Cardinal seeks solution for FBS worst sales margin

Stanford had 33 first downs in its last game, the most since 2007, but it lost to USC 41-28 by a minus-4 turnover margin, including two giveaways within the 5-yard line.

In fact, the Cardinal are the last of the 131 FBS teams in revenue margin per game of -3.5, something they know they’ll need to fix when they visit No. 18 Washington on Saturday (7:30 p.m., FS1).

“We’re not that far from where we need to be, but we have to take care of football,” said Stanford coach David Shaw.

Stanford (1-1, 0-1 Pac-12) has four turnovers against both Colgate and USC. That includes tipped passes and overthrows leading to three interceptions by Tanner McKee, three fumbles by EJ Smith running back and a fumble by punt returner Casey Filkins.

Meanwhile, the defense has only one takeaway, an interception against Colgate.

Shaw said defenses force turnovers by either putting pressure on the quarterback and forcing throwing errors or through crowding and technique.

So while the offense is aimed at protecting the ball, the defense in training is working on tearing the ball prior to confronting the Huskies (3-0, 0-0).

“The game comes down to turnover and explosive plays,” Shaw said this week. “(USC) won both battles. If we can be equal or lead the way in those two fights, we give ourselves the chance to beat anybody, but you can’t give that team that many chances.”

FILKINS GETS FIRST BEGINNING

Smith, the Pac-12’s second-best rusher with 103 yards per game, will miss the game in Washington with an undisclosed injury. That means Filkins, a 5-foot-11, 198-pound junior, will be making his first start.

After appearing mostly as a kick returner last year, Filkins has 22 carries for 97 yards and two TDs, plus four catches for 58 yards this season.

“Casey is a dynamic athlete,” Shaw said. “He ran the ball in, ran the ball out, caught some passes from the backfield. He was a dominant soccer player coming from Oregon so we know this is a very versatile athlete. Working with EJ, I really thought this was going to be one of the best running back combos in America over time. Casey will only get better and better and better.”

Filkins graduated from Lake Oswego High School with Oregon State records for career touchdowns (100), career all-purpose yards (6,786) and career rushing yards (4,596).

He is supported this week by junior Caleb Robinson and sophomore Brendon Barrow. The pair combined for seven carries for 25 yards in the season opener against Colgate.

Shaw is hopeful that Smith will return for next week’s game in Oregon.

STOP WASHINGTON

Of course, sales weren’t the only problem for Stanford vs. USC. The Trojans scored touchdowns on their first five checks without even having to convert a third down.

Senior inside linebacker Levani Damuni said tackling in space was a big deal, so during the farewell week, the defense focused on tackling fundamentals like packing up, controlling your feet and getting good leverage.

USC QB Caleb Williams was 20-of-27 and passed 341 yards, four TDs and no turnovers. Next up is UW QB Michael Penix, Jr., who has passed 10 TDs (one shy of the national lead). He threw for 397 yards, the eighth-highest total in UW history, against Michigan State last week.

Penix went 12-5 as the starting QB in Indiana before moving to Washington for spring practice in 2022, and has thrown at least 337 yards in all three games with the Huskies.

“(He’s) a very explosive, athletic quarterback who can make all the throws,” Shaw said. “He’s got a great arm.”

Shaw said the best throw he’s seen from Penix this year was when the lefty rolled to the right and made a throw down the right sideline in the win over the Spartans.

FIRST ROAD GAME

After starting with two home games, Stanford is about to take a tough road trip to the Pacific Northwest, first with Washington and then next week at number 15 Oregon.

The sound machine was ramped up during training to simulate playing at Husky Stadium, forcing the Cardinal to work with hand signals and other forms of nonverbal communication.

“I’ve told the whole team it’s calm and communication,” Shaw said. “We shouldn’t panic, we shouldn’t be confused.”

Stanford has been going 6-4 for the past two seasons, including a 31-26 win on its last visit to Seattle in 2020, although that game was played in an empty stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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