I received the October and November issues of The Bootleg Magazine in the mail yesterday. After thumbing through the November issue and admiring a brilliantly written piece on traveling with Stanford Football, I picked up the October issue and checked out Jim Rutter's masterpiece on the most painful moments in Stanford football.
In the article, Jim details some of the dates that live in Cardinalmania™ infamy. The 1979 game against Oregon State. The 1972 Big Game. Jake Plummer converting three fourth-downs in 1994. Eric Abrams shanking one at the buzzer at Northwestern. Most of the painful memories we all have accumulated during our careers as Stanford Football followers are there.
I, for one, will never forget Marques Tuiasosopo ripping our hearts out in the rain in 2000. I remember coming home after doing my postgame show that day, sitting in a dark room by myself for about two hours, then getting in my car and driving aimlessly around the Bay Area for the rest of the night. The only things missing were Adrian Balboa shouting "YOU CAN'T WIN!" and some cheesy ‘80s song playing as I drove off into the night.
Obviously, given last Saturday's events at Stanford Stadium, Jim might have to make room for a new inductee into Stanford's Hall of Shame. That was about as heartbreaking an outcome as I have seen with the Cardinal.
But amazingly enough, the sun actually did rise on Sunday. In fact, it was actually a gorgeous Sunday in New England, the kind you see on postcards with the blue skies and the turning leaves. And as the leaves turn, I'm sure the players and coaches have already turned the page and began focusing on this week.
After all, the Card can't sit around and mope over last weekend. They gotta get on the plane, head to South Central, and play the big, bad Trojans this week. They can't call in sick. Can't get the measles. Can't hide under the covers and wait for another day.
And if they're going to play the game, they might as well find a way to beat U$C, right?
Yes, U$C is an all-time good college football team. Yes, they have talent and depth and speed and fan support and all the things that college football programs need to dominate their sport. But, and I know this might be a heretical statement these days in college football, the U$C Trojans can be beaten.
The question is: how can they be beaten by Stanford? Besides Lendale White being thrown from a multi-story building for real? And taking Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett, that damn horse, and that damn band over the ledge with him?
Read closely, folks, because here's how Stanford can shock the world.
I honestly believe that Stanford's defense will perform quite well against the Trojans. Between Jon Alston, Babatunde Oshinowo, Nick Sanchez, and the underrated inside linebackers, the Cardinal have the playmakers to potentially contain the Trojans. Stanford can get to the quarterback, and they can force turnovers. I have faith that the Stanford defense will do its best to keep the Cardinal in the game for longer than they probably should be.
This game will be decided by Stanford's offense and whether they can take advantage of U$C's defensive deficiencies. In order to do that, Stanford's offensive playcalling must do its best to keep the Trojans off-balance at all times. I thought Walt Harris did an outstanding job of playcalling for most of last week's game, and his masterpiece was the opening drive.
Stanford's first play against the Bruins had an empty backfield and a spread formation, a wrinkle I don't believe the Cardinal had unveiled yet to that point. As the drive progressed, Trent Edwards, Mark Bradford, J.R. Lemon, Nick Frank, Gerren Crochet, and Justin McCullum all touched the ball. Screens, straight-ahead runs, dropback passes - Stanford did it all. The Bruins had no idea what was coming, or when. That type of imagination (and execution) needs to continue against the Trojans.
It's no secret that U$C's secondary has been their defensive weak link, as that unit has been racked with injuries. To that end, Stanford perhaps might be better served by going with three receivers as their base formation against the Trojans. That would, in all likelihood, force the Trojans to go with five defensive backs and (have more of their weakness on the field). Then, Stanford can either run or pass from that three-receiver set, and perhaps do so effectively.
Does Stanford have the personnel to go with three receivers? If Mark Bradford is able to go, obviously they do. And Bradford's presence this weekend is critical. I thought his injury was the turning point or the Stanford offense last week. Without him, Stanford was unable to stretch the field.
But what if Bradford can't go? I would nominate David Marrero. I would make a package of plays just for him. Put him in the slot. Move him around. Have him run counter plays. Get him downfield. Whatever it takes to make big plays.
Make no mistake, Stanford must make big plays to beat the Trojans. The Card got a bunch of little plays last week, but when they needed big plays, they could not get them. Little plays will beat Arizona. Little plays will beat Oregon State. Little plays did not beat UCLA. Little plays will not beat U$C. Stanford needs as many big plays as possible.
And, to be honest, Stanford needs to score on those big plays. In the second quarter last week against U$C, Washington State's Jerome Harrison broke loose for a 59-yard run, but he was tackled at the Trojan 21. As soon as he hit the ground, I turned to a couple of co-workers and said, "The Cougars won't score." Sure enough, Alex Brink botched a handoff on fourth down, and Wazzu's opportunity went by the wayside. Scoring chances against the Trojans are precious, and Stanford needs to punch each and every one of them through for six points.
If you're going to compete, you might as well compete to win. That's one thing Walt Harris has already made clear to his players. At Stanford, until further notice, moral victories are for losers. "I don't think our sights are high enough," Harris told Bay Area sportswriters on Monday. "There are no moral victories and we didn't win, so that's the bottom line. You can say what you want, but when we had to get it done, we were not able to get it done… I didn't ask [the players] how they were feeling, that's not my concern. My concern is that they learn how to finish football games."
Sounds to me like a guy who has a plan to shock the world.
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
In my mind, I keep replaying Jon Alston's near-miss with the fumble at the Bruin goal line. Alston finds the handle on that ball, and UCLA doesn't win…
Bill Walsh as our interim athletic director? If he's all for it, and if he and his wife stay as healthy as they can, I'm all for it. He seems to have the passion for Stanford athletics, he has the leadership experience, and he definitely has the profile. It certainly can't hurt too many things to have Bill Walsh as the face of the athletic department, no?
Six INTs and a fumble for Matt Moore? Even if Oregon State had pulled that game out against Arizona, quite honestly, they wouldn't have deserved it…
Game over in Eugene? Don't look now, but the Xboxes in Oregon's locker room may be things of the past if the NCAA rules against the Ducks. Some folks in Indianapolis think that the Xboxes are extra benefits that aren't available to the general student population. While I think the Xboxes are little bit much, I also think that there's no question that football players get many extra benefits that students don't get. A training table, for example. Chartered travel. Free clothes. The list goes on and on. But I guess the NCAA has to draw the line somewhere…
Stat of the Week: early in the second quarter of last week's game in South Central, Washington State's Jerome Harrison had already racked up 116 yards rushing… and they were still down 28-6. Unreal…
Quote of the Week, courtesy of U$C running back Lendale White, who proves why they call it That Think Tank On Figueroa: "We're back-to-back national champions. You can't spell BCS without USC."
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… party at Charlie Weis's house!
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… Vince Young is good. Really, really good.
cal @ Oregon. With Kellen Clemens out for the season, and Dennis Dixon not guaranteed to be the starter, the task of quarterbacking the Ducks might fall to Brady Leaf. Yes, that's his younger brother. Good thing the Ducks defense is playing well, because I think they're the difference. I like Oregon by 6.
Oregon State @ Washington. Last week I had a funny feeling that Arizona would beat the Beavers, but I didn't have the guts to pick the upset. Do I have the guts to pick the Huskies here? Do I? Do I? I do! I like Washington by 9.
Arizona State @ Washington State. Gosh, I have a funny feeling about this one, too. I can completely see Jerome Harrison ripping the Sun Devils defense a new one. Do I see it being enough? Actually, I do. I like Washington State by 13.
UCLA @ Arizona. This might actually be a lot of fun to watch, although I don't think the Bruins will need a comeback this week. I like UCLA by 16.
Last week: 2-1 (straight-up), 2-1 (ATS).
This year: 15-5 (straight-up), 11-9 (ATS).
Got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or on anything else that's on your mind, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org! The best e-mails I get will end up in next week's Corner…
Troy Clardy is a host and reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, airing Saturdays on FSN Bay Area.
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