and the complications start to crowd out the simplicities.

Yes, he may sleep fine on Friday nights, but his weeks will only get harder from here. And he will have it no other way.

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