Before we begin, I want to remind everyone of something that almost all of us forgot last week...
...We bow to no program at Stanford University.
OK. Let's begin the Corner.
41-point underdogs. Against the #1-ranked team in the land. With 85,000-plus fans on hand. Without their starting quarterback. Without, it seemed, any chance at all for victory.
All of that mattered to almost all of us. None of that mattered to the Stanford Cardinal players and coaches themselves.
It didn't matter to Tim Sims, who set the tone for the game with two jarring tackles. It didn't matter to Pannel Egboh, who spent all day in the Trojan backfield and blocked a seemingly insignificant extra point. It didn't matter to Clinton Snyder or Pat Maynor, who wreaked havoc on U$C's offense. It didn't matter to Nick Sanchez and Bo McNally, who combined with Maynor on a critical goal-line stop before the half.
It didn't matter to Tavita Pritchard, who found a rhythm in the third quarter and gained momentum from there. It didn't matter to Anthony Kimble or Jeremy Stewart, who paced the Cardinal with steady, bruising, important gains. It didn't matter to Richard Sherman, who made Stanford's biggest fourth-down catch since Emile Harry. And it didn't matter to Mark Bradford, who made Stanford's biggest fourth-down catch since Richard Sherman.
None of those perceived obstacles mattered to a Stanford Cardinal team that was smarter, more physical, better coached, and wanted to win more than the big, bad U$C Trojans. In fact, this team didn't see those things as obstacles; they saw them as opportunities. And because they took advantage of those opportunities, the "Bow Boys" will now live forever in Cardinal lore.
And now, a whole new world of opportunities present themselves to the Cardinal, as Stanford's win over U$C has bought this program publicity on a national scale. It has bought handshakes and backslaps from all over the place. It has also bought the team and its fans moments and memories that will be remembered and cherished for a lifetime. But the publicity and the glad-handling won't last anywhere near as long.
After the Card's incredible win over U$C (damn, it feels good to type that), Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News wrote that Stanford Football is now relevant again. I think Jon has it only half-right. The complete truth is that Stanford Football is now relevant again… for this week, anyway.
Remember when, after years of futility and countless unintended cliff dives, Wile E. Coyote finally caught the Roadrunner? And how he turned and held up a sign that said, "All right wise guys, you always wanted me to catch him—now what do I do?" Well, wise guys, after five-plus seasons of futility and countless unintended cliff dives, the Cardinal have finally caught relevance again.
So now comes the big question: now what do we do? How does Stanford Football stay on the scene for the foreseeable future?
Unless you're lucky enough, relevance is a fleeting thing in sports. This is especially true in the Bay Area. As good as the San Jose Sharks have been, they have never been relevant on the same level as the Bay Area's other pro sports teams. The A's, with their four World Series titles since coming to Oakland, are very much in the same boat. The Warriors weren't relevant during the first 81 games of the regular season; it was only after they clinched a playoff berth in Game 82 when they became all the rage in the Bay Area.
The Giants have been relevant for 15 straight years, but now that Barry Bonds is heading out the door (and taking his home runs and his intangibles with him), their relevance is about to be severely tested. Heck, cal is the number-two team in the country right now, their highest ranking since Harry Truman was President... and no one is talking about them.
Relevance. It's hard to gain, and even harder to maintain. Kinda like a Ferrari.
That's why right now, everyone who is involved with this program – players, coaches, administrators, and fans – must do whatever it takes to make sure that Stanford's relevance lasts for the rest of the season, at least. I am certain that the players and coaches, while recognizing last weekend's monumental win over U$C, are working hard to not let it affect their preparation this week for a struggling TCU squad.
I trust that the administrators at Arrillaga are seizing this opportunity to bask in the national media spotlight, and to use this win over $C to bring new fans into the tent. I hope that University administrators look at the aftermath of Saturday's win and finally realize how powerful football can be as a uniting force for students, alumni, fans, and the community at large... and more importantly, not be afraid of that uniting force.
I hope that this Reunion Weekend, Cardinalmaniacs near and far will do their best to not only support this team, but also to have the greatest time possible doing it. If the Stanford Football bandwagon is starting to swell back to pre-2002 levels (and I suspect that it is... at least this week, anyway), then I'd better be walking into a packed Stanford Stadium when I visit this Saturday.
The opportunity is here. The time is now. And the task is tall. But while the bulk of the task of maintaining Stanford Football's relevance falls to the coaches and players, it's also on all of us as well. The choices we all make and the actions we all take will dictate whether the "Bow Boys" big win becomes the Cardinal's catalyst to contention, or just a one-hit wonder.
No Random Pac-10 thoughts this week. I've been too busy celebrating Stanford's ginormous win over the U$C Trojans to follow anyone else, or to watch that Arizona State-Washington State tape that's still sitting on my coffee table. Besides, as far as I'm concerned, this week is all about Stanford Football.
Random Pac-10 Thoughts will return next week.
CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX
Nancy from parts unknown checked in on Saturday afternoon, a few hours before Stanford's exhilarating win over U$C:
"Thanks for the bonding thought in your column this week. My sister and I, for 25+ years have always said that one of our favorite sights is LA out of the back of an airplane window - as in leaving!!!!!! Both she and I boo, or spit in the general direction of the Mausoleum as we fly over it. I hate that place. I hate that place and that damn Tommy with the hat and the toilet brush on his head, and that despicable band so much…I hope we beat them. I wish Harbaugh would pull out every single gadget play ever invented and that the Gods would bestow upon us luck, so that I could laugh as hard and as long as I did after the revenge of The Play. Just a thought."
So, Nancy, how was your laugh Saturday night?
Washington State @ Oregon. Unless the Ducks pick a bad time to start throwing picks and losing the ball at the goal line again, don't see the Cougs stopping them. Especially at Autzen. I like Oregon by 26.
Arizona @ U$C. Here's the thing about U$C's loss to Stanford last week: anything is possible for anyone in the Pac-10 now. If this game were being played last week, I wouldn't give the Wildcats a chance. Now? I can't rule them completely out. Even with Mark Sanchez potentially at quarterback, I still like U$C by 19.
Oregon State @ cal. It would have been nice to watch the duel between DeSean Jackson and Sammie Stroughter, but a bruised kidney has Stroughter seeking a medical redshirt. Even so, until a Beaver QB takes control of a game and wins it, it will be hard for me to pick them to beat better teams. I like cal by 23.
Washington @ Arizona State. I suspect Washington may hang in this game longer than many of the experts think they should, but I just can't trust the Huskies' defense right now. Again, ASU starts slow, but gains momentum. I like Arizona State by 21.
Last week: 2-0 (straight-up), 1-1 (ATS).
This year: 8-2 (straight-up), 5-4-1 (ATS).
Last year: 21-15 (straight-up), 17-19 (ATS).
Got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or anything else in general? Have a different set of expectations for Stanford Football this year? Drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc) or at email@example.com. The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!
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