STANFORD -- While Stanford searches for solutions to the offensive breakdowns that plagued its season-opening defeat, the Cardinal must deal with a serious problem on the other side of the ball.

The most vulnerable unit on the team has lost a key member.

Starting defensive tackle Harrison Phillips will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury suffered in the 16-6 stunner at Northwestern.

"I'm heartbroken to share the news that I have torn my ACL," Phillips said Tuesday morning via Twitter.

A sophomore from Omaha, Nebraska, Phillips was on course to redshirt last season until injuries to other linemen forced him into action in the seventh game. He will receive a medical redshirt for the ACL injury, giving him three more seasons of eligibility.

Stanford Cardinal’s Harrison Phillips (66) sacks Maryland Terrapins starting quarterback C.J. Brown (16) in the third quarter for the Foster Farms
Stanford Cardinal's Harrison Phillips (66) sacks Maryland Terrapins starting quarterback C.J. Brown (16) in the third quarter for the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) ( Nhat V. Meyer )

"His personality and go-get-it attitude are huge for the defensive line," linebacker Blake Martinez said.

The injury leaves Stanford, which plays Central Florida on Saturday, with three reliable linemen: Redshirt freshman Solomon Thomas and two seniors, Aziz Shittu and Brennan Scarlett, who suffered major knee injuries last season.

Jordan Watkins, a junior who has played sparingly, will join the rotation immediately. Nate Lohn and Luke Kaumatule will also have the opportunity for expanded roles.

"Where it hurts is our depth," coach David Shaw said. "We'll have to lean on some guys."

  • Shaw examined the film from Stanford's lowest-scoring game in eight years and determined that the problems were rooted, to a large extent, in poor execution.


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    "We didn't play indicative of how we practiced or how training camp was," he said. "We did everything you could in a first game to help yourself lose. ... We have a ton of things to clean up. It's not scheme related or personnel related."

    Asked to respond to criticism that his play-calling is too conservative, Shaw said:

    "Don't live in the moment. Look at what we've done since Andrew (Luck) left. ... There are multiple times we've scored over 30."

  • Shaw praised several offensive linemen, particularly left guard Joshua Garnett, but didn't rule out lineup changes. Stanford had several breakdowns in pass protection and sputtered in the running game (3.1 yards per carry).

    "We're still coming together," he said. "It wasn't up to our standard."

  • Receivers Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector are expected to start this week. Neither played in the first half at Northwestern.

    Rector sat for disciplinary reasons, while Cajuste is rounding into shape after missing much of training camp with a sprained ankle.

  • Stanford played seven true freshmen, the most in a season opener since 2012.

    The seven: Punter Jake Bailey, linebacker Mustafa Branch, safeties Justin Reid and Ben Edwards, running back Bryce Love, receiver Trent Irwin and nickel back Quenton Meeks.

    "Their roles will increase," Shaw said.

    For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/wilnerhotline

    Saturday's game

    Central Florida (0-1) at Stanford (0-1), 7:30 p.m., FS1