Earlier this season, most of my Saturday nights were spent agonizing about Stanford Football's latest loss. I would exchange angry e-mails with some of my buddies, have long, worried, hushed-tone conversations with other buddies, and leave several raging voicemails for some of my other buddies. Then I went home, watched the tape of that day's game, and got even more depressed.
All of that changed after the Arizona game. After that, I wouldn't talk to any of my buddies after each loss. Wouldn't e-mail any of them. None of them called or e-mailed me, either. What was there to say?
I didn't have to call or e-mail or text anyone after the U$C game, since I was back in the Bay Area to witness that one in person. Some of my buddies and I went out for dinner in downtown Palo Alto after the game, and whenever the subject came back to Stanford Football, all we could do was look at each other and shrug. Another week, another loss. Ho hum.
And with a trip to Washington up next, it appeared likely that it would be more of the same. After all, Stanford had not won at Husky Stadium since I was exactly one week old. Only Irene from "The Real World" got worse treatment in Seattle than the Cardinal did.
But there was some optimism at our table. I thought the Card had a chance to beat the Huskies… a remote chance. My buddy Ray said he had a funny feeling about this game. I asked him if it was that feeling you get after you've eaten two bowls of Raisin Bran.
So, obviously, I wasn't expecting much going into last Saturday. But when I heard the Huskies had a slim 3-0 lead late in the second quarter, I got a little excited. I even tuned in to Ted Robinson and Bob Murphy for a bit, eavesdropping through Stanford's game-tying field goal, and listening up until halftime.
That's when my cell phone rang. It was my buddy Steve calling during a layover in Phoenix. "It's only 3-3?" he wondered. "Can we call the rest of the game off due to darkness or something?" I asked. "I'll gladly take a tie!"
As it turned out in the second half, we wouldn't have to joke about settling for a tie. Bo McNally and Richard Sherman helped see to that. At the end of the third quarter, former Cardinal tight end and fellow ESPN Radio employee Steve Coughlin and I walked around the studio holding up four fingers, just like the players do on the sidelines when they sense victory is just 15 minutes away.
And finally, at 6:44pm Eastern time, victory. Coughlin and I pounded fists. My buddy Jeremy called, stunned, relieved, and hoping they wouldn't find a way to take this result back somehow. I e-mailed Mike Eubanks to make sure it was real; he said it was. ESPN anchor and fellow Cardinalmaniac™ Scott Reiss dropped by for a high-five. Ted Robinson and I exchanged shocked e-mails. Even Mel Kiper, Jr. offered his congratulations. Who says Stanford Football doesn't bring people together?
All the talk about 1960? Out the window. All the speculation about 0-12? Gone. Granted, 1-11 is nothing to get excited about, but even 1-11 is a million times better than 0-12.
And so it was that Stanford finally got its first win of the 2006 season. And believe it or not, the day actually got better. Minutes later, Arizona put the finishing touches on their shocking upset over cal. Soon after that, Boise State's last-second field goal put San Jose State back in the loss column. And Stanford Hoops looked good in a win over Siena. If Oregon had beaten U$C, it would have been the perfect day. But even though the Trojans took care of business, I'm still not complaining about last Saturday's results.
What does this win mean in the grand scheme of things for Stanford Football? Does it mean that the players are finally "buying in" to the coaches' expectations and standards? Does it mean that the coaches have finally pushed the right buttons? Does it mean that Stanford might actually have a chance to beat Oregon State and (dare I even type it) cal? Or does it all just merely mean that even a garbage can gets a steak every once in a while?
Honestly? I don't care. The big-picture stuff doesn't really concern me right now. Besides, starting at around 3:15pm Pacific time on December 2, we'll have plenty of time to discuss where this program is headed.
All I know is this: the Card's win, cal's loss, and San Jose State's loss mean that Stanford is the king of Bay Area college football. Well, king for a day at least.
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
To whomever came up with the Abbey Road-themed cover for the Stanford Women's Hoops media guide this year, I have just one word for you: genius…
DeSean Jackson. Wow. You could make the case that he is the best individual player in the Pac-10 right now…
Bizarre events early in the fourth quarter between Oregon and U$C. After having a touchdown called back by the replay booth, Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti challenged that decision. And won. It was about the only thing that went right for Oregon down in South Central last week. It's far from the only thing that has gone wrong for Pac-10 replay officials this year…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… oh, that wacky Ken Margerum… With the Spartans going for a two-point conversion, Margerum called one of the niftiest plays I've ever seen. At the snap, Spartan quarterback Adam Tafralis and the rest of the team took a step to the right, then Tafralis pitched the ball to running back Yonus Davis, who went left. It's a play we've all seen before… until Davis tried a shovel pass to Tafralis, the quarterback! Tafralis was stopped just short of the goal line, so the two-point conversion failed, but the Spartans got a lot of style points with that play…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… after Arkansas ripped Tennessee last week, Kirk Herbstreit called the Razorbacks the most complete team in the SEC. I can't argue. This is the same Razorbacks squad, by the way, that got pole-axed by U$C in Week One. Why do I get the funny feeling that if Arkansas played U$C this weekend, this results would be very different this time around?
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… is anybody else as tired of the New York Giants defense doing jumpshots all the time as I am? Yes? Good…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… the Cincinnati Bengals are done. No way they get up off the mat from that loss to the Chargers…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… anyone else notice that the dictator in Commando looks just like Al Michaels? I'm just saying…
CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX
Matt in Atascadero has plenty on his plate. Among his thoughts: "Willingham did a fine job with the Stanford program. I won't deny that. But let's not give him too much credit. Green and Walsh took Stanford to bowls immediately prior and recruited well, giving Willingham a nicely stocked cupboard. Also, a Rose Bowl and 9-2 were very impressive, but he had several down years as well. Finally, forgive me if I'm not sentimental about him, but he had a nice little hand in bringing us down, which I think negates a lot of the building he did.
Finally, if you like A&Ws, come on down to friendly Atascadero! We have a real, honest-to-goodness A&W (with drive-thru, thank you very much) two blocks from my house! Lord knows I can't imagine any other reason to visit Atascadero..."
Uh oh, Matt, you shouldn't have said that… Don't be surprised if I'm bumping around your neighborhood now, sipping on a root beer freeze…
Arizona @ Oregon. Upset alert… Arizona's defense might have what it takes to give Oregon fits. Do I think it's enough? Not quite… I like Oregon by 8.
Washington @ Washington State. I think the only thing that saves this game from being a complete Cougar rout is Washington State's depleted receiving corps. Unless the Huskies' offensive woes magically get solved. I like Washington State by 24.
cal @ U$C. This could very well be DeSean Jackson's national coming-out party. But why do I have the feeling that cal's defense will let them down when they need it most? I like U$C by 9.
Last week: 2-2 (straight-up), 1-3 (ATS).
This year: 19-10 (straight-up), 16-13 (ATS).
Got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or anything else in general? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and the best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!
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