Any worries Stanford coach David Shaw had about how his team would respond from a loss at Utah last week subsided when more players showed up in the weight room the following day — a voluntary day off — than any time in the last two years.
The intensity picked up in practice throughout the week and showed up even more in a 24-10 victory over previously undefeated UCLA (5-1, 2-1) on Saturday that sent a resounding statement across the nation: the defending Pac-12 Conference champions aren’t going anywhere just yet.
After a week filled with upsets, the Cardinal (6-1, 4-1) climbed five spots to No. 8 in the new Associated Press poll Sunday. They are the highest ranked one-loss team.
“Guys were in there. Guys wanted to bounce back,” Shaw said. “They wanted to turn the page and move on, and the advice that I gave them earlier was, ‘Bring last week with you. Bring it with you. Bring the lessons learned about how hard you have to play, about how smart you have to play and about how you have to finish.’”
In the last four years, Stanford has been at its best after getting knocked down. The Cardinal haven’t dropped consecutive games since October 2009, when they lost at Oregon State and at Arizona.
Shaw said the resilience his team has shown goes well beyond scheme and talent. He credits the “tough-minded” character of players and coaches who embrace the challenge of correcting mistakes.
“That’s kind of our second nature,” said linebacker Trent Murphy, who has a team-leading seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss. “That’s how we practice and train in the offseason. The biggest thing is fighting adversity. It’s kind of one of our team goals, one of our team mottos, and that kind of starts in practice for us. We respond to everything. Definitely just our style of football.”