Now it gets tough. We looked pretty bad playing a pretty good team last week. This week we get to see how we look playing a very good one. After what we witnessed last week, I'm not encouraged.
And, I hate to bring this up again, but this team scares nobody with Fasani out of action.
We'll cop to feeling a tad uneasy at our tailgate gathering prior to kickoff against the Cougs. Even the Belgian ale failed to take the edge off. The latest release from Wazoo – Coug.01 – ain't the old software with a tricked out GUI. It's got some pretty cool features. It does what it has to do.
To beat these guys, Stanford would have to do pretty much what it did in games one, two and three: score as many as needed, catch a break here and there, play some defense and overcome the embarrassing, inexcusable, worse-by-the-week pratfalls of its self-destructing special teams. All very do-able. At least, against sub-par opponents.
Problem was, the Cougs are above par. As are the teams the Card faces in the next three weeks. Stanford needed its A-plus game to win this one, and didn't bring it. But it's one thing to go down swinging against a good team that's simply the better outfit that day. It's another to suck air in the Cool Zone on the sideline wondering where are all your vaunted get-up-and-go got up and went.
Wazzoo's troops blew in from the cool-zone overcast of eastern Washington and boogied around the hot floor of Stanford Stadium like John Travolta in a rayon jumpsuit. Meanwhile, the guys in red and white, in a collective flopsweat like students at an Arthur Murray dance studio trying to recognize the beat of the music and follow the instructional footprints on the floor.
You'd think they'd have been better acclimated.
So we were left to wonder: what's the deal with this conditioning thing? If nothing else, Team Tyrone was always in shape. It took pride in its sheer ability to outlast opponents physically. In a game of equals, in terms of raw physical talent, this is supposed to be the decisive edge. So much for theory.
My theory? Bye weeks suck. They've become the great equalizer. Witness last week. Don't give me a bunch of statistical claptrap – okay, maybe just one piece. Quick: how has Stanford done after a frickin' bye week in games in which it was favored? Off the top of my shredded-and-stomped-on Oakland A's cap, I can recall a couple of horrific, indigestible defeats following a stupid bye. They came against two of the sorriest, most inept football teams I can remember: Roger Theder's kal bears in 1980, and Joe Kapp's equally clueless crew of '86. Two outfits with a combined record of something like 1-42-2. The Cardinal in 1980 was blessed with six All-Pac10 studs. It had a bye just before Big Game. What happened? Stanford asphyxiated itself in the mud against kal kewbee J "missed his period" Torchio, thereby blowing an invitation to one of the lesser bowl games that year. Yecchhh. Six years later, following a bye, the same sorry-ass result in the Big Game. Physically, intellectually and morally superior, Gator-Bowl bound Stanford nonetheless succumbed to bye-weekitis and lost to Kapp, 17-11. Of course it didn't help that Card QB John Paye had such a bad shoulder that day he could barely negotiate the utensils at his parents' tailgater. But, still.
Point is, not having played since September, we caught Wazzoo on a roll, in a groove, in "the zone." While we cooled out in the Cool Zone on the sidelines, the Cougs stayed red hot. There's a moral there somewhere but I'm too hacked off to look for it.
The preceding, admittedly, was an anecdotally-heavy, non-scientific diatribe inspired by an insipid, wind-sucking performance last Saturday by Stanford against a thoroughly respectable opponent – another one of which Stanford faces this week. To be sitting in the Cool Zone at .500 overall going into November seems pretty disappointing considering the weapons this squad has. And, I'm afraid, pretty likely.