10 Post-Pullman Notes

We have a maelstrom of musings in the aftermath of Stanford's 24-21 win at Washington State. On the heels of two tough losses, the Cardinal pulled off a surprise upset and put forth a splendid offensive performance. To help organize our analysis, here are Daniel's Top 10 post-game updates, opinions and observations fresh from Martin Stadium.

10. Redshirt freshman Pannel Egboh suffered a serious injury in the fourth quarter and was tended to by the medical staff after the contest.  The block that injured Egboh looked to be of dubious legality, but with no film yet available for review, no definitive conclusions can be drawn.

9. Redshirt junior left tackle Jeff Edwards left early in the second half due to undisclosed injury.  Head coach Walt Harris had no comment on his timetable for return.  Therefore, after starting at right tackle, redshirt freshman Allen Smith finished the contest at left tackle.  Redshirt junior Jon Cochran filled in at right tackle, where he started Stanford's first three games this fall.

8. Harris specifically praised the play of the offensive line, which rotated several players through the five positions, including Smith, Cochran, redshirt junior guard Ismail Simpson, redshirt junior guard Josiah Vinson (his Bootleg Audio is coming soon!), redshirt freshman guard Alex Fletcher, redshirt junior center Tim Mattran and Edwards (prior to his injury).

7. Though junior linebacker Michael Okwo (ankle) did not enter the contest, two familiar faces did make returns from the injury ward.  Redshirt junior free safety Trevor Hooper saw his first playing time since the Navy game, and fifth-year senior tailback J.R. Lemon (Bootleg Audio also coming soon; in Lemon's own words, "Woohoo!") carried three times.

6. If Michael Sgroi could raise his accuracy and poise to the level of his raw power, the sky would be the limit for the fifth-year senior kicker from Michigan, who regularly boomed his kickoffs through the end zone in the high mountain air.  Perhaps most impressive was what turned out to be the game-winning field goal from 34 yards, which, no exaggeration, had a shot at sailing through from 60.  Even on raw power alone, Sgroi still might be cashing paychecks as a kickoff specialist in the NFL.

5. After the game, several players emphasized how much they enjoyed playing in the hostile environment, to the point that I asked specifically about the effect of playing in Martin Stadium in post-game interviews.  Redshirt junior quarterback Trent Edwards mentioned the Cougar crowd's chants of "UC Davis" awakening him and ultimately spurring him to a career day.  Add up the players' input, Edward's superlative performance, the fact that Stanford has yet to win at home or lose on the road this season, and the seeming lack of motivation against UC Davis... and the conclusion is rather obvious: this is a team that responds to a kick in the pants.  This squad lives for, and thrives under adversity.

4. Harris did not obfuscate his feelings about Ted Leland's departure and the timing of that announcement.  He cited the situation as a potential distraction to the team this week, especially the coaching staff, and listed Leland's year-end resignation as yet another obstacle the Cardinal had to overcome to defeat the Cougars.  To my ears, he also sounded a bit bitter and hung out to dry discussing the situation, but judge for yourself after listening to the Bootleg Audio to come.

Here's the cleaned-up quote:

"Today was really a tremendous victory for our team, for our football program, because a lot has happened this week.  We'd been given up for dead basically.  We lost our Athletic Director who hired me… We had to play on the road against a team with a rabid crowd, and they're 3-1.  It was a tremendous team victory."

3. Washington State played one of its poorest games this season, make no bones about it.  To be sure, give Stanford its due credit, for any road victory in the Pac-10 is a praiseworthy accomplishment, especially shorthanded in a difficult road environment such as Martin Stadium.  Nonetheless, Washington State sorely missed its leaders on both ends of the field, as neither the offensive or defensive unit looked complete without Jason Hill or Will Derting, respectively.  Does Trent Edwards run for 90 yards if the Cougars have their star linebacker in the game?  Does Alex Brink throw two interceptions, only one touchdown and 160 yards with his stud receiver as a target?

2. Part of the reason for those eye-popping stats is the Stanford coaching staff, who did a great job of exploiting the Cougars' injury-related holes.  On defense, the Cardinal often brought the eighth - on rarer occasions, the ninth - man into the box in an attempt to slow down stud senior tailback Jerome Harrison.  Though Harrison racked up 218 yards, far more of those gains came on off-tackle tosses and sweeps than behind a fullback and into the heart of the Stanford defense.  The defense did a good job trying to make a superior athlete run horizontal instead of vertical, and Harrison might well have topped 300 if not for the Cardinal's adjustments.

Offensively, Harris and his colleagues schemed for Derting's absence by making Trent Edwards' mobility a major factor in the game plan on both bootleg passes and designed draws.  Moving Edwards out of the pocket neutralized the defensive line, forcing WSU's depleted linebacking corps to provide pressure or make tackles.  Judging by Edwards' stats (92 net rushing yards; 20-of-29 passing for 260 yards and three touchdowns), it is safe to say that the scheme was successful.

1. I know a lot of team reads The Bootleg, so if you play varsity football for Stanford and are reading this now, please play the Arizona game with the same hunger you displayed today.  By all means, celebrate your hard-fought victory, but when practice resumes again, focus hard.  All the experts will say that next week is your best remaining shot at a win this season.  (After the Wildcats, five of the last six opponents are currently ranked, and all six went to bowls last season.)  More importantly, channel your own energy and feed off of it, instead of depending on hostile crowds to fire you up.  With four more home games and trips to fair-weather football locales (pun intended) Arizona and USC on the schedule, only the November 12 visit to Corvallis will offer a truly hostile environment.  Regardless of the atmosphere, the score, or the crowd, players and coaches need to channel their own energy and consistently perform at a high level if the Stanford program hopes to reverse its recent failures.

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