Clardy's Corner: Busting Myths

Stanford can't be physical? Stanford has no swagger? The Card's rush attack has no creativity? After last Saturday, we can cross those myths off the list, longtime The Bootleg columnist Troy Clardy argues in this week's "Clardy's Corner."

I'll admit that I've never seen the TV show Mythbusters. But it seems that Stanford may have busted a few myths a national audience may have had about them coming into last week's game at Notre Dame.

The first myth is that Stanford's offense shows little imagination. I've heard this from more than a few fans through the course of the year, and when it applies to the passing game, I agree. I'd love to see more bootlegs, more screens, more passing plays designed to get Tavita Pritchard out of the pocket.

But I think the "no imagination" myth as applied to Stanford's running game was busted. I loved all the different looks the Cardinal showed right from the start. Stanford lined up in a Triple-I (three backs lined up in an "I formation" directly behind the QB), ran the spread option, showed unbalanced lines, and had cornerback Michael Thomas take the direct snap single-wing style. And all of that happened in Stanford's first drive alone!

Later, we saw an unorthodox one-receiver formation. A few times, Stanford went with a true spread offense. If the game had stayed closer in the first half, who knows what other wrinkles we may have seen?

All of these different looks were designed to keep Notre Dame's defense off-balance, to give them more things to think about. Even better, Stanford used these different formations all to achieve the same goal: to pound the rock on Notre Dame.

Which brings us to the next busted myth: Stanford can't be physical. Anyone who watched the first half saw the Cardinal offensive line clearly dominating the line of scrimmage. Those guys, along with FB Owen Marecic, paved the way for Toby Gerhart and Anthony Kimble to rip off steady chunks of yardage on Notre Dame.

Anyone who watched the second half while Notre Dame was trying to run down the clock saw the Cardinal front seven dominating the line of scrimmage, especially in short-yardage situations. They kept the Cardinal in the game while the offense struggled in the third quarter, then regained its footing in the fourth quarter.

The defensive line didn't have Pannel Egboh, and the offensive line didn't have Chase Beeler, but the Cardinal were still the more physical team in the trenches.

Perhaps the largest myth that was busted last week was that Stanford has no swagger. Last week, the poster boy for that busted myth was Chris Marinelli. Obviously, his pregame comments caused quite a stir, and led to the predictable overreaction from the Domers themselves. Even my Dad e-mailed me to ask me what Marinelli was thinking.

But you know what? I saw nothing wrong with the comments. Heck, I actually kind of smirked when I read them. Those comments told me this team has a swagger and an attitude.

You don't say something like that if the game and the sport mean nothing to you. You don't say something like that unless you truly believe it. And you also don't say something like that if you don't think your teammates are going to help you back it up.

Granted, I'd much rather us come into town carrying a low profile and letting Stanford's play speak for itself. But I don't mind a little trash talk in the papers, as long as it doesn't cross the line from swagger to full-blown arrogance. I don't think Marinelli's comments crossed that line.

To me, it's just further proof that Stanford will not back down to anybody, on or off the field. The Cardinal may not win, but their opponents won't be walking out of the stadium without knowing they've been in a football game. Notre Dame learned that lesson.

Stanford did some myth-busting last week, but I'd like to bust a myth about that game, too: the game didn't hinge on that dubious catch-interference call in the second quarter. That one play was the hot topic of discussion and debate on the BootTrain heading back to Chicago.

That call was also the very first thing Jim Harbaugh talked about in his postgame press conference, and it wasn't a provoked response. The way he and many Cardinalmaniacs talked about that blown call (and no matter what the Pac-10 says, it was a blown call), they acted like it was the entire key to the game.

The officials didn't cost Stanford that game. Three first-half interceptions cost Stanford that game. Procedural penalties when the Card were in striking distance cost Stanford that game. Starting a drive at Notre Dame's 30-yard line and coming away with zero points cost Stanford that game.

Giving Notre Dame a critical conversion on a fake punt cost Stanford that game. Fielding a punt at your own two-yard line and almost causing flashbacks to the 1972 Rose Bowl cost Stanford that game. No team — Stanford, U$C, or Syrcause — can overcome mistakes like that and expect to win.

Can the Cardinal continue their myth-busting ways for the rest of the season? Time will tell. But I know one myth I'd love to see busted this week: isolating Stanford's linebackers in pass coverage is the key to beating the Cardinal defense.

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RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS

The BootTrain ride back to Chicago wasn't a victorious one, but it was still fantastic. Always great to see Stanford fans rolling strong, especially into hostile territory. Special thanks to Lars and Jim, who helped put together an awesome event. Great to put some faces to some names, and to meet some new friends as well! If you've never been, or if you want to go again, mark your calendars now for September 25, 2010…

My flight from Chicago to South Bend lasted only 16 minutes, but it was long enough to overhear this conversation in the row behind me between a Notre Dame fan and a member of the Virginia Commonwealth golf team (they were flying in for a tournament). Golfer: "You going to the football game?" Notre Dame Fan: "Yeah. I can't wait. I'm a huge Notre Dame fan." Golfer: "That's cool. Who are they playing today?" Notre Dame Fan: "USC...I think." Golfer: "Really? I thought they were playing Stanford today." Notre Dame Fan: "Oh, well, uhhh…Stanford, USC, uhhhh…it's that California school with the trees. Does it really matter?" Me: (facepalm)…

Quote of the Week, from Jim Harbaugh himself. Coach was asked if the pregame comments and the postgame feistiness were necessary to show Stanford's new attitude, and he replied simply: "We're not laying down to anybody. That will never happen." I'm not going to lie…I did an internal fist pump as he said it…

People can say what they want about Pete Carroll not being a good "little game" coach, but there's no such thing as a "little game" when you're coming off a loss…and Pete Carroll doesn't lose those games…

Meanwhile, up in Pullman, Cougs head coach Paul Wulff held campus-wide auditions to find a QB to run his scout team. The winner? A freshman named Peter Roberts, who actually led Woodinville High School to a state championship in 2007. Wow. I never thought we'd see "Quarterback Idol" at a BCS-conference school, but it's happened…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but…Vanderbilt? Vanderbilt?!??!

Not a Pac-10 thought, but…watching the end of Game 3 of the Dodgers-Cubs series at the O'Hare Hilton's sports bar and restaurant was an interesting experience. Not a lot of happy people there. Not even the guy in the Notre Dame Clausen jersey…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but…if NFL referee Ed Hochili was a stock, well, actually he'd be all of them right now…

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CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX

Good contributions to the Inbox this week as well, but I'd love to mix in some new blood! Remember, your opinions help make these Corners go…

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 troyc@thebootleg.com . The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!

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PAC-10 PICKS

Arizona State @ U$C. Remember when this game was supposed to decide the Pac-10's likely winner? Instead, the Sun Devils could lose their fourth game of the year this week. ASU has little running game, which might become an even bigger problem if Rudy Carpenter's ankle isn't cooperating. I like U$C by 23.

Washington State @ Oregon State. This won't take long. I like Oregon State by 26.

UCLA @ Oregon. Oregon's defense got embarrassed big-time at the Coliseum last week. They'll take it out on the Bruins this week. I like Oregon by 18.

Last week: 3-1 (straight-up), 1-3 (ATS).
This year: 7-2 (straight-up), 6-3 (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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