Short memory key for Cardinal

Time to size up this year's version of our 408 cousins from San Jose. Mark DeVaughn has the scoop.

The key word for the Stanford's game against San Jose State this coming Saturday is "forget."

Forget about Stanford's ranking and accepted “bowl” invitation. Forget about the four touchdown passes, the explosive offense. Forget that the Spartans are headed for another losing season. On Saturday an old enemy could turn your tidy world of college football upside down once again.

With a win Saturday at Spartan Stadium, San Jose State could venture into seriously uncharted territory. Never before in their 57-game series has San Jose State been able to beat Stanford four years in a row. The Spartans came close to capping a four-peat in 1984, when only a late 35-yard scramble by John Paye and an ensuing Thomas Henley touchdown run gave the Cardinal a 28-27 win. They also won three out of four tries between 1987-90.

While they will have the home crowd behind them Saturday afternoon, San Jose State is in trouble again. No sooner had they finished their first winning season (7-5) in eight years before they alienated coach Dave Baldwin into leaving for the football powerhouse of...the University of Cincinnati. A year ago San Jose State nearly made it to a bowl game, and they even beat LaDanian Tomlinson and TCU on national TV. But a now a 3-8 record is the least of San Jose's problems, as now there is already talk of Saturday being the final football game in the program's history.

New head coach Fitz Hill is enthusiastic about his situation, ready to take on the big boys (he said he wants road games against USC and UCLA every year) and fill the Baldwin void. He's even happily dressed the Spartans up in hideous, homemade XFL-esque uniforms.

The Spartans have Deonce Whitaker but his activity has been limited due to injuries. Quarterback Marcus Arroyo is back as the team's starting signal-caller. The senior lost his job to newcomer Clint Carlson, but he in turn was sidelined because of a season-ending injury. Arroyo is one of the most experienced SJS signal callers in recent years and threw for over 2,300 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2000.

After missing the 1999 Stanford/SJS showdown due to injury, Whitaker streaked up and down the Stanford Stadium turf last year en route to a career-best 265 yards and two scores. SJS also has a very experienced offensive line featuring mainstays Chris Fe'esago(LG) and center Bruno Contreras. Former Riordan (San Francisco) High star Jarmar Julien is also a threat coming out of the backfield

The receiving corps may lack size (no one taller than 6'1") but it has experience and includes several players whom Stanford fans would soon forget. The group is led by seniors Edell Shepherd, Rashied Davis and Casey LeBlanc, as well as junior Charles Pauley. Shepherd has turned into the Spartans’ main playmaker, racking up 1,393 receiving yards and 13 TD’s. Davis caught 7 balls for 133 yards against the Cardinal last season. The Bellarmine alum LeBlanc has over 100 career catches but is best remembered by Cardinalmaniacs™ for scoring the coup-de-grace touchdown in SJS' 35-23 win in 1998 -  a vomit-inducing return off a futile Stanford onside kick.

San Jose State has never been known for a strong defensive unit. Last year they finished 114th out 115 Division 1-A schools in total defense. Amazingly, this year they are worse, ranking dead last in D-1 while allowing over 503 yards per contest. On the defensive line, the Spartans have a former all-WAC selection in senior Kevin Michaelis. The D-line as a whole isn't that large, as evidenced by starting tackles Brandon Miles (6-0, 250) and Larry Dawson (5'11" 290). Compare these boys to the likes 6'7", 300-lb Kwame Harris and fellow 300-lb tackle Greg Schindler and you have reason to believe the Cardinal can run at will.

The linebacking corps is the most formidable part of the San Jose "D" with all senior starters. Luke La Herran missed the USC game to academic troubles but will be in action Saturday and is very tough at middle linebacker. The Cardinal will also have to contend with Alvin Dean and Patrick Battle, a former running back.

Randy Fasani had his best day as a Stanford QB in last year’s lost against the Spartans and should fare well again this year. The top four corners average around 5'9" and have never lined up against the likes of Teyo Johnson (then again who has?). However keep an eye out for senior Willie Adams who returned an errant Fasani pass for a touchdown last season. Then there is of course the continuing wonderful story of safety Neil Parry's comeback from foot amputation. The senior is back on the team and will be in uniform against the Cardinal.

Stanford has the opportunity not only to beat San Jose for the first time since 1997, but also to do a little damage. A blowout win would send a message that the Cardinal may be able to achieve serious success in 2001. But then again a loss of course would send them back to near oblivion.

However four is for three things: Score, years of presidential terms, and Ryan Wells' jersey. The best college football team in California surely doesn't wear uniforms straight out of "Any Given Sunday." The big question is this: can Fitz Hill, a coach without ties to the Spartan/Cardinal rivalry, super-motivate San Jose State once again the way Baldwin used to? In the words of the immortal J. Peterman, "I think not." 52-31, Cardinal!

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