Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York on October 20, 2015 · Page D7
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October 20, 2015

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Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York · Page D7

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Rochester, New York
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Tuesday, October 20, 2015
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DemocratandChronicle .com Tuesday,October20,2015 Page7D COLLEGE FOOTBALL PALOALTO , CALIF . Here at Stanford, where football players read Harry Potter before kicko and halftime shows are dedicated to Hollywood blockbusters and CrossFit, the most popular shirt on campus parodies, in loving fashion, the fixed demeanor on coach David Shaw’s face. “Fifty Shades of Shaw,” it reads, with certain emotions — sadness, excitement, pride, boredom — joined by his unchanged, unsmiling expression. In the shirt’s defense, there has always been something stoic about Shaw, just as there has long been a static blueprint for the program at large: Stanford has remained traditional while others, particularly inside the school’s conference, strayed from a tried- and-true, old-school formula. Rivals zigged and zagged; the Cardinal’s course has maintained a straight line. This has often been for better — Stanford is 47-13 since Shaw’s a scension to head coach in 2011 — and occasionally for worse. S eptember’s loss at Northwestern triggered memories of recent regular-season missteps against per- c eived underdogs. It’s easy to recall the Cardinal’s doomed-to- fail fourth-down dive in a Rose Bowl loss to Michigan State in early 2013, a decision Shaw explained with frustratingly rational logic: We’re Stanford. More so than any other championship-contending program in the country, Stanford doesn’t deviate from a script. Stanford will win, Stanford will lose — the former far more than the latter — yet Stanford will be Stanford, offensively and defensively, as college football’s version of a platinum-album rock band that never strays from its set list of greatest hits. “People panic all the time,” Shaw said after Stanford’s 56-35 win against UCLA last week. “Whenever something doesn’t happen, people panic. Coaches and players can’t panic. We have w on a lot of football games here p laying the right way, playing smart football, playing good foot- b all, and it’s hard for the outside w orld to understand it.” Y et subtle change is afoot at Stanford, growth seen most clear- l y in the fi gure most crucial to the C ardinal’s quest for the College Football Playo : Shaw, who has evolved — partially at his players’ request — into a coach more willing to display his emotions rather than rest behind his stoicism. “Last year I used to say to guys a ll the time, ‘Don’t keep your passion for the team a secret and don’t keep your passion for your teammates a secret,’” Shaw said. “That’s probably the biggest area of growth for me, is to let the guys know that I’m into it, too, that I’m enjoying it, too, that I can celebrate when they win or when they make a play as well.” Fittingly, given how the win against UCLA should vault Stanford back into the national conversation, this change has roots in last season’s victory against the Bruins. Despite the Cardinal’s three-possession lead, Shaw spent much of the second half pacing the sideline, bothered and “antsy,” senior defensive back Ronnie Harris said. Harris, a team captain and l eader in an inexperienced sec- o ndary, approached Shaw. Just let it out, he said. “If you have just an o utburst of passion, you don’t k now how much energy that gives t o us,” Harris said. “And he’s answered the bell.” S haw has “more pep in his s tep,” Harris added. “He’s emotional,” running back Christian McCa rey said. Shaw is “bringing the juice,” cornerback Alijah Holder said. “We feed o the energy,” receiver Francis Owusu said. The players have seen a dif- f erent coach at practice, at film study, during pregame speeches and in halftime adjustments, even as the message — We are Stanford — has remained constant. Shaw hasn’t necessarily changed his personality, nor have the Cardinal changed as a team, exactly; Shaw has merely tweaked his approach to suit the need, with the end result that Stanford is playing with a higher energy level — and playing at a higher level, period. “Really, football is an emotional game, and it’s a shame to let the emotion out of it,” McCa rey said. “This year we definitely focused on playing our game and having fun with our brothers. I love coming to practice every day a nd just feel blessed that we get t o show our emotion.” The Cardinal have won four in a row to open Pac-12 Conference p lay for the fi rst time since 2011. T he o ense has scored 40 or more points in each of the last f our games, rolling at a clip un- s een in the post-Andrew Luck era; Stanford is one of 12 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision to score 40 or more points four times. Stanford has topped 50 points in each of the last two games, a first since 2011. Each of i ts five wins have come by a dou- ble-figure margin. The scheme hasn’t changed on o ense, but the production has. Last year’s team was woefully inconsistent through much of the regular season, finding a rhythm only upon installing pieces of an up-tempo formula in November. After struggling against Northwestern — scoring six points, placing Shaw’s play-calling under increased scrutiny — the o ense has taken shape behind McCaffrey, a do-everything sophomore who has rushed headlong into the Heisman Trophy conversation. McCa rey broke the program’s single-game rushing mark with 243 yards against the Bruins, highlighted by a 70-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, a nd accounted for 369 all-pur- p ose yards, just shy of the school record. There are many great r unning backs in college, with t wo in particular — LSU’s Leona rd Fournette and Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott — at the forefront o f the Heisman race. No back, a nd perhaps no player in the country, can match McCa rey’s three-phase impact, whether as a runner, receiver or returner. “They heard all the things that were said on the o ensive side, that we couldn’t be a Stanford of- f ense because we didn’t have a big back,” Shaw said. “We’ve got a big back in a little body. He’s just an outstanding football player, and he’s just a sophomore.” Said quarterback Kevin Hogan, “I wouldn’t even call him a running back. He’s just an incredible football player. He does everything; he does it well.” But McCa rey’s surge fits into the greater message. The o ense hasn’t changed, but the production has: Stanford is more explosive using the same playbook, more consistent and more dangerous within the existing scheme. Shaw is still even-keeled, merely more willing to show his passion and energy — pumping his fist on a fourth-down stop, shaking his head, smiling in dis- b elief after Owusu’s over-the- b ack touchdown grab in the second half. A nd Stanford is still Stanford, o nly energized by the evolution of a coach confident enough in his message to alter his approach. “ He’s getting us way more r eady for these games just by his passion,” Harris said. “He’s just being himself out there; he’s having fun, he’s backing up his boys now. We just see him more relaxed. You see him happier. And our team is feeding o that.” PASSION IN THE PLAYBOOK Stanford’s Shaw adds emotion to w inning formula Paul Myerberg @PaulMyerberg USA TODAY Sports KIRBY LEE, USA TODAY SPORTS Stanford coach David Shaw says of sophomore running back Christian McCa rey, above: “We’ve got a big back in a little body.” A s the world’s top ski racers were cramming in last-minute training on Austrian and Swiss glaciers preparing for the upcoming season, Lindsey Vonn was celebrating her 31st birthday at a Red Bull Air Show in Las Vegas. But don’t let it fool you. Vonn is more determined than ever. Vonn, who broke a bone in her left ankle during a training crash in New Zealand on Aug. 13, has again been left to intense rehabilitating in the gym. She will travel to the Austrian resort of Soelden on Tuesday and has been cleared to resume skiing Thursday, ahead of Saturday’s season- o pening giant slalom. The four-time World Cup overall champion has yet to determine whether she will race, although it seems unlikely. Vonn said she probably will wait until Friday to reach a verdict. “I haven’t made any definite plans on Soelden yet. I’m going to go there, get on snow and see how Ifeel,” Vonn said in a phone interview Monday. “ It definitely would be aggressive and asking a lot of me and my a nkle, but it feels really good. ... I d on’t want to 100% rule it out, but I’d say it’s more likely than not that I wouldn’t race.” The skier from Vail, Colo., has m issed the traditional opening race on the Rettenbach Glacier the last two seasons because of injuries. However, Vonn won the Soelden event in 2011. If Vonn does not compete, her focus will shift to the second giant slalom race of the season, in Aspen, Colo., on Nov. 28. The 2010 Olympic downhill gold med- alist will begin a quest for her eighth World Cup downhill title in nine seasons the following weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta. She will attend U.S. Ski Team training camps in Copper Mountain, Colo., and Vailin November, seeking to shave precious tenths o her racing with the help of vet- e ran coach Chris Knight. “We need two weeks on the speed skis at the start in Colorado to get information for her service guy so he is confident with what skis he is putting out as it comes closer to racing,” Knight said. “That’s the game plan for the first part of the camp in Colorado, and then it will be more of a GS block preparing for Aspen at the end.” Vonn has 33 World Cup downhill wins, three shy of Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll’s record. Vonn thinks she can still be fast in giant slalom, but downhill and super-G preparation will again be a top priority. In what was a superb come- back season from a surgically repaired right knee, Vonn surprised many, winning eight races and finishing third in the 2014-15 World Cup overall standings, 466 points behind champion Anna Fenninger of Austria. Despite persistent injuries and setbacks, Vonn thinks she can contend for the overall title, which she hasn’t won since 2012. The chase for the crystal globe appears to be wide open, considering former champion Tina Maze of Slovenia is out this season and Austrians Nicole Hosp and Kathrin Zettel have retired. Vonn said she is in a good state mentally after some soul searching following her breakup with boyfriend Tiger Woods in May. “I definitely had some tough t imes there in the spring and early summer, but ultimately I think it was a good chance to focus on myself and get in a better place physically and mentally and train really hard,” she said. “I’m really motivated. I’m focused on just myself and my skiing, and I hope that makes a difference with my performance.” OLYMPIC SPORTS Vonn heads to Austria, undecided on opener U.S. skiing star o n comeback trail after ankle injury Brian Pinelli Special for USA TODAY Sports SERGEI BELSKI, USA TODAY SPORTS Lindsey Vonn, who broke a bone in her left ankle during a training crash in August, has been rehabbing in the gym. “It ... would be a ggressive and asking a lot of me and my ankle, but it feels really good.” Lindsey Vonn ,on possibly racing this weekend in Austria

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