Photo credit: gostanford.com
By Ana Kieu
David Shaw and Chip Kelly will renew the Stanford-UCLA rivalry in a nationally televised game on Thursday night.
Shaw has long been an admirer of Kelly and has borrowed a few schemes and practice schedules from him through the years.
“I love his personality, I love the way he coaches, and I love competing against him,” said Shaw.
The good friends meet again Thursday, when Stanford (3-3, 2-2 Pac-12) hosts UCLA (1-5, 1-2 Pac-12) at 6 p.m.
They became acquainted in 2007, when Kelly became offensive coordinator at Oregon and Shaw was Stanford’s offensive coordinator. Even then, Shaw was filing away plays.
Kelly installed a no-huddle, spread offense and the Ducks took flight, recording single-season school records for points per game (38.15) and yards per game (467.54).
In 2009, Kelly was named head coach and led Oregon to four consecutive BCS bowl game appearances, reaching the 2011 National Championship Game. Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football, was the Cardinal offensive coordinator for Jim Harbaugh from 2007-10, then ascended to head coach in 2011.
Kelly got the best of him in the first meeting, but in 2012, Shaw guided Stanford to a stunning 17-14 overtime upset against the No. 1-ranked Ducks in Eugene.
Oregon won the 2011 Pac-12 title, while Stanford prevailed in 2012 and 2013.
In the 2013 game, the No. 6 Cardinal surprised the No. 2 Ducks during an epic Thursday night game at Stanford Stadium. Tyler Gaffney, who ran for 155 yards, helped stake Stanford to a seemingly comfortable fourth quarter lead, but the Ducks outscored the Cardinal, 20-3 in the fourth quarter and made it close. Stanford recovered the second of two onside kicks to preserve the win.
Later that year, Kelly was named head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, where he spent three seasons (2013-15). In 2016, he took a head coaching gig with the San Francisco 49ers.
Shaw invited him to a Cardinal practice and Kelly reciprocated.
“I think most coaches will say the best coaches on the planet are great thieves,” said Shaw. “We’ve stolen ideas from everybody. I’ve stolen more from Chip Kelly than anybody else because I think Chip is brilliant.”
Kelly returned to college football in 2018 at UCLA. Stanford beat UCLA in a 49-42 shootout last year at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., staving off a final-minute drive, as junior quarterback K.J. Costello fired five touchdown passes.
While the Bruins have only one win this season, it was a Chip Kelly special as UCLA rallied from a 49-17 deficit by scoring 29 straight points to win, 67-63, at No. 19 Washington State. Sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson passed for five scores and a school record 507 yards.
“Chip will morph into whatever he needs to morph into based on the guys he has,” Shaw said. “Last year, he was under center more than he ever was before because that’s the quarterback he had and that’s just the team he had. He’ll do whatever he thinks he needs to do to help the team win.”
Kelly’s calling card creates mismatches and keeps defenses off-balance, while Shaw likes to pound the ball when possible.
However, the two head coaches agree on how time of possession is overrated.
“The only thing that matters is scoring touchdowns,” said Shaw.
Shaw expects another memorable contest on Thursday night.
“You see a smart football coach that knows how to put defenses in conflict,” Shaw said. “We’re going to get their best game. They always play us tough.”
Shaw hasn’t announced his starting quarterback for UCLA. He did rule out Costello following Monday’s practice and called Davis Mills somewhere between “questionable and doubtful.” Jack West has taken all of the first team reps this week in team periods.
“I don’t want to put a quarterback out there who’s not healthy,” said Shaw. “I don’t want to put a quarterback out there who can’t protect himself or can’t physically do all the things he needs to do to help us win a game. That’s all I use to make the decision.”
West’s backups would be Jack Richardson and Dylan Plautz.
West received his first playing time this season with six minutes remaining against Washington. He handed off nine consecutive times to Cameron Scarlett, who helped seal Stanford’s 23-13 upset victory against the No. 15 Huskies.
“He’s been great,” said Shaw of West. “He knows what to do and how to do it. He’s got a strong arm, throws the ball accurately and threw to our guys all summer. Because of our quarterback situation, he’s gotten more reps than most ‘third’ quarterbacks have this entire year. He’s just jumped in and operated the offense.”
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound West hails from Saraland, Alabama, and was a four-star recruit by ESPN and PrepStar. Rated the No. 2 recruit in the state by several publications, West passed for 4,879 yards and 56 touchdowns in high school and was rated Alabama’s second-best overall recruit by ESPN.
West appeared in two games last season for the Cardinal and was a combined 1-for-5 passing and rushed twice.
With a rare Thursday night tilt, Stanford adjusted its practice schedule following the Washington game to help simulate a regular week.
“It was a little strange practicing on Sunday and convincing yourself it was Tuesday,” said Shaw. “We had a couple days off and got some rest.”
Former quarterback Jim Plunkett, who won Stanford’s only Heisman Trophy in 1970 after orchestrating an upset against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, will be recognized as part of the program’s 125-year celebration of football. He will sign autographs on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. on the outside concourse at Stanford Stadium between sections 103 and 104. One item per person and photos will be available to have signed.
Shaw isn’t surprised by the success former Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, who’s enjoying his stint with the Carolina Panthers.
“For the first time in my career, multiple times this year, I have felt the unbelievable urge to say I told you so,” Shaw said. “He can do everything at a high level. He left here barely 21-years old and most guys reach their peak at 24 and 25. He’s reaching his peak right now. Wherever you draw the line with the most dynamic performers, he’s in that group.”
Stanford has won 11 consecutive outings against UCLA, the longest streak against any conference opponent (not counting rugby from 1906-1917). “We’re such a young team, I don’t think it has any relevance,” Kelly said … Shaw is 9-0 against the Bruins and 22-5 (.815) versus Cal, USC and UCLA …Scarlett leads the Pac-12 in rushing with 564 yards and has 13 receptions for 138 yards … The Cardinal is expected to start three true freshmen on its offensive line: Walter Rouse at left tackle, Barrett Miller at left guard and Jake Hornibrook at right guard. “They’re big inside and we’re young inside, so that’s going to be a battle for position, run and pass,” said Shaw. “We have to play really well up front to make up for lack of experience.” … Including punter Ryan Sanborn, the Cardinal starts six true freshmen, the third-most of any team in the country … In all, 14 true freshmen have played for Stanford this season … Senior outside linebacker Jordan Fox and sophomore outside linebacker Tobe Umerah are sidelined indefinitely.
“He hasn’t batted an eyelash.” — Shaw on Hornibrook, who made his college debut against Washington and earns his first start against UCLA