This weekend is one of homecomings, as Stanford (2-4, 0-4, Pac-12) returns to the Farm to face Arizona State (2-4, 1-2, Pac-12) for a conference match. At the halfway point of the season, Stanford is predicted to have a large crowd present this Reunion Homecoming weekend at the afternoon kickoff, which head coach David Shaw describes as more ideal than a nighttime match.
Both Stanford and Arizona have a lot of momentum coming into this weekend’s game, especially with how similar their seasons have been thus far.
Stanford’s victory in South Bend, Ind. against Notre Dame (3-3) came as a shock to many, especially considering Stanford’s devastating loss against Oregon State and backup quarterback Ben Gulbranson the previous week.
Three 40+ yard field goals from junior kicker Joshua Karty and 32 carries from junior running back Casey Filkins carried the team to victory. The defense kept the Fighting Irish out of the end zone, with fifth year safeties Kendall Williamson and Patrick Fields stopping fourth down conversion attempts early in the game, and senior safety Johnathan McGill recovering a Notre Dame fumble. McGill received the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week title in honor of his performance. Overall, Stanford spared Notre Dame no chances to squeeze by for an anticipated victory.
After earning his 95th win with the Cardinal, Shaw believes Stanford “has been on the upward trend the past couple weeks” and hopes to get some starters back on the offensive line to keep this momentum intact.
Despite fifth-year wide receiver Michael Wilson’s potential season-ending injury, as well as the questionable status of various other players this coming weekend, Shaw and players remain confident in the Cardinal’s pursuit.
Last season, Stanford experienced a similar boost in morale following its upset win versus then-No. 3 Oregon. But what seemed to be a starting point for an upward trend was met with losses the rest of the season. Skeptics may see this victory in South Bend, Ind. as an Oregon victory in disguise, but players like Filkins remain confident that this won’t be a repeat of last year.
“This is what I’ve prepared for,” Filkins said. “I’m starting to get more confident in myself and really started to get a good feel out there, for the speed of the game.”
The Sun Devils enter this matchup on the rise as well. Their impressive defeat of Washington (5-2, 2-2, Pac-12) snapped a four-game losing streak. Their bye week came at a perfect time, as starting quarterback Emory Jones is expected to play against Stanford after exiting due to injury early versus Washington.
“[Arizona State] is a very capable team,” Shaw said. “We see length and athleticism on the defensive side and size on the defensive line. We see an athletic playmaker at quarterback coming back who’s got a lot of plays under his belt. We see guys who can make plays, and despite not having the consistency, especially early in the season, this is a talented football team getting ready to play.”
In response, the Cardinal will be looking to apply more defensive pressure: to “be aggressive in play calling and playing.”
Both teams have had an interesting season leading up to this weekend’s game, but as Shaw communicates: “We believe we are better than our record, and we believe Arizona State is better than their record. So, this should be a good game.”
The Cardinal will have quite a home field advantage with both current and former students packing the stands on Saturday.
Kickoff is set for Saturday at 1:00 p.m., right at home in Stanford Stadium.