Ashton Daniels is coming off a big game in Cardinal’s season-opening win at Hawaii
SAN FRANCISCO — Making your first collegiate road trip can be nerve-racking. Coach Troy Taylor knew Ashton Daniels would be fine when he saw him early in Stanford’s 37-24 season-opening win over Hawaii on Friday night.
“Just his demeanor,” Taylor explained. “You can see it in his facial expressions, the tightness of his skin, his eyes — all those things that we all do as human beings, you can see it on the sideline, and he was the same guy he was in practice.”
Daniels completed 25 of 36 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 11 times for 42 yards against the Rainbow Warriors after throwing only six passes as a freshman. The sophomore did not commit a turnover or take a sack.
Stanford travels to the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday to face No. 6 USC (2-0). It will be a far more intimidating environment and a far more formidable opponent, but Daniels demonstrated that he was unfazed by his first start.
“You always wonder what they’re seeing when they get into the game and there’s live bullets flying and people in their face,” Taylor explained. “When he came to the sidelines, he did an excellent job.” I’d ask him what he saw, and it was always crystal clear, so I assumed he was seeing things clearly. It isn’t too quick for him.”
Daniels’ performance appeared to validate Taylor’s decision to go with the Georgia native over Syracuse transfer Justin Lamson, which was made the week before the game. Taylor, a standout quarterback at Cal who previously coached Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Jake Browning at Washington and FCS Player of the Year Gage Gubrud at Eastern Washington, made one of the most significant offseason decisions.
Daniels was one of eight Cardinal players to make their first career starts last week, including three offensive linemen (senior left tackle James Pogorelc, senior right tackle Connor McLaughlin, and freshman right guard Simione Pale).
McLaughlin said Daniels’ presence aided the inexperienced offensive line, which also included junior left guard Trevor Mayberry, a transfer from Penn, and center Levi Rogers, who started at guard last year.
“He was as cool as a cucumber the entire game,” McLaughlin said. “It makes everyone feel better.” I believe it calmed us down, and he displayed a lot of poise, especially for someone his age.”
Juan Daniels, Daniels’ father, finished his Georgia career ranked third in career receiving yards and second in career touchdown receptions. According to ESPN, Ashton won three straight titles at Buford High School and was the No. 34 pocket passer and No. 83 player in Georgia in his class.
Daniels appeared in 10 games as a wildcat quarterback last season, rushing 25 times for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Taylor did not intend for Daniels to lead the team in rushing attempts in the opener, but he also did not want to limit the benefit of having a running quarterback.
“We will always have that in our arsenal,” Taylor stated. “He’s a good runner, he’s physically strong, and he has good vision.” We’ll choose our spots. I’m not sure he’ll run it as much this week. We’ll see how it goes.
“However, having a dual-threat quarterback helps us in the run game with the extra hat.”
Stanford (1-0) will now face perhaps the best dual-threat quarterback in the country, Caleb Williams, who had more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four) and a 46-yard run in USC’s 66-14 win over Nevada.
Williams has completed 74 percent of his attempts for 597 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception, which is one of the reasons USC is favored by more than four touchdowns against the Cardinal.
McLaughlin, on the other hand, is looking forward to the next installment of the rivalry – the final scheduled meeting between teams that will move to different conferences in 2024.
“This is why we play college football,” said McLaughlin. “All of the early workouts, all of the time spent, all of the sacrifices you must make.” 7:30 p.m. kickoff, rivalry game, sold-out crowd. That’s how college football works.”