Notes and quotes: Arizona week

Injury updates, a defensive reckoning, reality shows, note-taking, mistaken identities, an Aretha Franklin song and a turf monster: Scott Cooley covers it all, as always, in his weekly notebook. Enjoy!

Injury Update

After missing the Washington State game, Chris Owusu and Delano Howell returned against Washington and had productive outings.

Jim Harbaugh said Tuesday that he thinks Owusu is back to 100 percent. Howell wore a cast on his right hand/wrist during the game, but it didn't keep him from recording an interception. He probably even used it to club a few baby Huskies.

Tyler Gaffney had been absent for the previous three games with an undisclosed injury, but he returned Saturday and carried the ball 13 times for 50 yards and a touchdown. Barring injuries, it appears the primary ballcarriers for Stanford moving forward will be Stepfan Taylor, Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson.

On the Defense

The Cardinal defense endured some heavy criticism before Saturday's contest after surrendering more than 38 points per game, averaged over its last three outings. Prodding the players on that side of the ball for answers, most said that guys weren't executing their assignments.

But before last week's game, Michael Thomas vehemently attested that, "everybody will be doing what they need to be doing."

It was clear the defensive players were painfully perturbed by the naysayers and responded in a big way against Washington. They held the Huskies to just 35 first-half yards and 107 for the game—the second-lowest total in school history. The team recorded its second shutout of the season, the first two-shutout season since 1972.

"This defense is more talented than what we have shown the past couple of weeks, and we made it extra motivation to get back on track and show the Pac-10 that this defense is a force," Shayne Skov said afterward.

On deck is an offense in the same class as the Oregons and USCs of the Pac-10. Making a defensive statement in this game will hold much more clout than shutting down an offense with a bruised and battered quarterback.

A Day in the Life

With a matchup featuring two of the top quarterbacks in the country, ESPN had planned to do "A Day in the Life" segment for the Washington-Stanford broadcast last week. A camera crew was going to follow Andrew Luck and Jake Locker around during a typical day of school and football.

But Luck respectfully declined the invitation.

"I just thought it would be a distraction to other kids and honestly, I don't think my life's very interesting," he said.

While some may argue with that notion, Harbaugh put it more matter-of-fact.

"It's not about winning the Heisman Trophy for Andrew, or starring in a reality TV show," he said. "We're not in the reality TV show business; we are in the going to school and improving as a football team business. Andrew is about the team."

Taking Note

During the Washington game, the broadcast cut to a clip of Harbaugh talking about how he prefers that his players take notes during team meetings. He went on to say that he thinks Luck jots things down just to placate him.

"I really think that he has one of those minds where he can hear it, understand it and take it to the field," said Harbaugh. "I see him take notes sometimes and I think he's just doing that for my benefit. He's got a really sharp mind."

But Luck disagreed, admitting that he did not have a photographic memory.

"I definitely need to take notes. Writing it down further cements it and I definitely don't retain everything," he said. "I take notes for my own benefit, not just to appease the head coach."

With these kids in challenging academic "meetings" all week, furiously taking notes, it might be nice for Harbaugh to give them a break when they get into their football classroom.

The Most Interesting Cardinal on the Field

He gives bear hugs to bears. His reputation is expanding faster than the universe. He only has to think of a number in his head and it appears on his jersey.

He is James McGillicuddy…The Most Interesting Cardinal of the Field.

The 307-pound offensive lineman/tight end/H-back finally got his opportunity last Saturday. The defense was going the other way and there stood McGillicuddy wide open in the end zone. And then the sniper fired.

"His eyes got big as saucers until he fell down," Harbaugh laughed. "Cuddy is a great teammate and does a fabulous job. Somewhere along the line we are going to sneak him one."

After constant harassment for the ball by McGillicuddy all year, Luck said that he had his chance and blew it.

"He was a little downtrodden. I guess he can't ask for a ball anymore," he said. "It would be great for him to get a touchdown—for him and all the O-linemen of the world."

If McGillicuddy had not been tackled by the turf monster, he would have become the 18th Cardinal to score a touchdown this year.

Scouts on the Prowl

Because of the quarterbacks under center in the game last week, it was mentioned that there were 15-20 NFL scouts on hand to watch the game.

With the overall talent that will be on the field for this Saturday's marquee matchup, just as many scouts, if not more, could be taking notes with a careful eye.

Harbaugh said that he does not use the NFL as motivation for his players. He mentioned that scouts are around the team all the time so it's nothing unusual for them.

"Everybody understands it's the nature of the business," he said. "There are scouts here every day—watching game tape, observing practice—so I don't need to remind the players that there are pro scouts watching them. I know that many of our players have the dream of playing in the National Football League and we certainly encourage that."


Speaking of the NFL, if you've watched a Jets game this season you might have done a double-take after hearing the announcer call a tackle. You weren't going crazy thinking you had warped back to a Stanford broadcast, as New York has a player with a similar name as Sione Fua.

Jets defensive tackle Sione Pouha (pronounced BO-oo-ha) has caused this writer confusion when trying to decipher whether it's Saturday or Sunday. The name Sione means, "God is gracious."

"I've never met the guy, but if my friends or family are watching the Jets, they're always saying, ‘Hey there's someone with your same name,'" Fua said. "I think it's pretty cool."

Vegas Respect

With two teams ranked in the Top 15 of the BCS standings with identical 7-1 records, a casual fan might think the game between Stanford and Arizona would be a tossup.

Not so in the eyes of the distinguished gentlemen in Sin City who know much more than the average viewer. The oddsmaking services in Las Vegas released the Cardinal as touchdown favorites against Arizona. Through three days of betting action, early money has flooded in on the home team, moving Stanford to a 9.5-point favorite.

A handicapper normally factors in 1-4 points in a spread for home-field advantage. With the raucous crowds that show up in Palo Alto (sarcasm), you could probably give the Cardinal a 2- or 2.5-point home-field edge. [Ed: Then again, Stanford is 15-2 in its last 17 at home. The streak dates back to late 2007, with the only loss last year's Big Game.]

That means the oddsmakers would position Stanford as touchdown favorites on a neutral field. Now that's some R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

About the Author: Bootleg Senior Writer Scott Cooley has worked in the sports media industry throughout his professional career, including serving as a writer for an ESPN production house and a professional football franchise. His work has been published in multiple print and online platforms including He currently writes for yours truly, as well as Bookmaker, Covers and Red Hott Locks. Cooley specializes in football, baseball and basketball with an emphasis on sports betting. Cooley and his wife reside in California, contact him at

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