The Stanford Football charter lifted off into the Palouse night, and moments later was bouncing, bumping, and being jostled around by turbulence. A storm had dropped rain, freezing rain, and even a little snow during our visit to Pullman. Now that storm was being whisked away by strong, gusty, unforgiving winds. So was our 737, it seemed.
Despite the bumpy climb, I was settled in my seat, completely content, and not caring at all about the turbulence. Actually, from my standpoint and the team's, the ride couldn't have been smoother. It was 1995, Stanford had just beaten Washington State for its sixth win of the year, and all was right with the world.
Few things in sports can top going into another team's stadium, getting the win, and sending their fans home unhappy. Making the huge play on the road, silencing the other team's fans, saluting your fans who made the trip and braved hostile territory, and walking off the field as winners… there's nothing quite like it.
Besides winning a championship, winning on the road is perhaps the greatest team feeling in all of sports. The flight home seems to be a little bit shorter. The Gatorade on the team plane tastes a little better. Even the inconvenience of sometimes arriving home in the middle of the night seems a little more tolerable.
No matter how good your team is, it's still hard to win on the road. The Trojans, Badgers, and Illini learned that lesson the hard way last week. If Beano Cook were writing this Corner, he'd remind you that Napoleon and Hitler learned how tough it is to win on the road as well.
Still, there's little question that, in college football, the cost of winning on the road is going up, and the chance of winning on the road is going down. The Cardinal get another shot at bucking the odds this week when they head to South Bend to face Notre Dame. Or, as Michael Wilbon calls it, the University of Football in America.
And as usual, the Fighting Irish fans are in full force. After beating Michigan a few weeks ago, Domers worldwide claimed Notre Dame was back. Heck, their head coach was even leading the cheers. Then they got freight-trained by Javon Ringer and Michigan State the following week, and the bandwagon got quite a bit lighter.
Now, of course, after their win over Purdue last week, the Domers are claiming Notre Dame is back. Again.
If you hate Notre Dame football, that's fine. If the Domers get on your nerves, that's fine too. But you can't hate how that campus supports its football team on game days. You can't hate how much fun everyone on that campus has supporting their football team.
It blows my mind every time I see it and experience it first-hand. No matter how they may feel about the Fighting Irish and their fans, every college football fan should experience a football game at Notre Dame.
I'm looking forward to seeing it and experiencing it all again this weekend, as Stanford gets another chance to play in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. But this time, the Cardinal bring a few things with them.
First, Stanford brings a confidence that they can win on the road by playing well. It's one thing to escape town with a one-point win that could have gone either way. But the way Stanford beat Washington, with their quarterback making cold-blooded conversion throws and their running game gashing and breaking through for big gains, the Cardinal have to be confident in what they can achieve on the road. Last week, Stanford's offense won that game the way a road game should be won.
The Cardinal are also bringing a rare guest with them to South Bend. After yet another personal foul penalty was called on the Card during the second half of the Washington game last week, I started to wonder if the officials had it in for Stanford. Then the thought crossed my mind: are we getting a reputation?
I almost chuckled at the notion. However, after reading some stories earlier this week, that notion was confirmed. Some people think Stanford plays with a nastiness that hasn't been seen by the Cardinal in a long, long time.
Actually, some people wouldn't call Stanford's play nasty… they'd call it dirty, as one Pac-10 assistant coach did to ESPN.com's Ted Miller. Seems to me that's what happens when other teams realize they can't kick Stanford's tails all over the stadium without any resistance at all anymore.
To be fair, there is a difference between "nasty" and "dirty" play. I'll always tolerate "nasty" play from the Cardinal. It's awesome to see when it happens.
Now, as for "dirty" play, I'd never condone it. But I'll be honest... in football, sometimes you have to send a message. If that message has to be sent on a quarterback, or a receiver coming across the middle, or that linebacker who seems to be lingering on the pile, well, so be it. Just don't get caught!
Regardless of whether you'd call Stanford's play "nasty" or "dirty," the Cardinal are actually bringing a reputation with them to South Bend. And you know what? I kinda like it!
And, of course, Stanford is bringing the BootTrain to South Bend, too. The BootTrain is the preferred mode of transportation for Cardinalmaniacs heading to Notre Dame. It's going to be amazing. Something tells me we'll all have stories to tell about this one when it's all done.
So Stanford is bringing a few extra things with them to Notre Dame this weekend. But it's not what you bring to the stadium, it's what you bring back that makes a road trip worthwhile. And many times, the only thing that determines a successful road trip is a win.
I'd love nothing more than for the team to experience a satisfying ride back to the Bay Area… and for us Cardinalmaniacs to experience a truly amazing ride on the BootTrain back to Chicago!
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RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
If you can't say something nice, well, say nothing. Notice how I haven't commented on the announcing crew that called the Stanford-Washington game for FSN Northwest?
In my Obvious Statement Of The Week, Jake Locker is a big loss for the Huskies. Washington offensive coordinator Tim Lappano admitted that the spread-option portion of the playbook has been removed, so now there's no reason to play the Huskies offense honest. However, Ronnie Fouch looked much more comfortable (and accurate) as a downfield passer than Locker did. Washington's progression as an offense with Jake Locker gone will be interesting to watch for the next few weeks…
I'm still stunned by last Thursday's result in Corvallis. Not necessarily by that fact that U$C lost, but by how they lost. No one is supposed to run up the gut on the Trojans. No one. Wow…
Have you noticed that since the Miami Dolphins drove the New England Patriots nuts with it, everyone is running the old-school single wing now? Ole Miss killed Florida with it. I saw a few other college and NFL teams using it this weekend that I had not seen before. Hell, even Stanford ran it for one play last week, with Michael Thomas taking the direct snap! What is football coming to?...
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… Alabama. Wow. I knew their defense could bring it, but I didn't see that coming at all. Time will tell on this, but if the balance of power in the SEC shifts to Tuscaloosa for the next few years, that will be the game that does it…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… there is no better collection of offensive talent right now than the Big XII. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford may be the best QB in the conference, but Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, Todd Reesing aren't far behind. Josh Freeman may be lurking in that conversation, too…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… I was surprised when I saw that TCU had the number-one defense in the country last week. Did they really look that good to you when Stanford played them a few weeks ago? I didn't think so…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… any time Al Davis is holding a press conference, drop everything and watch. It's always captivating television. I haven't seen candid, riveting television like that since Dave Chappelle was on Inside the Actor's Studio…
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CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX
Couple items in the Inbox this week. We start with Matt in Atascadero, who writes: "I seem to remember Bobby Bowden (or was it Spurrier?) once saying something along the lines of ‘It's not our job to stop us...it's your job to stop us.' Although I don't always agree with that philosophy, I sure do in the SJSU-Stanford case.
Harbaugh was trying to establish a "finisher" mentality in the Stanford team. As a football coach myself, I understand the need to get your players used to the idea of going for the throat, so to speak. I sure don't see how a 23-10 win is running up the score at all. Nor does Dick Tomey, by the way."
Thank you. And it was Spurrier, if I'm not mistaken.
The way I see it, there are no such things as "meaningless" touchdowns for this program right now. That's really what I think it all comes down to. U$C can score "meaningless" touchdowns (and they sure could have used a few last week!). LSU can score "meaningless" touchdowns. Texas and Oklahoma can score "meaningless" touchdowns. We can't. Because Stanford is still in the process of building itself into a true Pac-10 contender, even if we're up by 60, every touchdown for us means something. That's why I don't think a Stanford touchdown — especially one that ices the game and removes all doubt — is ever a negative.
George from parts unknown writes, among other things: "I think that you can pencil UCLA back in for a Cardinal victory."
You're right. The way the Bruins have looked since that Tennessee shocker, I am rethinking our chances on October 18. Again!
Agree with this Corner? Disagree? Got something else on your mind? Drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc) or e-mail me at email@example.com . The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!
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Arizona State @ cal. Let's see… no Jahvid Best for cal this week. And it wouldn't surprise me to see Nate Longshore take the starting QB job back. Still, as much as I don't like cal's situation right now, I like A-State even less. So my brain is telling me to go with cal. But my gut says something completely different, and my gut usually wins in these situations. I "like" Arizona State by 8.
Washington @ Arizona. Remember when the Wildcats scored 70 on Idaho? Well, I don't think Arizona will score that many points…but it could be close. I like Arizona by 29.
Oregon @ U$C. After getting exposed by
Jacquizz Rodgers and the Beavers' offensive line, it looks like the U$C defense picked the wrong week to face Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount, especially with Rey Maualuga's knee not
at 100%. Oregon can make this game real interesting,
I think. But surely U$C can't lose two games in a row. Can they? I like
U$C by 10.
Washington State @ UCLA. Do they have to play this game? Seriously. Do they? They do? Contracts have been already been signed? Great. Sigh…I like UCLA by 9.
(straight-up), 2-0 (ATS).
This year: 4-1 (straight-up), 5-0 (ATS).
Last year: 26-10 (straight-up), 20-15-1 (ATS).
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Troy Clardy hosts the Stanford Daily Update, airing every weekday at 7:30p on Cardinal Sports Network flagship radio station KTRB (860 AM) in San Francisco. Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com.
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