Notes and Quotes: Arizona State @ Stanford

The Bootleg's Scott Cooley manages to get past last Saturday's disappointment in Tucson and headed out to Tuesday's press conference. Scott brings us some highlights of the media session as the Cardinal prepares for a program-pivotal game against the visiting Sun Devils. We'll learn a lot about the Cardinal this Saturday and without bravado, may we say that we wouldn't want to be the ASU defense!

Notes and Quotes: Arizona State @ Stanford

Ace in the Hole


While the power-running approach relied upon by Stanford in 2009 is considered "conservative", Jim Harbaugh has thrown a wrinkle into every game this season.


The head coach has "gone for it" on multiple fourth downs, has put seven or eight linemen on the field in the "GIANT" package, rolled out reverses and bootlegs like they're going out of style and even declined penalties on kickoffs. You might call him somewhat of a "riverboat gambler" (kind of has that look, doesn't he?).


But you won't get any complaints from this writer…you have to play to win the game. And if that means a double-reverse pass-option to a "receiving" Andrew Luck or not settling for a field goal at a crucial point in the game, then so be it.


Heck, we even got a taste of the "WildCardinal" formation that Harbaugh jested about using last week during the media luncheon. Hmmm…maybe the media has a bug in his ear…any suggestions?


"It's really funny because you guys talk about it and then we installed it that afternoon," said Toby Gerhart, who gained two yards on the play. "I was like, ‘wow, these guys must really have some good insight.' We went silent count because I don't think coached trusted me to call the cadence. Hopefully we'll use it again…sparingly."


At the press conference, Harbaugh gave an explanation of the head-scratching move to haveArizona kickoff again at the end of the game instead of taking the out-of-bounds penalty.


"The thinking was whether we give our kickoff return team, with five extra yards, a chance to bring it back or get the ball on the 40-yard line," Harbaugh said of the decision that ultimately cost the team 22 yards in field position. "We were talking it through and felt confident that we could setup a good return. That's the way we leaned initially and the sideline official overheard our conversation. Usually they give you a chance to work through it so we thought about and elected to get the ball at the 40. The other referee came in and said the decision had already been made to kick it off again. They were both good options, but our final decision was to take it at the 40."


Don't be surprised to see another trick play or bold move this week versus the Devils. After all, Halloween is right around the corner.


Underdog Doom


In every contest Stanford has been the labeled a Vegas "favorite" this season (at kickoff), the team has won. Coincidentally, every game the Cardinal has been posted as the "underdog", the team has lost.


In Week 1 against Washington State, Stanford easily cruised as 17-point favorites. In the second game of the season against Wake Forest, the Cardinal were three-point underdogs and lost. The San Jose State Spartans were pummeled by the favored Card in Week 3, and during the fourth game Washington entered as two-score underdogs...and lost by 20.


Stanford continued its against-the-spread dominance versus UCLA as 4.5-point favorites. The Cardinal actually opened as two-point chalk versus Oregon State, but sharp money actually made the team a one-point underdog by kickoff. Last week versus Arizona, Stanford was a four-point dog...and lost by five.


Stanford opened as a seven-point favorite this week against Arizona State. The line dropped to as low as six points in some shops, but has now climbed back up to a touchdown. As long as heavy steam doesn't come in on ASU and the Cardinal closes as the fave, the team should get a "W".


Pulling Rank


Even while the Cardinal have faded the last couple of weeks, running back Toby Gerhart is still racking up yards. In the game versus Arizona, the bruising tailback churned up 123 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.


Gerhardt's total yardage propelled him into the No. 4 spot on Stanford's all-time rushing leaderboard with 2,520 yards. Gerhart will supplant the No. 3 incumbent, Anthony Bookman, with his next four yards on the ground. Cardinal great Darrin Nelson tops the list with 4,033 career rushing yards. Toby would likely need to come back for another year to challenge that one.


Gerhardt's two scores allowed him snatch the No. 2 spot away from the great Brad Muster with Toby now tallying 28 career rushing touchdowns. He trails Tommy Vardell by nine TDs and with five and likely six games left, eclipsing that mark is certainly feasible.


Stanford's resident locomotive ranks No. 5 in the nation in rushing, gaining an average of 124.1 yards per game. Gerhardt's touchdown total of 12 is three more than any of the four leading rushers ahead of him (R. Mathews - 7, D. Marshall - 9, D. Lewis - 9, M. Ingram - 8) and has him tied for third-most in the country.


As the Cardinal goes, so does Gerhardt's chance at the Heisman trophy. With two straight losses, his odds to win the award have fallen from +2000 two weeks ago to +7500 now. 


Whale-n of a Time


You might have seen a couple of different "Whalen" jerseys on the field Saturday. Junior wideout Ryan Whalen wasn't switching jerseys in between plays, but instead his alter-ego, evil twin Griff Whalen saw action during spells of the game.


Okay, the latter Whalen is not his twin. In fact, the two Whalens aren't even related, but they each made an impact against Arizona.


Stanford's leading receiver, Ryan, hauled in five passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. He is tops on the team with 32 receptions for 554 yards. (If he improves that pace by just 10 yards per game over the remainder of the 2009 season, he would become only the fifth Stanford receiver ever to record a 1,000-yard season.)


The sophomore, Griff, recorded his first stat-line since the season opener against Washington State . He registered a pair of catches for 12 yards and also completed an 11-yard pass to his roommate Andrew Luck. 




Homecoming in college isn't what it used to be in high school. Maybe for some of you Booties who are alumni it's a big deal, but not so much to the student body and players. They don't even do the whole "king and queen" thing.


"To be honest, I don't even really know what is going on this week," receiver Ryan Whalen admitted. "I have three mid-terms early next week, a project this week and most importantly the game on Saturday. So those aren't things on my mind. I've just seen a bunch of tents and know there will be a lot of alumni here this weekend."


Linebacker Clinton Snyder said he knows that Saturday will be a big game for the fans and alumni, and reluctantly confessed that he was homecoming king in high school.


"Its always good to come back here and we usually do well at home," he said. "Our crowd seems to be coming back and the alumni will be coming back with a lot of expectations, so we're going to give it to them."


Gerhart x 2


That title might cause some defensive coordinators to fall out of their beds. But to put their minds at ease, these Gerharts will be playing on opposite sidelines this week.


Toby Gerhart's younger brother, Garth, is an offensive lineman for the Sun Devils. The redshirt sophomore has been hampered by a toe injury this season and is labeled as "questionable" for Saturday's game.


"I talked to him a couple times and he said he's up for this week," Toby confirmed. "He has some ligament and tendon damage in his big toe so he's just trying to recover from that."


Toby said that he has never gone against his brother in an organized football game. Toby also mentioned it was easier for their mother that they don't have to line up against each other, but said that he is lobbying for that to change.

"I'm sure my mom's happy because one of us won't be beating up the other," he said. "So I guess my mom can just root for the offenses and won't have to pick a favorite. I'm still trying to convince Coach Lynn if I can just blitz one play right into his gap and see if he can block me. I told coach that idea and he said he would cut me."


BCS Standings


The "BS" rankings, Best Confusing Scenario,  Beat Cal Saturday, Bowl Cardinal Season or whatever acronym you can think of should not give it credit as the Bowl Championship Series.


Call it what you will, but unfortunately this complex algorithm ultimately determines which 10 teams will play in the handful of premier bowl games in 2010. The selection system has been a source of controversy for inconsistencies in determining which two teams should play in the national championship.


Well, the rankings were unleashed to the masses on Monday morning and the top three, without much controversy, were Florida, Alabama and Texas, in that order. Although, not a single team in that trio won in convincing fashion on Saturday.


Boise State and Cincinnati occupy the fourth and fifth spots on the list, and this is where the argument begins. This writer believes Iowa should be No. 4 and USC should be No. 5. Iowa perhaps had the most impressive win on Saturday of these top-tiered teams, trailing 10-3 at halftime against a 5-1 Wisconsin team on the road and eventually coming out on top 20-10.


But the USC ranking is perplexing as well. The victory over Notre Dame doesn't hold much clout (especially the way they finished), but the Trojans are ranked No. 4 in AP, Coaches' and Harris polls, but come in at No. 7 in the BCS? Now that doesn't make any sense. But then again, does any of this?


"I don't really like that a lot of preseason rankings are determined on subjective analysis of teams," said offensive tackle Allen Smith. "A lot of hype a team has before the season can carry them all the way through to a better bowl game than they should be in. I just don't think it gives every team an equal opportunity to reach the same level."


The other Pac-10 teams in the prestigious poll are Oregon at No. 11, positioned between Miami (10) and Georgia Tech (12) and interestingly enough, Arizona, fresh off the win against Stanford. The Wildcats are ranked No. 22 in BCS, but aren't present in the AP or Coaches' polls.


Speaking of Stanford, the Cardinal have fallen out of the pollsters' favor, which is no surprise. A 4-1 record two weeks ago accrued 93 total votes between the AP and Coaches' and now nary a vote for the Top 25 in either poll can be found.


We will only need this confusing BCS ranking if the SEC champion has more than one loss and Texas does not win out. Check out the complete BCS rankings here.


Los GatosGunslinger Returns to Stanford Stadium


A Bay Area-bred quarterback returns home on Saturday night. No, Trent Edwards isn't coming back to see his former team play on homecoming (or collect marbles from his concussion). But another product of the Los Gatos High system will be lacing it up at Stanford Stadium.


Arizona State signal caller Danny Sullivan hails from the town translated as "The Cats", and wore the same Wildcats uniform Edwards did in high school. Both quarterbacks led their teams to Central Coast Section (Medium School) Division titles.


And it sounds like Sullivan has already spent his weekly allowance gobbling up spare tickets to the game (probably going cheap on Craig's List).


"Yes, this game is going to have a good contingency of Los Gatos people there," the fifth-year senior said. "I have gotten calls from all of my friends back home saying that they are going to go. I do not know the exact number of people going, but it is probably around 200 or something like that. I have kind of had this one circled on my schedule for awhile, because it is my only chance to show people what I have transformed myself into and what I can do for ASU." 


Coaching Connections


Sun Devils head coach Dennis Erickson is nearly a household name in the football world. He's been the man under the headset with two NFL franchises and won a pair of college football national titles with the Miami Hurricanes in 1989 and 1991.


Known as an offensive guru, Erickson's early career had him roaming around the Northern California woods with offensive coordinator stints at Fresno State and San Jose State. His second attempt in the pro football ranks landed Erickson back in the Bay Area with the San Francisco 49ers.


One member of Erickson's coaching staff is now a household name among the Cardinal faithful.


"Ron Lynn, who is their Defensive Coordinator, was a coach for me at San Francisco," Erickson said. "It will be tough and Ron will always have something different to look out for. They've been up and down defensively. They've played good (we think he means "well") at times. They've got talent. They have a lot of those same guys back and they are so much more athletic now on defense then they've been. They have a good scheme."


Stanford defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Ron Lynn served under Erickson as the 49ers Secondary Coach in 2004.

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