OK, let's go into the Wayback Machine and head all the way back to August 29, 2007. That was the day the first official Clardy's Corner of the season was posted. In that column, I speculated on how I would react depending upon how Stanford finished.
How did I think I would react if Stanford finished 4-8? Well, let's see:
"If Stanford beats the teams they "could" beat (and, as of 11:43am Eastern time on August 29, 2007, I think those teams are San Jose State, Washington, and Washington State), and pulls off an upset along the way, I wouldn't mind seeing that happen.
By the way, I never thought I'd say that I could live with a four-win Stanford season. But these are different times, no?"
And for the most part, that holds true. 4-8 isn't as nice as 6-6 (the TCU and Notre Dame games probably haunt this season a little bit). But overall, that record is indicative of the kind of progress I hoped we'd see this year. And as it turned out, we did pull off an upset or two along the way.
But these are indeed different times. And for Stanford Football, times are continuing to change. In the final analysis, December 1, 2007, will mark the end of several eras for Stanford Football.
On the field, Saturday's Big Win marked the end of Stanford's Axe-less era. When the Bears ended the Card's streak and took The Axe on November 23, 2002, few Cardinalmaniacs figured it would take 1,834 days to get it back. A lot can happen in 1,834 days. And obviously, a lot did happen to Stanford Football in 1,834 days. While enduring those things wasn't easy, I'm sure it also made us appreciate The Axe just a little bit more.
At the same time, cal's unquestioned hold on Bay Area college football came to an end as well. Jeff Tedford's resurrection of cal football is an amazing story, one that every Bay Area football fan knows about. But now that his stranglehold on Stanford has been snapped, more eyes will begin to focus on Jim Harbaugh and the amazing story that is likely unfolding on The Farm. Even though this has probably been the case since October, last Saturday's Big Win made it official: Jeff Tedford is no longer the biggest fish in the Bay Area's college football pond.
And, of course, up in the press box, another era came to an end, as Bob Murphy called his final radio broadcast for Stanford. It was my pleasure to sit beside Murph for seven seasons, and to watch him in action as he held court at Stanford Stadium, Maples Pavilion, and everywhere else in between. Every time I saw Murph in the same building, I automatically knew I was in a good place. The torch will be passed, but Murph will definitely be missed.
Of course, the end of one era signals the beginning of another, and that is true here as well. Stanford's still-incredible victory over U$C knocked the Trojans out of the BCS Title game. And their Big Win put The Axe back on The Farm, completed cal's jaw-dropping free-fall, and dealt the Weenie bandwagon its most fatal blow. If you're Stanford, and you indeed bow to no program, you damned sure better not bow to U$C or cal. The fact that both of those monumental wins happened in the same season is a clear signal that the "Bow Boys" Era is in full swing.
I hope that this Big Win also starts another era, one in which Cardinalmaniacs head to the stadium not just merely hoping for the best. I hope that now, whenever we watch the Card take the field, we expect Stanford to compete and win. Three months ago, I was going into every week just hoping Stanford wouldn't punk out. Now, my expectations for 2008 have been raised.
If Stanford makes as much progress next season as they did this season, we're all going to be on planes heading for a bowl game. Heck, a bounce of the ball here or there, and we're all on planes heading for a bowl game this year. I know there are more exotic places to spend a New Year's Eve than Fort Worth, but I would have loved to get the chance to find out! Bandwagon Weenie fans may feel differently, but that's their problem.
So this season is officially in the books. At the same time, this is the start of many new exciting things for Stanford Football, both on and off the field. And I don't know about you, but I already can't wait to see what lies ahead. For various reasons, I've never followed recruiting as much as I probably should, but I'm a little more interested to see what kind of class Jim Harbaugh and his staff can put together. I can't wait to watch our defense play; they could be one of the toughest and nastiest in the Pac-10 next year. I can't wait to see if Tavita Pritchard, Richard Sherman, and Toby Gerhart can blossom into the full-time big-play threats they can become.
But do you know what I'm looking forward to the most right now? Next week, I'll be back in the Bay Area and making my rounds on the Stanford campus. And I can't wait to walk into Arrillaga and see The Stanford Axe, hanging proudly in its rightful spot.
Something a little different this time, as we wrap up the season with the first-ever...
RANDOM CLARDY'S CORNER AWARDS
That's right, random awards from random categories. Where do we start?
The Unsung Hero Award: Jay Ottovegio. This should be self-explanatory. You never know realize important a good punter is, and how large of an impact he can have on a game... until he's gone.
The "Man Amongst Boys" Award: Toby Gerhart vs. San Jose State. 12 carries for a buck-forty and a score. He ran through the Spartans like two bowls of raisin bran. I wasn't around for the Brad Muster days, but I can imagine that's kinda what it must have looked like. Probably the most dominant individual performance by any Stanford player this season.
The Under-the-Radar Performance: Pannel Egboh vs. U$C. No one really talks about what he did to the Trojans that day: 10 total tackles, a sack, and 2.5 tackles for loss. But his biggest play came on special teams, as he blocked a Trojan extra point in the second quarter. "The Catch That Roared" put the Cardinal ahead (brilliant December issue of The Bootleg magazine, by the way), but Egboh's block was the difference on the scoreboard in Stanford's 24-23 win.
Key Play of the Year: Stanford's missed chance to recover a fumbled kickoff against TCU. At the time, Stanford had just gone ahead 31-17 late in the third quarter and had all the momentum. But after the Card failed to recover that fumble, TCU got a 70-yard touchdown pass and rode the momentum of that play to a win. Now, if Stanford gets that ball and makes it a three-score game for TCU, who knows how different the season turns out?
Freshmen of the Year: On offense, Owen Marecic hit the ground running (actually, he hit the ground blocking... but you know what I mean) and never let up. And on defense, you could see Chike Amajoyi growing into his role and making progress just about every week.
Best Harbaugh-ism: When asked by a sideline reporter what his team needed to do to improve in the second half against UCLA, Harbaugh replied with a straight face, "We need to rage off the ball." It was the coolest thing I'd heard a coach say since Bill Callahan was telling his Raider offensive linemen to "use more upper body violence" during a training camp drill a few years ago. Coaches come up with the strangest sayings, don't they?
Game of the Year: Duh.
It's not officially the end of an era for Clardy's Corner, but it is the end of the sixth season. I'll admit that it's killing me to be away from Stanford Football almost every gameday, but it's still so much fun to help cover this program. I'm grateful to Jim, Lars, and Carridine for still letting me chime in from 3,000 miles away. As always, I thank all of you for checking and sharing your opinions every week. As I say every year, your opinions help make these Corners go!
Even though you won't be hearing from me every week, I won't be too far away. Heck, if you turn on a San Jose SaberCats arena football game on KNBR this spring, chances are you'll be hearing me doing the color commentary for their road games. Looking forward to calling some games again this year! By the way, I hear rumors there might be an opening for that type of gig at Stanford…
In any case, please remember two things this offseason. One: don't drink and drive. If you drink and drive, you're stupid, that's all I can say. And, two: we bow to now program at Stanford University. Go Cardinal!
Not a bad year. Not a bad year at all!
Last week: 3-0 (straight-up), 1-2 (ATS).
This year: 26-10 (straight-up), 20-15-1 (ATS).
Last year: 21-15 (straight-up), 17-19 (ATS).
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