Shaw: Stanford proved it's a 'big, physical team' vs. Ducks

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STANFORD, Calif. -- Stanford head coach David Shaw knew the question as soon as the word "soft" came out of the reporter's mouth. Shaw had been asked some variation of it during his weekly press conference, during the Pac-12 teleconference, during his interview on the "College Football 24/7" Podcast, and now after a 26-20 win over Oregon on Thursday night.

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Somehow the unique intersection of football and academics on the Farm led to the harassment and verbal abuse former Cardinal offensive lineman Jonathan Martin received from Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, or so the whispers went.

"There's been a lot of talk about Jonathan Martin, God bless him," Shaw said. "And do Stanford guys have a problem? Funny thing is that question usually comes after, 'Boy, your team is so tough and so physical and plays great on the offensive and defensive line,' and then follow that up with a question about, 'Well, Stanford has that problem.'

"(Thursday) you see who we are: a big, physical team that plays extremely hard and plays very well together."

Stanford held the ball for a staggering 42:34, with double-digit time of possession in the second, third and fourth quarters, thanks to a dominant offensive line that paved the way for 66 rushing attempts.

Running back Tyler Gaffney carried the ball a school-record 45 times, gashing the undersized Ducks defense for 157 yards and one touchdown.

And when the time came to put the game away, Stanford called 17 runs and zero passes. It was welcome news to left guard David Yankey.

"We got to the fourth quarter, and Coach Shaw said, 'We're not going to pass it anymore. We're done. We're going to run the ball, and we're going to run them out of the stadium," said Yankey, wearing the same black glasses with white tape across the bridge that recalled the Hanson Brothers of "Slap Shot" fame.

It was the same look that Gaffney and linebackers Shayne Skov and A.J. Tarpley had worn for their postgame press conference, a shout out to "Nerd Nation," as Stanford has taken to calling itself.

Yankey admitted the plan coming into the game wasn't supposed to be so run-heavy, but the Cardinal's early success made it "hard to go away from that," not that he was complaining.

"I love just going out there and grinding," Yankey said.

For Yankey, that usually means pulling and trapping on Stanford's seemingly endless array of power runs, allowing Gaffney to get to the second and third levels of the defense.

Strong safety Brian Jackson, corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and free safety Avery Patterson were Oregon's top three tacklers, which might be acceptable against a pass-happy Air Raid team such as Washington State. When it happens as Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan attempts just 13 passes, it means the defensive front was getting decimated.

Yankey said he could see and feel Oregon wearing down as the game went on.

"The old hands on the hips," he said. "Not straining as much to make a play. And you can feel it, just blocking them all the time."

Soft? Stanford is anything but, relying on physicality at the line of scrimmage to build a team that consistently contends for BCS bowls.

And if you need confirmation, just ask Oregon.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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